Trust launches project to expand rare mountain flora on Helvellyn

Lake District Foundation funding will help increase population of threatened arctic-alpine species on high crags of Helvellyn range

Purple saxifrage2 detail

The John Muir Trust is delighted to have secured funding of over £2,600 from the Lake District Foundation towards a new project that aims to increase the populations of threatened arctic-alpine species found on the high crags of the Helvellyn range.

The project will bring together national experts, local green-fingered volunteers and staff of the John Muir Trust in a joint initiative to safeguard our nationally important, but extremely vulnerable, populations of arctic-alpine flora - many of which are growing at the southern edge of their range. 

Pete Barron the Trust’s Land Manager for Glenridding Common, which includes Helvellyn, said: “This funding will enable us to begin the re-introduction to of species lost or under threat due to pressure from footfall and erosion. The project will also help future proof upland floral and shrub populations against the impact of climate change. Among the species likely to benefit from a gradual increase in their population size are Alpine mouse ear, Alpine cinquefoil and purple saxifrage."

Beginning in the autumn and winter months of 2018, the project will start with a detailed survey of the existing arctic-alpine species on the mountain, together with collecting seed and cuttings. John Muir Trust staff will then work with volunteers from the local community in Patterdale to propagate and ‘grow-on’ a stock of young plants.

Pete said: “We expect that first batch of new plants will be ready for planting by late summer next year, and hopefully, with the support of Patterdale’s volunteer horticulturalists, the first successful shrub cuttings will be ready to plant out by autumn 2019. The more adventurous and athletic volunteers may even get the opportunity to climb the high crags of Helvellyn to help planting out back onto the fells.

"If this project is successful in creating more robust populations of the endangered arctic alpine species found in this tough Lakeland habitat, it will enrich this special upland landscape to the benefit of both visitors and the local community.”  

Supported by specialist advice from Natural England, volunteer growers will help assess the success and failure of propagation of these rare species to help inform future work. 

The funding from the Lake District Foundation will cover the costs of the special growing medium, pots and tools needed, and will contribute towards the costs of seed and cuttings collection, volunteer training and transport.

Sarah Swindley, Director of the Lake District Foundation said: “We are delighted to be able to award funds to this fantastic local project. And we are so grateful to the generous visitors and residents who love the Lake District and have made a donation.”