Cumbria Wetland Bird Recovery Programme
PROPOSAL FOR A FOLLOW-ON PROJECT
UPDATED MARCH 08
CWBRP is a partnership between the RSPB, the Environment Agency and Natural England:
This three-year project proposal aims to build on the existing Cumbria Wetland Bird Recovery
Programme (CWBRP), an exciting RSPB/ EA/ NE partnership wetland recovery project which
has been running since April 2005 and is due to end on 31 March 2008. The total cost of a new 3
year project is £94,393.
The current programme has achieved the following to date:
1. 709 hectares of land directly advised on
2. UK BAP priority habitat restored/ re-created:
307 hectares of Coastal and Floodplain Grazing Marsh BAP
18 hectares of Purple Moor Grass and Rush Pasture BAP, making a significant
contribution to the targets in operational objectives 2,3 and 4 as set out in the
Cumbria BAP1 (for example, 35% of the Eden valley Natural Area target).
4.2 hectares of Lowland Hay Meadows and Lowland Pastures BAP
3. Engaging with farmers and the local community:
3 training days for farmers/advisers attracting 40 people; 4 evening walks for bird
club members and members of the public attracting 46 people (Sandford)
1 training day for farmers/advisers attracting 9 people (Dubwath)
2 evening talks attracting 130 members of the public
Regular local media coverage
From 31 March 2008, it is proposed that a follow on project, the ‘Cumbria Wetland Project’, will
deliver the following aims and objectives:
Secure quality management for wetland habitat and waders at the Holme Dub complex
on 100ha of newly created wet grassland and aim to secure the creation and
establishment of a further 100 hectares of wetland.
Secure the creation of 50 hectares of wetland habitat to compliment extant habitats at
Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, with the primary aim of establishing new wetland mosaics
Fine tune management and monitor two wetland complexes (100 hectares) which are
included in the current programme (Sandford and Dubwath) to ensure that habitat
quality reaches favourable condition quality and breeding wading bird numbers are
optimised, using monitoring results to demonstrate this success.
Work closely with key partners and ultimately local landowners to scope out the
opportunities arising from changes to the Environment Agency’s flood defence regimes
in Cumbria. Take forward the agreed actions from partnership working, such as those
currently being discussed for Colmire Sough in North Cumbria. In addition, work with
statutory partners to help deliver favourable condition targets for lowland raised mires
in North Cumbria by targeting key farms around raised mires, where there are clear
benefits for breeding waders.
Continue to monitor wet grassland sites through the current project and aim to expand
the wader population at all sites.
The Cumbria Wetland Bird Recovery Programme employs a part-time project officer,
Tonia Armer, who is based in Natural England’s offices in Kendal, Cumbria. The project
is a partnership between the RSPB, the Environment Agency and Natural England.
The CWBRP focuses on four strategic wetland areas in Cumbria: The Lyth valley in
South Cumbria; Sandford/Ploughlands near Appleby; Holme Dub/ Black Dub in North-
West Cumbria and Dubwath near Bassenthwaite, Keswick.
This paper intends to:
Outline the existing project targets and objectives
Review the progress and achievements against objectives
Demonstrate the need to extend the programme
Look at new and exciting wetland restoration opportunities
Calculate the costs of running a new programme
3. BACKGROUND/ JUSTIFICATION FOR THE PROGRAMME
The 2002 Breeding Wader of Wet Meadows Survey highlighted the plight of waders on
wet grasslands. In Cumbria, the survey highlighted wader declines across the county.
This was supported by the Cumbria Breeding Bird Atlas (1997-2001) showing a
reduction in the range of the population of waders across the lowlands of the county.
Much of the recent lowland loss has been driven by agricultural improvement of
Cumbria does have an enormous potential for wet grassland restoration. High rainfall,
low abstraction and floodplain development pressure, good livestock availability and
agricultural policy reform combine to provide clear opportunities for wet grassland
From the wet grassland advisory input that RSPB have put into wet grassland sites to
date, it is very clear that there is a strong demand from farmers for advisory help. This is
due to a number of factors:
The techniques associated with raising water levels on farmed land are complex and
relatively new. Farmers need re-assurance and specialist advice.
Best practice needs to be applied so that sites meet their objectives in a short/medium
timescale, while demonstrating good value for money and in a manner which does
not detrimentally affect neighbouring farmed land/other fields on the same holding.
Many farmers are open to new ideas and are embracing diversification options for
their farms. Such farmers are keen to try new land management techniques, for
example managing wet/formerly wet areas of land for birds.
There is a strong demand for specialist wetland advisory support in Cumbria, both
for land managers and for advisers.
Breeding wading birds are quite particular in their habitat requirements. It only
needs one part of the habitat to be in sub-optimal condition (eg wetness, sward
structure, amount of open water) for the site to become unsuitable for the birds.
4. CURRENT CUMBRIA WETLAND BIRD RECOVERY PROGRAMME 2005-08
Original project targets and objectives
Secure quality management for waders on 150ha of newly created wet grassland
at three Cumbrian floodplain sites.
