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Landscape, Coast and Nature

Project update from BOOM

Catch up on all the latest news and updates from the Back On Our Map project as it enters the last few months of this 4 year project.

Back On Our Map "best bits"

As the Back On Our Map project reaches its grand finale, it's time to reflect on the remarkable achievements of the past 4 years.

With a passionate team and dedicated volunteers, the project has not only met but exceeded its goals in restoring and conserving the natural beauty of our landscape around South Cumbria. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the milestones achieved, but stay tuned- we will be sharing more stories and successes from the project over the next few months as well.

Back on Our Map (BOOM) aimed to re-engage communities in South Cumbria with their natural environment, by restoring the landscape and reintroducing and reinforcing locally threatened or extinct native species. National Lottery players supported the £2m project, alongside a number of other public, private and charitable sector organisations. Led by the University of Cumbria, BOOM worked closely with Morecambe Bay Partnership, and lead partners including Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Forestry England. The project aimed to:

  • Help to build healthy, resilient, empowered communities by providing an exciting range of reintroduction-based social activities and training events.
  • Cover an area of 600km2, extending along the lowlands of Morecambe Bay from Barrow-in-Furness in the west to Arnside and Silverdale in the east and Grizedale Forest in the north.
  • Restore habitat and reintroduces species across a network of protected areas including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
  • Lead a multi-species, landscape-scale project, maximising the opportunities for community engagement, restoring and connecting whole ecosystems to reverse the decline in biodiversity.

Some of the projects key achievements:

Aspen- 4000 strong

The BOOM project aimed to increase the connectivity of aspen in South Cumbria. We planned to take hard-root cuttings from aspen across the project area, and work with community organisations such as Green Heart Den and Art Gene to propagate the cuttings, with the aim to generate a bank of local south Cumbrian aspen clones. Over the course of the project, 4000 aspen trees have been planted around Cumbria, from the top of Hardknott pass to the bottom of the Langdale Valley. Lots of community groups have leant a hand, with hundreds of volunteers from different backgrounds taking part. By the end of the project we will have planted 2 aspen classrooms for local schools, with Mind in Furness, HMP Haverigg and Beaumont College helping us to put this species Back On Our Map.

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Dormice Released - 69 New Residents

Woodland management in South Cumbria has improved in recent years and some areas are now ready to host dormice again. However, because dormice only move short distances, they are not able to recolonise areas by themselves. As part of the National Dormouse Reintroduction Programme, we planned to release the animals into adjacent sites in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. There is much public support and interest in this species, and we wanted provide people with opportunities to get involved in bringing them back. We recruited a team of 20 local volunteers to support the reintroduction of this species, and 9 of them have achieved their dormouse handling license. 69 dormice have been released across 2 sites, and regular monitoring of the new populations found that after a few months on site they had babies, and then- the babies had babies! We have worked closely with the landowners, National Trust and Natural England throughout the project and will be passing on the long term monitoring and volunteer management over to them when the project ends. We want to thank our team of volunteers who have given thousands of hours of time to make this happen... we couldn't have done it without you!

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Sundews in Abundance - 206 Planted

BOOM wanted to survey, collect, propagate and translocate Drosera intermedia and Drosera anglica to restored peatlands in South Cumbria. BOOM aimed to work with local community and conservation groups as well as students and other individuals to set up a sustainable propagation regime. This regime was informed through engagement with the North West Rare Plants Initiative who have been successfully propagating Drosera for translocation to restored Lancashire peatlands in recent years.

The project managed to plant 206 sundews and set up a successful "bog in a box" propagating scheme which involved local volunteers looking after and learning more about these wonderful plants. We also ran 5 guided walks at Foulshaw Moss in partnership with Cumbria Wildlife Trust to engage the local community in the importance of bogs in the local area. We also took Mind in Furness and Beaumont College to the site in special one-off events to teach participants more about the sundews. We will be handing over the "bog in a box" scheme to Cumbria Wildlife Trust to secure the future of this species and continue to put it Back On Our Map.

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Small Blue Butterflies find a new home - 64 Translocated

The aim of the small blue project was to expand the current population and extend the geographic range of the species, working with Butterfly Conservation, landowners and local communities. As a team we wanted to improve the habitat at known small blue sites and also in connected areas where they are likely to thrive. Once we were certain that the population was stable and self-sufficient, we wanted to initiate an exciting adult translocation program in the final year of the project.

After a huge amount of dedication from our volunteer team to carry out a "mark and recapture" survey on Barrow Slag Bank (the donor site) we were confident that the population on the site was adequate to carry out a translocation to RSPB Hodbarrow near Millom. We involved Haverigg primary school in the translocation, and each child from the school released a butterfly at the new site- a wonderful way to involve the next generation of nature lovers in this species! We also ran various guided walks for local communities, including those working towards their John Muir Award, HMP Haverigg and Mind in Furness. Our student placement from the University Of Cumbria wrote her dissertation on the small blue butterfly, and was a key volunteer for the small blue project.

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Small Blue Butterfly
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Growing on success...

Maidenhair Fern

BOOM wanted to work closely with an existing community project which has spent the last few years collecting, propagating and translocating ferns in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. BOOM wanted to engage with wider audiences through highlighting the causes and implications of single species declines within complex interconnected ecosystems. There are now 48 new individuals of this beautiful plant around the Arnside and Silverdale area, plus a team of dedicated volunteers ensuring a more secure future for this species.

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Maiden Hair Fern

Spiked Speedwell- 150 new blooms

The project aimed to reinforce the populations of spiked speedwell at Humphrey Head and Heathwaite and reintroduce the plant into areas within its historic or geographic range to ensure the reintroduction is ecologically viable. Suggested locations were Jack Scout SSSI, Coldwell Parrock, Arnside and Silverdale AONB and an area north east of Hawes Water in Gait Barrows Natural Nature Reserve. We worked with community groups and volunteers, in particular HMP Haverigg to learn how to grow this plant successfully. 150 new plants are now growing around Arnside and Silverdale- will you spot one next time you are out and about?

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Community engagement

Morecambe Bay Partnership has been responsible for community engagement and volunteering for the project, and our Nature and Wildlife Officer, Anya, has been working on the project 4 days a week. We will be sharing more of our community engagement stories over the next few months, but here are some of our highlights:

Volunteer Power - 150+ Volunteers, 1300 Volunteer Days

The Back On Our Map project has thrived on the dedication of its volunteers. Throughout the project, more than 150 volunteers contributed over 1300 days of their time to make a meaningful difference to our community and natural environment. We now have a team of volunteers who have achieved their Dormouse Handling License and will be monitoring the population of the species for many years to come.

Outreach and Engagement - 300 Events

The project's engagement with the community extended beyond volunteers. Through 300 outreach events and engagement activities, the project successfully brought together people from all walks of life, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for our environment. From running nature clubs in Barrow, attending a music festival and fostering a partnership with Mind in Furness- thousands of people have had the opportunity to get involved in BOOM, learn more about nature and get outdoors.

Educational Collaboration - 61 Students Enriched

A total of 61 students had the opportunity to work with us, gaining hands-on experience in environmental conservation and becoming advocates for our natural heritage.

Horticulture Excellence - 10 Achieved Level 1 Horticulture

Finally, the Back On Our Map project also provided a platform for 10 individuals from HMP Haverigg to achieve Level 1 Horticulture qualifications, further enriching their understanding of plants and ecosystems and aid rehabilitation into the community upon release.

To give you a good flavour of what community engagement looks like, enjoy our short film here covering dormouse reintroduction, tree planting, an art exhibition and our amazing volunteers. Enjoy!

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