If you have never watched red kite soar above the treeline having taken flight from their nest, or lifted a leaf to discover the insects scurrying underneath, put Cumbria's forests on your ‘to do' list. Just one oak tree can support around 290 species of insects, whilst forests provide a nurturing habitat for a diverse range of mammals and birds, from the tiny dormouse at one end of the scale, to a majestic red deer at the other.
Whinlatter and Whinfell Forests are the stronghold of our native red squirrels - cheeky, rusty-coloured little fellows that bring such delight to everyone who sees them. Grizedale Forest, on the other hand, is a haven for an array of woodland wildlife and home to the only remaining indigenous woodland herd of red deer in England.
Cumbria's forests bring sheer delight to bird watchers and those simply keen to see rare and amazingly striking birds. From Dodd Wood near Bassenthwaite Lake, visitors can focus their binoculars on the famous Bassenthwaite Ospreys that nest here each year, or choose to make use of the nest cams and viewing points that the Forestry Commission provides, to see one of nature's most impressive birds in flight, out fishing, or in its nest with its young.
Red kites now call Grizedale home, thanks to a 3-year programme to reintroduce them to England's Northwest, whilst dozens of species can be heard twittering and seen flying through and around the woodlands of the Duddon Valley. Species to spot include Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dipper and most types of Warbler and Wagtail.
Roudsea Woods in South Cumbria provides the most northerly home to Dormice in Britain. Although your unlikely to spot these nocturnal tree-dwellers, there is plenty worth visiting for. Bluebells carpet the woodland floor in spring, and the woodland fills with the sound of busy birdsong. Look out for signs of badger, otter, red deer, red squirrel and red foxes to name just a few of the mammals living in this pristine woodland.
Another winged glory of the area is the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, re-introduced to the Ennerdale Valley as part of a conservation project in a stunning part of Cumbria, but wherever you wander through our woodlands - predominantly oak and ash in our woodlands and conifer plantations and mixed woodland in our valleys - you are sure to witness something wild in woodlands that are an integral part of the county's breathtaking landscape and home to a distinctive range of breeding birds, rare and unusual invertebrates and many scarce flowers.
Trees play an important part in protecting this landscape, reducing soil erosion and reducing pollution that could otherwise enter our sparkling lakes and wonderful waterways. They not only offset CO2, but also clean our mountain air and fabulous ‘water features', removing harmful elements and ensuring that visitors are as stunned by the wild beauty of our county as the first genteel Victorian tourists were over 200 years ago.
Cumbria has it all when it comes to woodland wildlife, but have you twigged yet?
Find events and activities in Cumbria's Wildlife world over the coming months!