Secure the creation and establishment of a further 150 ha wet grassland at these
sites, encouraging land managers into wetland options in Environmental
Secure the creation of 100ha of wetland habitat to compliment extant habitats at
Leighton Moss RSPB reserve
Secure the restoration of 80 ha of wet grassland at Bassenthwaite Lake for waders
Expand the wader population at the five sites, meeting targets for lapwing, snipe
and redshank at each of the sites (increasing site population by 83 pairs of
waders by 2010).
Review of progress and achievements against objectives
A project review paper was produced in January ’07 and circulated to all key partners.
Exit strategy for the current CWBRP
An exit strategy (as outlined in the review paper) for the four sites is summarised below:
Dubwath- Sites in ESA managed habitat and HLS in optimal condition and
delivering for target species.
Sandford/ Ploughlands- Sites in CSS in optimal condition and delivering for
target species at Sandford. Continued advisory input to get other sites into new
Lyth Valley- advisory input and help for any future Lyth Project officer.
Holme/ Black Dub/ Kelsick Mire- Sites in optimal condition and delivering for
5. ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE CURRENT PROGRAMME
Referring to the project review paper (attached above) and using up-to-date figures,
Area/ Land UK BAP habitat UK BAP habitat Events
Coastal and Purple moor grass
floodplain grazing and rush pasture
marsh restored/ re- restored/ re-created
created (hectares) (hectares) with
with BAP BAP contribution
Sandford 3 training days for
core area 76 34 7 3 farmers/advisers
attracting 40 people.
4 evening walks for
adjacent 52 10 bird club members and
members of the public
attracting 46 people.
Lyth 60 28
Holme 293 88 113
Dub (4.16 Meadow)
Dubwath 51 34.5 1 training day for
Other 177 112 2 evening talks
members of the public
TOTAL 709 306.504 18 and 4.16 ha
‘Directly’ means that the whole holding area of a farm has not been used, it is the actual area
upon which advice has been provided
This represents the following % contribution to the target to ‘secure favourable condition’ for each
Natural Area (operational objective 2) as set out in the Cumbria BAP Habitat Action Plan: 35% of the Eden
Valley target; 22% of the Solway Basin target). Operational objective 3 and 4 have also been met for these
areas of land.
Contribute to the UK HAP target to ‘rehabilitate coastal and floodplain grazing marsh’
6. PROPOSED EXTENSION TO THE CWBRP- 2008 TO 2011
The need for a follow-on project
Referring to the project review paper (attached above), the outstanding work from the
current programme is outlined in the table 2 below.
Many of the principles which underpinned the current CWBRP are being taken forward
into the proposals for the follow-on project. These are:
Significant long-term biodiversity gains are more likely on large and congruent
wetland agri-environment schemes rather than small and dispersed sites.
Larger sites may be more robust in retaining biodiversity value through climate
Large sites may also have more multi-functional potential eg flood management,
With the above principles in mind, eight floodplain grassland sites have been selected to
focus RSPB advisory activity over the next three years (see map on page 12 and table 2
below). All these sites have already been identified by previous RSPB/EA/EN joint
wetland restoration feasibility work as being priorities for action. These eight sites have
been split into priority one and two categories:
Priority 1: Existing project sites
Two of the eight sites are well established (Sandford and Dubwath) so,
depending on monitoring results, the on-going input into these sites would
reduce over time.
Another two of the existing sites (Lyth valley area, Holme Dub) are being
developed and offer exciting opportunities to restore wetland habitat.
Priority 2: New opportunities for wetland restoration
Work closely with key partners and ultimately local landowners to scope out the
opportunities arising from changes to the Environment Agency’s flood defence
regimes in Cumbria. Take forward the agreed actions from partnership working,
such as those currently being discussed for Colmire Sough (225 hectares) in
Work with statutory partners to help deliver favourable condition targets for
lowland raised mires (focussing on Bowness Common) in North Cumbria by
targeting key farms around raised mires.
Work closely with partners and link to existing initiatives to help restore wetland
habitat at the south end of Bassenthwaite Lake, which supports at least 20 pairs
of breeding snipe.
Areas in South Lakes/ just into North Lancashire with potential for wetland
restoration with regionally important breeding wader populations and/or areas
for bittern expansion from Leighton Moss, eg. Holme, Heversham
Changes to the current programme
It is proposed that the project adapts in the following ways to take advantage of
opportunities for restoring wetland habitat and current drivers:
The project will become more habitat focussed. It is proposed that the title of the
project be changed to:
The ‘Cumbria Wetland Project’
The project will link in with opportunities created by changes to regional flood
risk management strategies as set out by Defra/ the Environment Agency
The project will monitor vegetation change in more detail, and will more
effectively demonstrate the contribution to UK and County BAP targets
It will assist in delivery of statutory Water Level Management plans for lowland
raised mires (especially Bowness Common), working closely with ‘Peatlands for
People’ project, due to the overlap of objectives. It will become more directly
involved with targeting land around lowland raised mires, where it is known
that land management outside the designated land boundary is having a
negative effect on the condition status of the SAC designated raised mire. The
project will focus on areas where there will be clear benefits for breeding waders.
