We’re celebrating World Book Day today as our Site Manager Lee has recently taken delivery of the first paperback copy of his award-winning book, Wild Fell: Fighting for nature on a Lake District hill farm. And the great news is that you will soon be able to get a copy when it lands in bookshops on 9 March. According to Lee, Wild Fell is a call to recognise that the solutions for a richer world lie at our feet and that by focusing on flowers, we can rebuild landscapes fit for eagles once again.
The book was Highly Commended by the judges in the prestigious James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Writing on Conservation when published in hardback on 24 February 2022, and around 10,000 copies have since been sold. The paperback is predicted to be even more popular.
What’s the story?
In 2015, England’s last golden eagle died on the remote eastern fells of the Lake District here at Haweswater. It was a sad day for the nation’s wildlife but not an unexpected one due to the ecological decline of the English uplands. Two years earlier, our team had begun work on an ambitious RSPB project, in partnership with landowner United Utilities to restore and enhance 30 square kilometres of Haweswater. The aim being to build back the area’s natural eco-system from the bottom up and to re-create a landscape that would support the return of golden eagles and other lost wildlife, to the area.
We’re responsible for two upland farms here, that we lease from United Utilities. Our plans to restore the site were seen by some as flying in the face of cherished farming traditions. But Lee believes that there is much more that unites farmers and conservationists than divides them, and that it is possible to make land restoration work for wildlife, water and people. Success relies on finding a balance.
Wild Fell is Lee’s personal story of fighting for nature on a Lake District hill farm
Lee said: “Since we took on the farms, the team at Haweswater has grown from just four members of staff, roughly the same number that were employed prior to the RSPB taking on the farms, to the equivalent of 22 full time staff. Knowing that the conservation work we’re doing is also providing employment for people – really rewarding employment – is brilliant.
“It’s also positive for nature. Two Golden Eagles and two White-tailed Eagles revisited Haweswater in Spring 2022. This is a tantalising hint that they might return to breed sometime soon. Red Grouse have also returned, as a direct result of the way that we’re managing the land. If our team can encourage their numbers to grow, then they could become the food to support the eagles. Our vision is already starting to become reality.”
The RSPB’s landscape work at Haweswater began small in 2011
The most fragile of alpine flowers were clinging onto inaccessible crags due to over-grazing by sheep and deer. Wild Fell is a call to recognise that the solutions for a richer world really do lie at our feet; plants are the foundation for the rest of the food chain and restoring flower-rich habitats is a vital step on the route to the recovery of a rich natural environment. By focusing on flowers, we can rebuild landscapes fit to welcome the majestic Golden Eagle again. The RSPB and United Utilities have embarked on an ambitious landscape restoration programme at Haweswater, that has seen us planting and allowing the natural regeneration of a whole host of wildflowers and trees that have previously been lost across much of the English uplands.
It is hoped the new paperback publication will make this positive story more accessible to thousands of new readers who can hear the story of how a landscape of flowers, is a landscape of hope. Wild Fell will be on sale online and in all good bookshops from 9 March for £10.99.