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Wildlife to see in Ennerdale

A male Marsh Fritillary butterfly with wing markings of orange, white and black
A male marsh fritillary butterfly | © National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

The Wild Ennerdale partnership between the National Trust, Forestry England, United Utilities and Natural England champions a nature-led approach to land management and has seen the return of wildlife in abundance. Which of Ennerdale’s residents will you be able to spot?

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Today just 10 per cent of England’s surface area is wooded and just under half of that is ancient or recent semi-natural woodland.

Most of England’s native woodland plants are in these areas, but only one quarter of the woodlands are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and only half of those are in what Natural England calls a ‘favourable condition’.

Against this backdrop, the positive work going on in Ennerdale is even more important – almost 50 per cent of the land in Ennerdale is designated as SSSI and 700 hectares (1,730 acres) is forest or woodland.

Black Galloway cattle

Black Galloway cattle may look like big teddy bears, but they’re hardy beasts that live outdoors all winter, roaming over 1,700 hectares of forest, farmland, river and fell side.

The farmer, a Trust tenant, checks on them to make sure they’re healthy, but they need very little intervention.

They even have their calves out in the forest and then come back to the herd to introduce their calf once it's big enough.

The cattle were introduced to Ennerdale in 2006 to help the native woodland re-establish in the valley.

They’re heavier than sheep and graze differently so they disturb the ground more and allow plants, shrubs and trees to grow.

If you go to Ennerdale to walk or cycle, make sure your route takes you to ‘Moo Moo Bridge’ – another result of the black Galloways of Ennerdale.

Learn more about Ennerdale’s black Galloways.

Black Galloway cattle grazing in meadow
Black Galloway cattle grazing in Ennerdale, Cumbria | © National Trust/Paul Harris


Since the cattle have been introduced in Ennerdale, there has been a return of native populations of the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly (as well as its food plant, the devil’s-bit scabious), Red Admiral, Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, Ringlet and Green Veined White to name a few. You can expect to see them from spring to late summer.

Butterflies are an important part of the ecosystem for pollinating flowers and provide a food source for birds.


Ennerdale is home to a wide range of bird species thanks to its increasingly diverse mix of habitats such as sub alpine, lakeshore, grassland and forest.

Bird species are being monitored by a local ornithologist and over time are showing some increasingly positive results.

Dippers, ring ouzel and green woodpecker are some of the birds that have been sighted and bird nesting habitats (territories) are on the increase, bucking national trends.

Red squirrel sitting on a mossy rock eating a nut
Red squirrel in the Ennerdale Valley | © National Trust Images / Jim Bebbington


Deer can be found in the valley all year round but they can often be difficult to spot.

The best times of day to see them are early morning and late evening. Around 100 roe deer roam the Ennerdale Valley as well as the occasional transient herd of red deer moving to and from South Cumbria.

Red squirrels

Ennerdale Valley is home to between 100-150 native red squirrels.

You can see red squirrels across Ennerdale's woodlands, especially towards the western end of the valley. 

Look out for stripped conifer cones, which show that squirrels could be nearby.

Pine martens

The YHA at Gillerthwaite has a whiteboard where walkers record their wildlife sightings.

While red squirrels, deer and herons often make the board, the Ennerdale team has also received some unconfirmed sightings of pine martens.

If you see a pine marten when you’re out and about please let the team know at You can find out what a pine marten looks like on the Wild Ennerdale website.

See Wild Ennerdale’s wildlife page for more information about animals to look out for in Ennerdale.

Sunlight is casting rays between the trunks of densely planted trees in dark woodland in Ennerdale, Cumbria

Discover more at Ennerdale

Find out how to get to Ennerdale, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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