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Our work at Fell Foot

View of the lake and jetties, on an early morning in spring at Fell Foot
New slipways and jetties will be part of the next stage of the HLF project at Fell Foot | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery, we’ve been able to undertake a project to restore elements of Fell Foot to their original Victorian design, including conserving the historic boathouses and bringing the Pinetum back to its former glory. Find out more about our work here.

Conserving the historic boathouses

Thanks to generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we’ve been able to restore elements of the park’s Victorian design, including several Grade II listed boathouses on the lakeshore.

Gothic style

The boathouses are believed to be the most significant examples of their Gothic style in the Lake District. Having undergone major conservation work, two of them are now open to the public for the first time. Two others have been renovated to create the café and formerly the shop.

Changing places facility

The three central boathouses now have level access to make them fully accessible to everyone and include the first Changing Places facility, for people with complex care needs, in the Lake District. In the smallest boathouse, you can watch a short, animated film about the 19th-century owner of the park, Colonel Ridehalgh.

The restored boathouse at Fell Foot Park, Cumbria in summer
The newly restored boathouse at Fell Foot Park | © National Trust Images/Melvin Jefferson

Tree felling in the Pinetum

When the park was landscaped in the 19th century, it included a section called the Pinetum, where Fell Foot’s Victorian owner, Colonel Ridehalgh, planted showstopper trees collected from all over the world – you’ll notice some giant varieties including Monkey Puzzle, Douglas Fir, Monterey Pine and Swamp Cypress at the south end of the park.

Weeding out self-seeded trees

These trees have now reached a considerable size but are increasingly overwhelmed by smaller, self-seeded trees. These are being weeded out to return the Pinetum to its former glory, as part of the ongoing Heritage Lottery funded project to restore the parkland to how it looked during its Victorian heyday.

Tackling Ash Dieback at Fell Foot

If you’ve visited Fell Foot recently, you may have spotted some tree felling around the park. Sadly, a large percentage of ash trees are badly infected with Ash Dieback, an incurable disease which threatens an estimated 80 million ash trees in the UK.

Ongoing work

The infected trees are only being removed where they pose a risk to the public, and around 30 ash trees were felled in 2021. We have been working with the Forestry Commission and neighbouring woodland owners, to quickly help limit the spread to unaffected trees. This will be ongoing for several years as we continually manage the disease in the park.

Replanting native species

In the long term, we’ll be replanting the parkland with a variety of native tree species that aren’t susceptible to Ash Dieback and will include heritage species such as oak and beech. If you’d like to help the restoration of the National Trust’s woodlands, you can donate to the Everyone Needs Nature appeal.

Close-up of wild poppies and cornflowers in the meadow at Fell Foot, Cumbria
Wild poppies and cornflowers at Fell Foot | © National Trust Images/Melvin Jefferson

Creating flower meadows and open vistas

Back in 2009, a proportion of Fell Foot’s rhododendron plants were diagnosed with an incurable fungal disease called Phytophthora ramorum and had to be removed by law. The remaining bushes were unstable due to their size and shallow roots, and the decision was made to remove them and create new wildflower meadows throughout the park.

35 different wild flowers

Today’s meadow has been created using a seed mix of 35 annual and perennial wildflower species, including poppies, cornflowers and oxeye daisies. The annuals appear in the first year after sowing, providing a ‘nurse’ crop to the perennial flowers which will grow and flower the second year and each year thereafter.

Using a wool based turf

The perennial meadow mix by the Active Base was installed by garden staff and volunteers in 2018/19. This pre-prepared mix was sown into a compostable wool based turf, so it arrived all prepared and was very easy to lay. It produced an instant effect and contains plants such as verbascum, viper's bugloss, rose campion and yarrow cultivars.

Nectar supply

As well as adding bursts of colour to Fell Foot, the wildflowers provide a good-quality, long-lasting nectar supply for insects in spring and summer, which encourages bats and birds to live here. Removing the rhododendrons also opens the original view across the park of the lake and the Fairfield Horseshoe.

Healthy soil

These new plants also improve Fell Foot’s soil health. Rhododendrons change the soil chemistry, reducing the number of insects that live in the ground and the presence of healthy fungus. Healthier soil also means better drainage, which will reduce waterlogging on the lawn over the winter months.

The garden team plan to change the flowers year on year as they know some plants will thrive in the Cumbrian weather, while others may not. The end result will be a meadow unique to the special conditions at Fell Foot.

Overview of the Fell Foot project

From 2019

Boathouse restoration

The Gothic-Style boathouses have undergone major conservation work and two are now open to the public for the first time. Two others have also been renovated, one contains the café. A Changing Places facility, for people with complex care needs, has also been created and the three central boathouses made fully accessible.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Our partners

Heritage Fund

Inspiring, leading and resourcing the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

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