Last summer, I wrote a blog about the tender storage areas that we constructed along the West Shore of Windermere [Improving the lakeshore]. We built these areas to store all the tender boats in a few places along the lakeshore. Not only did this tidy up the lakeshore visually, but it also has the added benefit of reducing erosion to the lakeshore – including damage to tree roots and bark from having boats chained to them as well as the damage to the very fragile reedbeds from people launching their boats through them.
|New Tender Storage Area being constructed down at Harrowslack|
But of course, tender boats are not the only cause of erosion to the lake shore/reedbeds on Windermere lake. These sensitive environments are also damaged by the waves created by swash from boats and strong winds. The reedbeds are also sensitive to shading from encroaching woodland and vegetation. Over-grazing and nutrient enrichment also plays a part in the decline of reedbeds (Canada Geese, ducks and farm animals).
What are reedbeds I hear you ask? Reedbeds are a succession of young reeds (common reeds; phragmites australis) which colonise open water. As the reedbed ages, the successive layers of vegetation build up the water level gradually turning it into increasingly drier ground, allowing scrub and woodland to develop. In themselves, reedbeds are excellent habitats for coots, moorhens and other breeding birds. Research carried out by the South Cumbria Rivers Trust (SCRT) has shown that since the 1870s, Windermere has lost 90% of its reedbed habitat. Through a series of historical and more recent GPS mapping they have been able to map the loss across the whole of the lake [Reedbed loss since the 1870s].
|Reedbeds being restored down at Ferry House, West Shore of Windermere|
Well now we have some great news for the West Shore. Our role as National Trust Rangers is to look after our special places, and this is one of those very special projects where we see something change from start to finish. We are working with the South Cumbria Rivers Trust to restore the reedbeds on the west shore as part of a wider project across the whole of Windermere. SCRT have been very lucky to get funding from the Waste Recycling Environmental Network (WREN) to potentially transplant young reedbeds from an RSPB site at Leighton Moss to try to rehabilitate historical areas of reedbeds, removing encroaching vegetation and cutting back trees that are shading these sensitive habitats. Newly planted areas will require the installation of fences and wave barriers to protect them as they get established. Quite what this will involve is still to be decided but I can see waders, lots of water and some great fun to be had with other rangers and volunteers! Watch this space.
If you want to go and look at some fantastic examples of reedbeds, head to Esthwaite North Fen National Nature Reserve. Just at the north of the Lake, this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is an excellent site to see successional reedbeds. It is so good that the Freshwater Biological Association (based down at Ferry House) have been studying the succession of the plant community from open water, fen and grassland for the last 45 years. Key species along the lake bed/shore include stonewort, Canadian pondweed, lobelia and shore weed, as well as yellow and white water-lilies along the lake edge. Common reeds (phragmites australis), common bulrush and reed canary grass are prolific in the reedbeds themselves. The reeds succeed to wonderful carr woodland with species such as birch, crack willow, and ash. The area supports breeding birds (including great crested grebe, teal, tufted duck, red breasted merganser, pochard and sedge warbler) as well as mammals, invertebrates and microscopic life. Go down on a sunny day and see what you can find!
|Excellent example of healthy reedbeds at the Esthwaite North Fen National Nature Reserve|
Look out for the work we’ll be doing over the summer on the west shore of Windermere!