Wildlife of the Lakes: Red Squirrels

19 September 2016

Criss-crossing the grasslands, dwelling in the trees and in-between the crags, lay some of the most spectacular creatures in the British Isles. No surprise, perhaps, given that the Lake District, protected as it is by the National Trust, is as close to true nature as some might get. Naturally, in a world that inspired the tales of Beatrix Potter, you’d expect that. And it’s right outside our doorstep, and yours too when you stay in a Mill House cottage.

If you’re off to the Lake District, it’s not just the stunning views that you’ll want to hunt out, nor the cosy English pubs with their homemade grub. One of the biggest incentives to visit this beautiful area is the local wildlife.

With that in mind, let’s cast our eyes over one of Britain’s most beloved indigenous creates, the red squirrel.

Before you go squirrel-watching, make sure you know about your subject. For instance, red squirrels are smaller than your run-of-the-mill grey squirrels (more on those later), typically measuring around 20cm, with a tail length of 20cm – the tail, by the way, is used to aid balance and steering, as well as keeping them warm during winters.

Red squirrels live in dreys, domed nests created from twigs and grass and bark and moss. These are usually situated in the forks of tree roots, with a diameter of about 30cm. As you’ll probably know, squirrels are incredibly twitchy, who are almost shy even around other squirrels, much less you in your walking boots and knitted sweater! In fact, they’re so shy that they barely have much contact with other squirrels – besides mating or occasionally using body heat to stay warm during winter (they don’t hibernate), they live solitary lives, scavenging seeds, berries and hazelnuts.

Although they were almost wiped out by their larger, more aggressive American cousins, the grey squirrels, they can still be found in the northern parts of the Lakes – although their numbers are, perhaps unsurprisingly, are steadily declining. For that reason, there are certain areas which are dedicated to the conservation of the red squirrel.

Where’s a good spot to…spot red squirrels? Of course, the most famous red squirrel is Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin – the author being closely associated with and celebrated in the Lake District. But if you’re on the look-out for the non-fictional variety, as we said, the northern parts of the Lakes are usually best. The National Trust recommends the Aria Force Glencoyne Farm walking trail while Whinlatter, also, is considered a red squirrel reserve.

Elsewhere, both Red Squirrels Northern England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust offers visitors to area advice on where you’ll be able to find these majestic creatures, so if you’re hoping for a glimpse of these flame-haired beauties, these sights will make interesting reading and help plan your trip.

And if you need a place to stay while, we’re perfectly placed to provide a luxury self-catering base, ideally situated for visitors to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. Ready to start your adventure? Get in contact with us online or call 01524 276 500 for more information about our self catering holiday cottages.

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