Wild Ennerdale is a partnership of people and organisations with a vision to see the Ennerdale Valley develop as a wilder place for the benefit of people and nature. Ennerdale is a uniquely wild valley lying within the world famous Lake District National Park. The organisation aims to protect and expand its valuable and fragile habitats and species, and the sense of wildness experienced by visitors.
The ancient Oak woodlands of Ennerdale are unique and rare habitats, home to hundreds of species. Many of these species are reliant on the Birch and Oak trees holding in moisture and providing a protective canopy from the elements. They are also home to the native Red Squirrel, which is severely threatened by the expanding Grey Squirrel population. The aims of the project are:
- To extend native woodlands, by planting 10,000 Oak and Birch trees in partnership with local schools and volunteers
- To protect the ancient woodlands, through Red Squirrel feeding, and Grey Squirrel trapping
- To share the woodlands, by organising 6 squirrel woodland themed events each year, and engaging the community in squirrel management
This has been a very successful project, with the funds from EOCA enabling the purchase (rather than hiring) of over grey squirrel 250 traps. The trapping work, spread over a 300 hectare area, was the first opportunity to study in detail the distribution and health of the red squirrel population, and a very healthy population with a good spread (as much as 1 per 4 hectares in some places) was discovered. Six grey squirrels were trapped in the first year and none in the second year, suggesting that the project has successfully prevented grey squirrels from establishing in the valley.
The feeding and sighting programme has continued with the help of local community groups, as has the tree planting programme, which has seen the planting of 6,000 native trees including Sesile Oak. A number of squirrel themed events and walks have been undertaken to illustrate the work being undertaken in the valley. Another 10,000 trees were planted during 2013 and a number of squirrel themed events were held.
Data from trappings and sightings is regularly uploaded onto the Wild Ennerdale website to give an idea of the spread of both red and grey squirrels in the areas and how it is moving and changing over time.