Wildlife at Borrowdale and Derwent Water
In Borrowdale we're working to reverse the decline in British wildlife species by protecting their fragile habitats. If you go for a quiet walk in the valley, especially around dusk or dawn, you could be rewarded with a glimpse of some of Britain's rarest wildlife.
Did you know?
Borrowdale is one of the most wooded valleys in the Lake District, when it comes to native tree species
we care for around 500 hectares of protected Atlantic Oak wood
incredibly rare 'old growth' lichens and mosses thrive the valley's temperate rainforest
over recent years otters have returned to the valley
You can hear Peregrine Falcons calling to their young at fledging time
Vendace, England's rarest freshwater fish, survive only here and in Bassenthwaite
We're working with the local community to protect red squirrels in the valley
Nature highlights in autumn
The autumn colours in the trees present the valley at its most dramatic - find out when to visit for the best colour.
There's a population of wild red deer who live around Borrowdale. In autumn they become especially active because it's the time of the annual rut - the mating season. During the day they hide out of sight of humans on the high fells, but they come down to the valley floor during the night to feed in peace and quiet.
Time your walks for dawn or dusk as the days grow shorter, take your binoculars with you, and you might spot stags locking antlers and tusseling to find out who is the strongest. You could hear dominant stags bellowing, and you could see the herd feeding as they slowly make their way down from the summits in the evening, or back up to them in the morning.
Nature highlights in winter and spring
Owls have their breeding season when snow is still falling. Around February half term if you go for a walk in Great Wood you can hear tawny owls hooting to each other in their quest to find a mate – the female calls “tu-wit” and the male replies “tu-woo”. While there is freshly fallen snow on the ground, look out for the tracks of wild red deer, rabbits and even otters.
Remember to keep your ears open as well as your eyes and enjoy the soundtrack of winter in the mountains with the song of the raven which is much deeper and more musical than the crow.
Spring returns to the valley
As winter turns to spring it sometimes seems like every puddle, is teeming with frogspawn. Even high up on the fells at places like Dock Tarn which is 400m above sea level, frogspawn and tadpoles can be found.
You don’t have to head up to the fells though for a quirky wildlife win - just a short walk out of Keswick town at dusk and you will be rewarded with a frog chorus in the heart of Ings Wood. We are currently fundraising for a boardwalk to protect this internationally significant wet woodland habitat.
Visit in March and you’ll hear the distinctive high-pitched cry of Peregrine Falcons echoing off the crags as they call to their mates. Did you know that Peregrines form monogamous pairs that bond for many mating seasons? Look up and you might catch a glimpse of their distinctive ‘hunched shoulder’ silhouette against the sky.
There’s nowhere quite like the spring woodlands of Borrowdale with scents, sights, tastes and sounds to be absorbed. Breathe deep breaths of the fresh new vegetation or the pungent tang of wild garlic, taste the peppery freshness of wild sorrel on your tongue and listen out for the echoing call of the cuckoo which arrives back in the valley on the 3rd week in April each year.
" If you’re Borrowdale born and bred you’ll know the cuckoo as a ‘Gowk’ which is also used colloquially as an insult!"
And of course there will be carpets of white wood anemones, wood sorrel and wild garlic before the leaves are out on the trees.
Other nature notes
Borrowdale is dominated by ancient woodlands that cling to the steep and craggy fellsides. These are the Atlantic Oakwoods, the temperate rain forests that once cloaked much of the Western Seaboard of Europe, and as with other rain forests its wildlife is secretive and unobserved.
Soaring above you, you might hear buzzards and peregrine falcons. The raven is relatively common throughout the valley and during the summer months the striking pied flycatcher takes up residence in the forest. Roe Deer are often seen in the woodlands and the larger Red Deer can be found on the high fells above the tree line.
Look down to the forest floor, up to the fell tops, across the ancient pastures to discover an incredible diversity of plants, particularly ferns, and a dazzling array of mosses and liverworts. The Borrowdale valley has a nationally significant collection of outstanding rare lichens and a rich variety of fungi in the autumn.
Red squirrels have inhabited Cumbria for the past 6,000 years. Today, their grey cousins are pushing them close to extinction, but there is a population in the valley that we are fighting hard to protect.