Wild Haweswater announced as winner in global sustainability awards… for Natural Climate Solutions (UK)

Wild Haweswater, a partnership between the RSPB and landowner United Utilities, near Bampton in the Lake District, has won the annual Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions, one of seven innovative winners which were revealed Saturday 22 June on the first day of London Climate Action Week, the largest city-wide climate festival in Europe, happening 22-30 June. The awards ceremony itself took place at the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London Thursday 27th June where RSPB Visitor Experience Manager, Annabel Rushton collected the accolade.

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Every year, the Ashden Awards highlight inclusive climate solutions - work that creates a fairer world, as well as lowering emissions and preparing communities for climate threats. More than 500 organisations applied for the 2024 Ashden Awards and Wild Haweswater was one of just two finalists in the Nature-based Solutions category, supported by the Lund Trust, securing its place after a rigorous assessment and judging process and input from sector experts.  

This prestigious award is recognition of the landscape restoration work at Wild Haweswater, from the re-wiggling of Swindale Beck, to establishing Mardale Mountain Meadow, from re-wetting peat bogs, to nature-friendly farming, planting tens of thousands of trees and creating the largest native tree and plant nursery in the Lake District. All to restore the rugged landscape, improve drinking water, absorb carbon, and increase resilience to flooding, drought, and fire in the fight against climate change.

By protecting ancient Atlantic oakwood, restoring upland plants and returning natural processes, Haweswater is a place where wildlife can thrive; from Red Squirrels to Salmon, to Pied Flycatchers, rare Lichens, and the recently recolonised Marsh Fritillary Butterfly this mountainous landscape holds a richness of life. In 2016, the natural bends were put back into a one-kilometre stretch of Swindale Beck, which had been artificially straightened around two centuries ago. This restoration work was to slow the flow of the river, creating suitable habitat for spawning salmon and trout, improving water quality, and contributing to reducing the risk of downstream flooding.

30,000 plants are being grown of about 50 different native species at the on-site tree and plant nursery and 200,000 native trees have been planted on site since 2011.  200 hectares of peat bog has been restored, helping to capture carbon, 1 km of river has been re-wiggled, and 30 hectares of species-rich wildflower hay meadow has been restored. 300 Cheviot Ewes are farmed alongside 35 Belted Galloway, Highland and Luing cattle and four native Cumbrian Fell Ponies, which all contribute to conservation grazing on the site.

Wild Haweswater’s work is also about people – creating job opportunities (increasing from four-19 staff in the last three years), volunteering contributions from a hard working team of around 40 volunteersevents and experiences for the public, and knowledge sharing with those from across the agriculture, water and conservation sectors. 

A lone Pied Flycatcher perched on a branch with a bug in their mouth.

Glen Swainson, RSPB Senior Site Manager at Wild Haweswater said:

Partnership working with other organisations and local communities is key to ensuring that nature-based solutions within a farmed landscape can be beneficial to the climate and both the economy and the ecology of this rugged part of the Lake District.”

“Thanks to the ongoing conservation work, salmon are breeding once more in the restored Swindale Beck, while dippers and common sandpipers fly overhead.  Once scarce Alpine plants are returning to the fells. Ring ouzels, redstarts and pied flycatchers make their nests and rare Marsh Fritillary butterflies have recolonised in the wildflower-rich meadows.”

“We’re delighted to receive this award and its only thanks to all our staff, volunteers and partners that so much has been achieved at Wild Haweswater. We are, however, in a nature and climate emergency and need to do so much more collectively to achieve our vision for net zero, restoring habitats, harnessing renewable energy, and supporting nature friendly farming for the benefit of nature, climate and people.”

John Gorst, Catchment Partnership Officer for United Utilities added:

“The project at Wild Haweswater showcases nature-friendly farming at its best. As well as delivering fantastic results by enabling nature and wildlife to thrive, it also provides access to nature for the public.“

Ashden, a London-based charity, has been spotlighting transformative climate solutions for more than 20 years through its prestigious Ashden Awards scheme, shining a spotlight on innovators from the public, private and non-profit sectors.  

The 2024 Ashden Awards champions were chosen by panels of expert judges from around the world including academics, business leaders, investors, and journalists.

Juniper regeneration - a large field of vegetation, with a body of water and hills in the background.

Ashden’s Head of Awards Dr Stephen Hall said:

“These winning organisations are brimming with epic climate ambition – ambition to slash global emissions and transform our world. They’re also pioneers of climate justice, building a world that’s fairer and greener. Change happens faster when more people believe in it, back it, and enjoy the benefits.”  

Ashden CEO Dr Ashok Sinha said:

“This year’s Ashden Award winners are tackling the biggest climate challenges, in ways that also create important benefits – like new green jobs and fairer societies. Their inclusive approach is key to their success. Passion, ambition: they’ve got it all. So now we urge investors, funders, policymakers, and climate sector leaders to back and work with these trailblazers.”

Winners will receive financial and strategic support, which will help to continue the landscape scale restoration work that is ongoing at Wild Haweswater. 

For more information visit:

Take a look at the winners pages here and watch the Wild Haweswater video.

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