Rare habitat becomes protected nature reserve

A general view of the Borrowdale Valley
The Borrowdale Valley is England's largest temperate rainforest [Getty Images]

A "globally rare biodiverse habitat" in Cumbria has been declared a national nature reserve.

The Borrowdale Valley is England's largest temperate rainforest - a habitat that was once widespread across England, but now covers only 1% of land.

The creation of the nature reserve was announced by Natural England and the National Trust on Wednesday.

The National Trust said the declaration was a sign of their commitment to the conservation of rainforests across the country.

"By creating this nature reserve, we are actively managing the woodlands for nature conservation and access through compatible practices," said Jane Saxon, general manager at the National Trust.

The 721-hectare site is as wet as a tropical rainforest, but much cooler - it regularly sees the highest rainfall in England.

Those conditions create a naturally lush habitat that is rarely found worldwide, replete with mosses, ferns and lichens - important both as carbon stores, and as a breeding habitat for declining bird populations such as the Redstart and Pied Flycatcher.

'Iconic habitats'

"Operating at a landscape scale, reconnecting parcels of the forest and creating corridors for wildlife will make these iconic habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change," said Marian Spain, chief executive at Natural England.

The nature reserve status is part of the government's temperate rainforest strategy - a plan to recover exceptional habitats found in Cornwall, Devon and Cumbria.

The strategy is backed by £750,000 in research and development funding.

Conservation efforts will focus on supporting and restoring the rare species found within the Borrowdale Valley area.

The National Trust said it is also aiming to modify some sections of existing footpaths, to make them more accessible and protect Borrowdale's heritage.

The charity added that it was working with tenant farmers to help them access funds for further conservation work, enabling them to prioritise traditional practices such as fell farming.

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