Improvements to a West Cumbrian park are well underway, with a new willow hide, forest school area and wildlife pond created.
West Cumbria Rivers Trust is leading a three-year project at Longlands Lake, Country Park Cleator, funded by Sellafield Ltd and in partnership with Cumbria County Council to improve wildlife habitats and increase engagement with nature at the park.
Local willow expert Phil Bradley recently built a nature hide from living willow which will continue to grow.
Phil said: “It’s been a fantastic few days working at Longlands Lake helping the community to install their new living willow shelter.
“We had loads of interest from the regular visitors to this little gem of a site and lots of people came to help with the weaving. I’m so pleased with the finished result.
“I hope it brings much joy to visitors to the Lake over the next few years.”
Karin Crofts, project officer at West Cumbria Rivers Trust, said: “We’ve had a wonderful response to the hide. In autumn, COVID restrictions permitting, we’ll run a maintenance event where people can help prune the structure and create willow decorations with the offcuts.”
Other changes include a new family and outdoor learning area with log seating, and a wildlife pond where a wheelchair-accessible pond-dipping platform will be built.
The outdoor learning area has already been used for its first Forest Schools – outdoor education sessions that teach personal, social and technical nature-based skills.
A year one group from St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Cleator Moor put their wellies on for a Forest School day.
Annette Tunstall, senior teaching assistant at St Patrick’s, said: “The children were thrilled that they could get muddy and messy, and the cold weather did not put them off!
“We enjoyed exploring the surroundings, splashing in streams, jumping in mud, working in teams to build spring birds’ nests and hunting for colourful worms.”
In the coming weeks the wildlife pond will be planted with a range of aquatic plants to help it attract creatures such as frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies.
Spring flowers and wildflowers will also be planted around the park.
The team is looking forward to completing lots more projects as the year goes on.
Karin said: “One really important job is to stabilise the bank of the River Ehen where it runs close to Longlands Lake.
“There’s a thin strip of land between the river and the lake and the river is eroding and undercutting the footpath, so there’s a risk that if we don’t do anything it will erode through and the lake will be lost, becoming part of the river.
“We’re aiming to get the bank stabilised this summer so people can continue to enjoy the lake.
“We are also getting to the Himalayan balsam season, so we have organised some Green Gym sessions and Sellafield staff volunteer days to start tackling it – but it’s a big job so we hope to run some community balsam bashing days too.
“After months of lockdown and COVID restrictions, it’s the perfect opportunity for people to roll up their sleeves and let loose!”