A Day in the Life of a Cumbrian Conservationist



From hairy-footed flower bees to tiger beetles we spoke with two conservationists from the Wildlife Trust in Cumbria on what it’s like being a conservationist in Cumbria.


Cumbria Wildlife Trust is part of a UK-wide grassroots movement of 46 Wildlife Trust charities, with more than 850,000 members and 38,000 volunteers.


The Trust is the only voluntary organisation devoted solely to the conservation of wildlife and wild places in Cumbria. They stand up for wildlife, create wildlife havens, and seek to raise environmental awareness.


Male hairy-footed flower bee photo credit: Charlotte Rankin

Formed in 1962, the Trust cares for 41 nature reserves you can visit and campaigns for the protection of endangered habitats and species


The Cumbrian Wildlife Trust works on a wide range of conservation projects. Some of those include; protecting red squirrels in our vast forests, saving our water's marine wildlife and right the way through to restoration of Hay Meadows and Peatland in the Lakes.


High brown fritillary butterfly photo credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

The conservationists we spoke with work on The Wildlife Trust's Planting for Pollinators project:


Amelia a 28-year-old conservation officer explained how pollinating insects are vital to providing sustenance for us humans, plants and animals: “Bees, butterflies, flies, beetles and moths provide us with much of our fruit and vegetables, the colourful wildflowers we see and are vital food sources for other species such as birds and bats.”

Pollinators have drastically declined over the past 70 years and Charlotte a 24-year-old who works alongside Amelia expressed her concerns over the drop: “Sadly, the widespread loss of flower-rich habitat since WW2 is a key driver of pollinator declines, removing food, shelter and nesting habitat that pollinators require.”


Pollen beetle photo credit: John bridges for the Wildlife Trust

The fight to keep pollinators thriving in our county is supported by initiatives like the Green Recovery Challenge Fund set up by the government in 2020 to aid the process of nature recovery for the Trust and aids Planting for Pollinators in reversing the decline across North and West Cumbria.


Funds like this support conservationists like Amelia and Charlotte to work with local communities and land managers to restore and create over 150 hectares of flower-rich habitat for pollinators.


The work undertaken by themselves, and local communities inspires conservation action for these vitally important insects:


“We share ways in which we can all help pollinators in our outdoor spaces - big or small.”

Conservationist Tree planting with the John Muir Trust and United Utilities

Community initiatives from the Wildlife Trust like Get Cumbria Buzzing! work with communities in our county to contribute to a national pollinator network and create 115 hectares of wildflower-rich habitat.


Creating this ‘buzz’ has helped officers like Charlotte and Amelia make Cumbria a better place for people and wildlife to create spaces that will help pollinators to thrive for years to come: “We’re excited to get people enthused about Britain’s fantastic insects and wildflowers, and hopefully helping to inspire you to make a difference in whatever way you can in your own outdoors spaces!”


Get Cumbria Buzzing

They added how much it meant to work with Cumbrians on projects like Planting for Pollinators: “It’s lovely to work in community spaces, as I believe it’s really important that everybody has a place to go where they can be in nature and surrounded by beautiful wildlife!”


When asked what her favourite species of pollinators is Amelia found it hard to choose just one:


“I love seeing hairy-footed flower bees, they visit my garden and are really beautiful! The females are quite small, black velvety-looking bees, with orange legs where their pollen baskets are.


"Males look quite different, being a buff-orange colour, with cream and black legs which have long hair used in courtship displays – hence the hairy-footed!


"They have a really fast flight, but are wonderful to watch feeding! They hover in front of flowers like lungwort, red-dead nettle and honesty with their long tongues extended.”


Female hairy-footed flower bee on honesty flower

For Amelia and Charlotte, they work tirelessly in different roles during their typical day as conservation officers:


In the community, they do site visits alongside land managers and owners to survey plants and soil samples which aid their restoration work. From this they can write up 10-year management plans for over 50 sites. They also work closely with locals to put on wildlife gardening activities and document wildlife.


Back at their office in Gosling Sike they work in a nursery of over 50000 wildflower plants and use locally sourced seed and peat-free compost donated by green-fingered volunteers.


Amelia and Charlotte Pricking out seedlings, a process where plants are transplanted which helps plants move on from 'seed' stage to 'growing on' stage, where it will require a bigger pot or cell.

They both expressed how great it is to watch the plants grow over the weeks and getting to work with their beloved insects:


“Today we’ve been out doing a butterfly recording! We saw several peacocks and speckled wood butterflies – and even spotted a beautiful heath bumblebee and an emperor moth, a day-flying moth species!”


Much of the Planting for Pollinators work involves planting B-Lines which are a series of ‘best fit’ pathways that run through towns and countryside in Cumbria that improve and link once fragmented habitats.


These B-Lines benefit both wildlife and people and can be seen across farmland, church grounds and community greenspaces.


Amelia pricking out seedlings

Clearly, the conservationist duo have got their work cut out for them, but what can we do on an individual level to support projects like Planting for Pollinators? Amelia and Charlotte told us that the best way for us to support the work of the Trust is by becoming a member or giving a one-off donation to the trust.


Volunteering is also a great way to support the Trust and there are an array of opportunities to get involved in things like beach cleans, conservation days and surveying nature with apps like iNaturalist which helps record pollinators in specific areas.


Amelia encourages everyone to document wildlife: “Try and share what you’re seeing with anyone else there to help others enjoy wildlife and see things they might not have spotted! Make sure to respect and give space to the wildlife you’re watching. Take photographs and try to identify what you’ve seen! (And record it!)”


You can even help with the massive nursery at their office in Gosling Sike if horticulture is your thing.


If you are feeling ambitious you can even, consider setting up a community project in your area, something that could make the world of difference for conservationists: “Plant for pollinators in your gardens or outdoors spaces – gardens cover more land in the UK than nature reserves put together!”


Lavender planting at Get Cumbria Buzzing site photo credit: News & Star

Charlotte's top tip for entering conservation areas is: “Make sure you don’t leave any litter behind and always follow any advice or rules at the reserve. Be careful when walking dogs - check if they are allowed on a reserve and if they are, always keep them on a lead as there are many ground-nesting bird species.”


Adding:


“Most importantly of all, enjoy these beautiful places!”


If you love being amongst wild places and surrounded by lots of beautiful wildlife than becoming a conservationist might be for you and in Amelia’s own words:


“We have a really amazing array of biodiversity in Britain; from peacock butterflies, tiny jewel-like green tiger beetles, fantastic smelling fragrant orchids, to otters, the lovely echoing song of the curlew, and eels migrating from the Sargasso Sea to breed in our rivers!”

Peacock butterfly photo credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

If you are eager to learn about wildlife or want to work amongst some of the most beautiful landscapes and species in the country, Amelia and Charlotte believe everyone has the tools to become a conservationist and for budding young people who want to make a difference to their county, they encourage you to take part in citizen science projects.


Keeping up to date and reading latest news on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust is another great way to be clued up on how to help not just pollinators but all the other fantastic projects the Trust works on.


You can check out community initiatives here.


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