It will help to meet the Government’s PSA targets for SSSI’s and farmland birds
It will help to demonstrate the wider benefits of undertaking wetland restoration
work in terms of public benefits, habitat benefits as well as benefits for birds and
It will assist Natural England and other partners in helping to strategically target
and deliver Higher Level Stewardship schemes into areas that hold the best
potential in Cumbria for wetland restoration.
Roles of the Project Officer
Over three years working in Cumbria, the advisor will:
Work with Natural England (NE) and the Environment Agency (EA) to support
existing wet grassland agri-environment agreement holders at existing sites (200
hectares), maximising habitat and biodiversity gains. This would include the
delivery of localised demonstration events for groups of farmers to highlight best
practice techniques, designs of sluices etc. This will increase wetland management
skills levels in the land management community of the eight sites.
Encourage and support new wetland option agri-environment scheme entrants at
existing and new sites. This may include authorship of Farm Environment Plans and
Raised Water Level Management Plans.
Working with NE and EA, lead the promotion of wet grassland creation
Environmental Stewardship options for farmers in the Lyth Valley. This will drive
restoration floodplain grassland and other wetland habitats through the valley. This
area has also been identified as suitable for bittern habitat creation linked to
Leighton Moss Reserve.
Stimulate and drive the creation of at least 150 ha of new floodplain grassland for
waders at: Holme Dub/ Black Dub/ Kelsick mire; the Lyth valley area (Holme,
Heversham); Colmire Sough; areas identified in water level management plans
around SAC raised mires and the southern end of Bassenthwaite Lake
Continue to expand the wader population at all sites, meeting agreed targets for
lapwing, snipe, redshank and curlew at each of the sites
Encourage land managers to consider tourism-driven revenue generation
opportunities on the five sites
Work with land managers to raise the profile of wet grassland creation with local
communities and media
Table 2: Target wetland restoration sites: New wetland complexes which have
been identified and continuing opportunities to develop existing wetlands
Site Development of New area of work Area Key partners
no.* existing area of (hectares)
1,2,5 Buffer raised mires on the Not yet EA, NE, CWT
Solway by restoring wetland defined
habitats- links to ‘Peatlands for
3 Holme Dub, Black 1,700 EA, NE
Dub, Kelsick Mire: A
network of sites which
need input over a longer
period of time due to
4 Areas in the Waver/Wampool c400 EA, NE
and Silloth areas of North
Cumbria that have historically
been pump drained but which
are being reviewed by EA, for
example Colmire Sough
6 Dubwath: co-ordinate 50 NE, EA
7 South end of Bassenthwaite 80 Bassenthwaite
Lake as the next step from Lake
8 Sandford: co-ordinate 120 NE, EA
9 Lyth valley project: 1,270 EA, CWT, NE
On-going ‘ landscape-
scale’ wetland project
Near Areas in South Lakes/ North Not yet EA, NE
9 Lancs with potential for wetland defined
restoration with regionally
important breeding wader
populations and/or areas for
bittern expansion from Leighton
Moss, eg. Holme, Heversham
* Numbers relate to locations shown in the map on page 12 below
7. MONITORING PROGRESS
Annual wader surveys are now in place as part of a programme delivered by Cumbria
Bird Club with support from Natural England. Parts of three of the sites were covered in
the 2002 Breeding Waders of Wet Meadow survey – this will be used as an overall
baseline for the project. We will ensure this methodology is repeated across these sites in
2010 to give a comparative survey. Although we are confident that the project will
deliver habitat targets in the three year work programme, bird numbers are likely to
take several more years to build, making 2010 a realistic time to judge the performance
of these new sites for waders.
We intend to undertake phase 1 type NVC vegetation surveys in summer 2007, with
support from Natural England. This should enable us to show changes over time in
terms of vegetation community transition to a wet grassland/ fen community.
8. EXIT STRATEGY
We forecast a further three years of targeted work will ensure that existing sites will be
functioning well with land managers able to continue management without intensive
support for the rest of the term of their agri-environment agreement.
New sites which are being developed up to 2011 will be discussed with Natural England
in terms of how to take them forward at the end of the project.
9. COST OF RUNNING A FOLLOW-ON PROJECT
Costs have been calculated by assuming that the project officer will be employed on a
part-time basis (4 days/ week) for 3 years.
The estimated project costs are:
Total project cost over 3 years= £ 94,393
Assuming the a three way RSPB/NE/EA partnership continues, then we would be
looking for the following contributions from partners to enable the project to run-
£14.5K per year for 3 years from both Natural England and the
We are also working hard to locate other funding sources.
Report produced by the RSPB
Map showing the sites in Cumbria that are proposed work areas for the Cumbria
not to scale