Armathwaite Hall nestles within an enchanted landscape of woodland, parkland and lake foreshore which offers a safe haven for many of our native wildlife species including otter, roe deer and endangered bats.
However, our proudest conservation achievement is that in the 400 acres of woodland surrounding the hotel; Armathwaite Hall has a thriving and gradually increasing population of red squirrels, which we’re trying hard to protect.
Red Squirrels have always been native to the Bassenthwaite area, but the invasive alien grey squirrel was not recorded on Armathwaite Hall Estate until 1997. The Graves family responded quickly to this new threat, turning to both Fran Foster and staff from the Lake District Wildlife Park for advice. The greys compete with the reds for food, but their ability to eat acorns and hazelnuts before they are fully ripe gives them an advantage. Even more crucial in the red squirrel’s fight for survival is the fact that they are susceptible to the pox virus that is carried by grey squirrels.
Fran is a practical country woman and an experienced school teacher with a lifelong love of wildlife. Fran moved to Cumbria 20 years ago, having grown up in Wales where she had never seen a wild red squirrel. Ever since moving to the Lake District, Fran has been involved in red squirrel conservation, particularly aiming to help those on the Armathwaite Hall Estate; initially caring for road casualties brought to the Lake District Wildlife Park by the public
Inspired by the antics of the red squirrels that she sees and recognises individually on the Estate, Fran recently produced a book ‘Rowan the Red Squirrel’a story and activities all about the enchanting red squirrel to both entertain and educate children – the story is set on the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake, a young squirrel born in Messengermire, (a conifer forest the Estate currently leases to the Forestry Commission), he moves south looking for a territory of his own, through the hotel grounds, and along our lakeshore, encountering various dangers before reaching the safety of Mirehouse gardens and Dodd Woods.Through this book Fran is hoping to inspire the naturalists of tomorrow.
Fran’s book has already received much praise, Bob Cartwright, Former Director of Park Services with the Lake District National Park says “I think it’s terrific: readable yet educational and a great introduction to a subject close to all of our hearts!”
The best time for hotel guests to follow in the footsteps of Rowan the Red Squirrel and catch a glimpse of our shy, elusive red squirrels is in early summer, before the leaf canopy hides them from view. Alternatively, a crisp autumn walk can be enhanced by spotting one of our furry companions scurrying about on the ground and hiding nuts in preparation for winter.
Please feel free to stop Fran for a chat about the squirrels anytime you see her and the little cocker spaniels in the grounds – She is always happy to talk about squirrels or give handy tips on squirrel-watching hotspots, as well as some very useful photography advice.
If you would like to support Fran, our very own North Lakes Red Squirrel Ranger, and mark National Squirrel Appreciation Day this year, why not purchase a copy of “Rowan the Red Squirrel”? Call us on 017687 76551, and we will arrange a mail order.
Find out more by visiting the North Lakes Red Squirrel Ranger Facebook page.
January 21st is National Squirrel Appreciation Day, and to celebrate, we’ve pieced together 5 facts you may not know about Squirrels!
While most people would have you believe that Squirrels do nothing but scamper around parks, climb trees, and squirrel away nuts for the winter, there is actually a lot more to the small rodents than meets the eye…
There are 265 different species of Squirrel
Squirrels are indigenous to every content except Australia – where they were brought by settlers in the late 1800s – and Antarctica, and have been found everywhere from Ethiopia to Hampshire.
They differ in size and shape massively
On the one hand; you have the Indian Giant Squirrel, which can grow up to 1.4m long from head to tail and leap 6m between treetops. On the other, you have the African Pygmy Squirrel, which caps out at around 5 inches at its largest, and usually climbs down a tree and up another one if it wants to change branches.
Squirrels’ teeth grow at a rate of six inches per year
From the day it is born until the day it dies, a squirrel’s four incisors never stop growing. What’s more, they grow extremely quickly, in order to combat the constant gnawing of branches, nuts and even stones that squirrels do.
Scurry of Squirrels
The correct name for a group of Squirrels is a ‘scurry’ or ‘dray’, although it is thought that a dray more accurately refers to a squirrel’s treetop nest. Among all of the collective nouns for animals, this one is arguably the one of the ones which makes more sense than a ‘murder’ of crows.
Red Squirrels Are in Danger!
With the population of grey squirrels growing exponentially in the UK and Ireland, Britain’s red squirrel population is on the decline. While red squirrels are thriving on the continent, the number of reds in England is sharply decreasing. This is due to the lack of territory they have, thanks to the bigger, stronger grey squirrels claiming large areas of land and depleting food resources.