Saturday, 1 June 2013

Gone forever?

Greetings Friends. Here in the English Lake District we have seen many visitors this week as schools have had their half-term holiday. Beatrix Potter, who lived and worked in this area, is lovingly remembered and her little books and associated memorabilia fill many of our local shops.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is about a rascally little red squirrel who upset Old Mr Brown the owl by singing silly rhymes whilst his sensible cousins brought gifts to exchange for nuts.

The good squirrels caught fish for the owl but Nutkin gathered pine needles and made a pin cushion and Mr Brown was not pleased.

It was the woodlands of the Lake District that were home to Old Mr Brown and the red squirrels and at this time of year these woods are carpeted with bluebells and the air is filled with perfume and birdsong. The wood below adjoins our garden (picture taken yesterday).

Beatrix Potter I'm sure would be delighted to find that much has remained unchanged in the Lake District since she lived here but she would be broken-hearted to know that her beloved red squirrels have almost disappeared. Why? . . . In the late 1800s it was fashionable to bring wild animals from other countries back to Britain and this is when American grey squirrels were introduced to our countryside. It seemed a harmless thing to do at the time but the larger, hungrier grey squirrels carried a deadly disease which quickly spread amongst the red population with the result that red squirrels have been almost eradicated from much of England.

The English Lake District (marked with a red square on the map) has until fairly recently remained a relatively safe haven for red squirrels but we always knew their days were numbered as populations of greys quickly spread northward. I used to watch reds playing in our garden then one fateful day in 1997 I spotted a grey squirrel and knew I'd never see another red.

I find the sweet picture below rather poignant as these days it is only off-shore islands that have remained relatively safe places for red squirrels to live. Most people have assumed they would soon be gone forever but now there is a growing body of people who are no longer prepared to accept this defeatist attitude. Around the country small groups of red squirrel lovers are joining forces with the aim of reintroducing the native reds back into safe areas of woodland.

Needless to say I support this worthy cause and am a member of our local Westmorland Red Squirrel Society which is run by a band of dedicated volunteers and relies almost entirely on charitable donations. The process of re-establishing grey-free areas for the little reds to inhabit is a slow process but progress is gradually being made.


In order to raise much needed funds I am designing a knitting pattern for a new dolly. 100% of all profit made from the sale of this pattern will go to the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society. By next weekend I hope to have something more colourful to show you. Meanwhile if you would like to visit the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society website please CLICK HERE.

Today is a sunny Saturday and I'm now off to our local garden centre to buy some bedding plants to pop into my pots on the patio. I just hope we don't get any more snow before next winter!

Hope you are all enjoying your weekends.
Eli x