Whinlatter Forest is a haven for two of England’s endangered species, the red squirrel and the osprey. The bushy-tailed red is familiar to many from Beatrix Potter’s Tales of Squirrel Nutkin, but they’ve become a rare sighting since the introduction of the larger grey into Britain. Greys carry a virus that is often fatal to reds, and they’re a major competitor for food sources like acorns in deciduous woods. The reds prosper best in conifer forests like Whinlatter, which was designated a Red Squirrel Reserve in 2005, and Forestry Commission England and Red Squirrels Northern England are working together to ensure its population continues to thrive.
Whinlatter is also home to the Lake District Osprey Project. Long persecuted by humans, there were no breeding pairs left in Britain by 1916. Two returned to Strathspey in 1954, and in 2001 a pair nested at Bassenthwaite Lake on the northern edge of Whinlatter Forest – the first in the Lake District for 150 years. Forestry Commission England, the Lake District National Park Authority and the RSPB worked together to build them a nest to encourage them to stay, and wardens kept a roundthe-clock watch on the eggs. The birds now return every summer from Africa to breed. Ospreys are fish-eating raptors and witnessing a catch is an incredible piece of theatre, as they plunge their talons into the water. Webcams transmit live images of the nest to the visitor centre at Whinlatter, or you can walk to an outdoor viewpoint at nearby Dodd Wood.
Spot Britain’s native squirrel in the Whinlatter Forest.
An opsrey feasts on fish: a rare sight in Britain.