A landscape recovery project taking place in a remote Furness valley has become one of the biggest of its kind in the UK.

The Upper Duddon Landscape Recovery Project is a huge scheme linking tenanted National Trust farms surrounding Hardknott Forest - which itself is being rewilded by Forest England.

A report by Campaign for National Parks (CNP) revealed just six per cent of land in England and Wales is being managed effectively for nature.

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Campaigners have stated that National Parks are failing on biodiversity with part of the problem being a chronic lack of government funding.

According to the State of Nature Report 2023, the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

In the Lake District, Natural England estimated that only about 10 per cent of the land is in favourable condition for wildlife. 

This therefore shows the importance of protecting Cumbrian landscapes for the future.

The Mail: A blue jay bird in the valleyThe Upper Duddon Landscape Recovery Project is very special in that its focus is not just on conserving one or two species - but restoring whole ecosystems on a landscape scale.

The project area stretches from the top of Harter Fell and Cockley Beck down to the hamlet of Seathwaite. 

Famous Lake District poet William Wordsworth wrote a series of sonnets on the Duddon Valley describing its beautiful landscape along with its plants and animals.

Since then, some of this abundant wildlife has been lost with some hanging on in isolated pockets.

The Mail: A wild stoat leaps across a beckNot only is the project's aim to create a mosaic of habitats that will be colonised over time by plants and animals, but it is also leading the way in terms of farming.

Aside from the lack of funding, national parks are struggling to restore nature because only 13.7% of national parkland is publicly owned.

The vast majority is privately owned and has suffered due to the intensification of farming over the past 75 years.

The Mail: Site Officer Jess Wilson inspecting a tree planting siteThe Duddon Valley project's aim is to continue farming and growing timber commercially, but in a less-intensive way allowing plenty of space for nature to regenerate.

Project leader and environmental scientist Dominick Spracklen said: "When the UK left the EU the government announced plans to give subsidies to English landowners who commit to the regeneration of natural habitats.

"In Upper Duddon, we have a huge respect for strong farming history and our project represent hundreds of farmers and landowners working together to deliver significant environmental change. 

"In the past there was an incentive for farmers to have as many sheep out on the land as possible but decades of intensive sheep grazing has had a detrimental impact on species-rich habitats.

"Our project aims to strike a balance and is being designed with local farmers in mind - five of the farms are managed by tenant farmers with two organic farms.  

The Mail: The volunteer group in the heart of the valley"We're currently in the development phase, which began in January 2023, and we have up to two years to agree on the details for delivery.  

"We want to deliver significant environmental change whilst making fell farming in the valley profitable. 

"We're very proud of the open dialogue between everyone involved and we hope that other valleys can take a look at what we're doing and work together."

The valley's ancient woodlands are one of the rarest types in the world and its continued restoration will allow species like tree pipits, adders and red squirrels to thrive.

Among others, rare resident species are the dormouse and hairy wood ant.