More than 7,400 acres of water, forests and mountains in the Lake District have been designated as a “super national nature reserve”.
Wild Ennerdale in Cumbria has been formally designated as one of the first super national nature reserves (NNR) in England, which are recognised for partners working at a landscape scale.
The designation of the landscape, which is home to rare wildlife including red squirrels, freshwater pearl mussels and Arctic charr as well as juniper, damp Atlantic oakwood and scarce mountain plants, makes it the largest NNR in Cumbria and the ninth largest in England.
The Wild Ennerdale partnership, which formed 20 years ago, brings together Forestry England, the National Trust, United Utilities and Natural England, who aim to allow natural processes to create wilder landscapes and ecology in the valley.
It has been managed with sustainable grazing by hardy cattle, efforts to restore native trees and woods, restoring more natural river processes and planting juniper, helping nature recover.
The new super NNR will protect more than 3,000 hectares of Ennerdale.
Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, said: “Wild Ennerdale is a diverse and varied landscape which supports some of our most unique and precious wildlife, including red squirrels, the freshwater pearl mussels that dwell in the river there and which can live for 100 years, and the Arctic charr – a fish that has hung on in the valley since the last Ice Age.
“We have been working with partners for some years to improve this already amazing place and its declaration as a National Nature Reserve will enhance the spectacular landscape, wildlife and habitats, safeguarding them for the future while providing space for people to get close to wild nature.”
Rachel Oakley, speaking on behalf of the Wild Ennerdale Partnership, said they were delighted to achieve NNR status for the valley.
“We are constantly reminded of the nature and climate crisis we face now and for the future and this announcement shows how working together and prioritising nature can reap rewards for us all.
“These landscapes are constantly evolving and need to be fit for purpose to adapt and respond to the many challenges we face.
“Nature can thrive if given space and a helping hand and we are seeing tangible results of that in Ennerdale,” she said.
The first super national nature reserve was designated in 2020, and the latest designation marks 70 years since the first NNRs were established to protect England’s most important habitats.
Environment Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Ennerdale Valley is a haven for fish, birds and insects and provides much treasured access to green space for local people.
“The declaration today strengthens our commitment to nature’s recovery and our ambitions under the 25-Year Environment Plan to leave the natural world in a better state than we found it.
“Support from local communities is essential for the success of National Nature Reserves, and it’s vital that we work together to protect the future of these wildlife habitats,” she added.