Wild Fell is a new book, published by Doubleday, from Lee Schofield, who works for the RSPB at Haweswater in the Lake District. Informed by the local land, its history, and the people who have shaped and continue to shape it, the book documents how Lee and his team have worked alongside landowner United Utilities at Haweswater to make the land work better for nature, water, the climate and for people. The RSPB's Nick Hawkes tells the story ... 

On the eastern edge of the Lake District National Park, surrounded by mountains sits Haweswater Reservoir and its valley. With its mossy woodlands and rushing streams, soaring fells, heath and bog, Haweswater may look like an idyllical wild space. However, over the past century this working landscape and its wildlife have faced enormous change and challenges.

For generations, Haweswater has supported local livelihoods, helping to sustain a community with a link to the land. The area has also enriched the lives of countless visitors who come to climb the fells, spend time with the wildlife, or share the views.

Like so many other places in our uplands, years of production-focused land management practices have taken their toll on the landscape and led to the decline of its natural habitat.

Alpine plants and ancient woods, retreating over time into the landscape and the sounds of sights of our iconic wildlife, like England’s last golden eagles, fading into memory.

But for ten years a small team of dedicated local RSPB staff and volunteers working in partnership with landowner United Utilities and people from throughout the Lakes community have set out to transform this working landscape and create a positive vision of what our uplands can be for nature and for people with the right support.

Across 30 square kilometres the team have worked to meet the unique needs of Haweswater, balancing restoration with existing traditions and working alongside the community to show how changing the ways in which we look after our most cherished landscapes isn’t something to be afraid of.

By developing sustainable farming operations, creating tree nurseries, wildlife hides, accommodation, education, scientific research and a range of other activities, Haweswater has shown how landscapes can be transformed, helping to support the local economy and provide space for people from all walks of life to enjoy our natural environment.

The work has also demonstrated how nature can deliver effective solutions to the climate crisis and increase the diversity and abundance of wildlife that calls Haweswater home.

The restoration of peat bogs protects stores of carbon, helping in the fight against climate change. River re-meandering, like that undertaken at Swindale Beck, has helped to slow down the flow of water to reduce the chance of flooding during extreme weather events whilst providing a home for salmon, kingfishers and otters. Restoring habitats in the area will also ultimately help improve raw water quality in the reservoir at Haweswater, which provides water for a quarter of the population across North West England.

Thanks to the recovering mosaic of habitats, species like snipe, red grouse and tree pipit are all on the increase. 

But our work in these areas can only go so far. One lifeboat for nature is not enough to transform a landscape, protect its wildlife and safeguard local communities from the impacts of nature’s decline.

Nature has been pushed to the fringes of these wild spaces and action is not being taken at the scale or the speed necessary to halt its decline.

To see real change for nature and people in our National Parks we need the UK Government to give the bodies responsible for looking after them the support, tools, governance and resources to stop wildlife loss and to endorse land management practices which restore nature.

To achieve this we need members of the public to understand how nature-based solutions in practice can help to turn areas in our National Parks into better spaces for nature and protect us from the changing climate. Through Wild Fell the hope is share the Haweswater team's passion for change with people across the country.

We’re encouraging members of the public to respond to the UK Government Landscapes Review consultation. We want to see our National Parks given a new mission to recover nature and give public bodies in these landscapes a legal duty and funding to do this. We also want the boards of our National Parks and public bodies to reflect the diversity of these landscapes, building on a wide base on knowledge to ensure they have they have the skills, experience and commitment to help recover nature.

It’s often said that life in the Lake District never stands still, constantly adapting to meet the ever-changing demands of society. The work at Haweswater shows how real change can be achieved, by finding common ground between local communities, government, NGOs and industry to restore these spaces and ensure a better future for nature, people and our climate.

Across our uplands nature is in crisis but Wild Fell shows how by working together with communities and policy makers we can restore nature, tackle the problems of a changing a climate and create a future for these historic landscapes.

Find out more about Lee's book and writing here: https://leeschofield.co.uk/

And find out more about Wild Haweswater here: https://wildhaweswater.co.uk/

The RSPB would like to thank United Utilities for their ongoing support 

Anonymous