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Tuesday, 02 June 2015

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Protecting our natural beauty

FOUNDED in 1962, by Canon Hervey, the Cumbria Wildlife Trust was created with the aim of preventing the destruction of wildlife by acquiring reserves, campaigning, educating and advising.

Fifty years later, the charity has acquired more than 40 nature reserves, 15,000 members and has grown from humble beginnings into the county’s leading wildlife charity and a major force for protecting the natural beauty of Cumbria.

And with the help of long-standing supporters, staff and members of the public, the trust has enjoyed a wealth of notable achievements.

Highlights include protecting habitat on its 40 nature reserves, the successful end to peat extraction, habitat restoration (which allowed the otter to return to Cumbria’s rivers) and safe-guarding wildlife in our seas.

Peter Bullard, joined the trust in 1988, and has seen some considerable changes over the past 24 years.

He said: “My job has changed drastically during the time I have been at the trust and has become much more office based. When I first started there were eight staff members to look after. But today we have 50.

“Membership has also increased from 3,500 when I first started to 15,000 today.

“It is amazing to think that the trust began with just a few people sat around a small table, and 50 years later we have acquired more than 40 reserves and 7,000 acres of land, right the way across the county from Carlisle to Barrow.”

Peter has celebrated many successes during his time with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, but there is one achievement that he is especially proud of.

“I think one of our biggest achievements over the past 50 years is closing down all of the illegal limestone extraction sites in Cumbria.

“We launched a national campaign to conserve limestone pavements in 1995 and, after leading the campaign for more than eight years, we managed to halt the illegal extraction of limestone pavement and closed down the final legal extraction site in Cumbria on Orton Scar.”

Despite achieving a number of successes over the past five decades, these goals would never have been met without a team of dedicated trust members and volunteers, explains Peter: “As a local charity we are reliant on donations from members of the public.

“And luckily we have found that a lot of people in Cumbria care about what we do.

“Cumbria is an amazing place to live as it is full of all sorts of different wildlife and our reserves are always changing.

“They give many people a lot of joy, and subsequently people are interested in the work we do to protect it.”

But the road to success has not always been a smooth one and Peter knows all too well how difficult standing up for wildlife can be.

“Tackling peat extraction has posed a big challenge during my time at the trust.

“They started campaigning in 1962, and it took nearly 40 years to win a public inquiry for the extraction of peat from Black Snib near Longtown (the last planning permission for peat extraction in Cumbria.)

“It has taken a while but we are nearly there.”

Looking towards the future, Peter admits that there are many more challenges ahead, but he is determined that the next 50 years will be as great a success as the past five decades.

“The future looks bright for us. Our main challenge is protecting the sea and marine life. We have done a lot of work protecting the land but very little for the marine world.

“There are no marine nature reserves in Cumbria, so over the next 50 years we will be trying to change that and have some legislation passed.

“We also have a three-year Upland Wetland Restoration Project, working with land managers to survey and restore our precious wetlands, not only for their wildlife but for water and carbon storage.

“And we are planning to encourage accessible wildlife for all, so everyone should be able to see wildlife within half a mile of their house.

“I would also like to see bigger, better nature reserves developed.

“We have managed to acquire a lot of land over the past 50 years so I don’t see why we can’t get to 15,000 or even 20,000 acres in the next 50 years. We are a much bigger organisation now.”


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