Factsheet for Lake District IPA

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Site Code

Country: United Kingdom

Central coordinates: 54.66666667o [54o 40' 0" North], -3.06666667o [3o 4' 0" West]

Administrative region: North West (Cumberland, Westmorland)

Area: 5474 ha

Altitude: 215 - 500

Site Description
The Lake District is characterised by high fells, woodlands and open water though includes a great number of important habitats. A number of species are found at the northern most limit in the British Isles and due to the moist humid conditions, bryophyte and lichen diversity of the oceanic woodlands is high.

Botanical Significance
IPA noted for: Bryophyte, Lichen, desmids, habitat and vascular plant assemblages.
High fells:

The high fells in particular are important for their wet heath, blanket bogs, dry heaths, alpine and boreal heaths, upland acid heaths (which support Juniperus communis), siliceous alpine and boreal grasslands, and areas of disturbed ground (on some of the summits). These areas support woolly fringe-moss Racomitrium lanuginosum, stiff sedge Carex bigelowii, fir clubmoss Huperzia selago and the lichens Cladonia uncialis, C. coccifera, C. squamosa, C. subcervicornis, Cornicularia aculeata and Cetraria islandica. Dwarf willow Salix herbacea, R. lanuginosum and alpine clubmoss Diphasiastrum alpinum can be locally abundant, the latter particularly where there is late snow-lie.

A number of rare arctic-alpine species are present in areas of moist, basic soils that support species-rich tall herb vegetation; mainly found in Helvellyn and Fairfield (probably one of the most important areas in England for calcareous montane flora found on the extensive cliff ledges), Honister Crag, Scafell Pikes, Pillar and Ennerdale Fells and Wasdale Screes, with scattered species rich ledges elsewhere. A number of rare arctic-alpine species occur here, including alpine cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii, alpine meadow grass Poa alpina, black alpine sedge Carex atrata and alpine saxifrage Saxifraga nivalis at Helvellyn and Fairfield. Buttermere Fells is also a locality for the rare alpine catchfly Lychnis alpine.
On Helton Fell, a bryophyte rich flush is present supporting species such as Bryum weigelii, Sphagnum contortum, Sphagnum warnstorfii, Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum, Moerckia hibernica, Leiocolea rutheana, Homalothecium nitens, Drepanocladus vernicosus, Cinclidium stygium and Jamesoniella undulifolia

Siliceous scree communities are one of the most extensive habitats within the Lake District High Fells, covering large areas on moderately steep ground (always interspersed with other habitats) they are colonised by grasses, bryophytes and ferns. The screes provide a suitable microclimate for many oceanic moss and liverwort species such as Scapania ornithopiodes and Kiaeria starkei, which can be found in Helvellyn and Fairfield.

On siliceous slopes of acid crags, extensive communities of silicicolous vegetation occurs - crevices and wet rock faces support a number of uncommon ferns including green spleenwort Asplenium viride, brittle bladder fern Cystopteris fragilis and Wilson’s filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii.


Old sessile oak woods with Ilex and Blechnum are a particular feature of the Lake District IPA and harbour rich bryophyte and lichen communities. Areas of bryophyte and fern-rich oak woodland are found on steep south-facing slopes near the altitudinal limit for oak in Cumbria. Notable bryophyte species include Breutelia chrysocoma, Saccogyna viticulosa and Pleurozia purpurea. Fragments of this habitat also occur elsewhere throughout the site, mostly in gills or other areas less accessible to grazing animals. Borrowdale woods complex, for example, has the most extensive block of western old sessile oak woods in northern England with a diverse range of stand types which contain some of the finest assemblages of mosses and liverworts in western Europe due to the mild moist climate. In addition, rare plants such as touch-me-not balsam Impatiens noli-tangere and alpine enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea alpina, also have important British occurrences here. Amongst the oak stands there are small patches of bog woodland (birch Betula sp. on peat), ash Fraxinus excelsior woodland and alder Alnus glutinosa stands. The woods are especially rich in bryophytes (including Critically Endangered Homomallium incurvatum and lichens, and northern species occur, such as the moss Ptilium crista-castrensis.

At Stonethwaite Woods (part of the Borrowdale Complex), the high rainfall, aspect and underlying rocks of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group result in the site supporting the best upland oak-hazel woodland in Borrowdale, as well as species-rich bryophyte flora. Both the northern and southern woods grade into open birch stands along their upper edges with occasional holly and yew, passing into a dry, heather Calluna vulgaris dominant heathland with bracken and areas of acid grassland. Parts of the woodland floor are thickly covered with boulder scree and support often well developed communities of common bryophytes such as Dicranum majus, Rhytidiadelphus loreus and Polytrichum formosum. The southerly aspect tends to be too exposed and dry for the rarer ‘Atlantic’ species of moss and liverwort.

At Johnny Wood (part of the Borrowdale Complex), a well developed sessile oak woodland has developed on the acidic soils. The woodland exhibits varieties of structure: from stands of tall, widely-spaced trees; to development from abandoned coppice; to dense stands of thin poles. Ash and hazel occur with oak over the small areas of base-enriched soil, where there is also sparse wych elm and bird cherry. The floor is covered with boulders on which there are growths of mosses and liverworts. This ‘oceanic’ bryophyte flora is richest on the more humid north-east facing slopes and is dependent on the combination of high rainfall, rocky ground and continuous tree cover. Bare species include Sematophyllum micans, one of the rarest British oceanic mosses, is perhaps at its most abundant in this wood. High rainfall has probably inhibited development of an outstanding lichen assemblage, however there is an interesting lichen community co-dominated by Parmelia laevigata and P. taylorensis.

At Lodore Troutdale (the largest unit within the Borrowdale Woods complex), small areas of alder woodland and willow along the banks of the River Derwent have formed which are notable for their rich moss flora. In all some 213 species of bryophyte have been recorded here, this being extremely high compared to other woodlands in the British Isles (Averis 2002). Of particular interest here are the numbers of oceanic species, which have strongly western distributions in Europe (Ratcliffe 1968). The area around Lodore Fells is of interest, with Radula voluta, R. aquilegia, Harpalejeunea ovata and Drepanojeunea hamatifolia. Lichens of interest include Anaptychia obscurata in its only known locality in northern England. The site includes a number of interesting non-wooded habitats. Species-rich flushes contain yellow saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides, grass-of-Parnassus Parnassia palustris, lesser clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides, marsh arrowgrass Triglochin palustris and fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea var. densiflora. There are also areas of unimproved grassland, heath and bracken with scattered birch.

At Great Wood (which is noted for its fine stands of ash and wych elm woodland which occur on base-rich soils; and for alder woodland in wetter areas), at least one hundred lichen species have been recorded, making it the third richest known locality for lichens in northern England. Arboreal lichens and especially large foliose species are particularly well represented. Three Lobaria species occur in an abundance unparalleled in northern England, and there are many other rare species such as Arthopyrenia cinereo-pruinosa

Low Stile Wood/Seatoller is known to be the finest of all woodland sites in northern England for its lichen flora and the bryophyte species recorded from the wood are also outstanding. The very restricted ground flora and sparse shrub layer however reflect the impact of prolonged grazing although alpine enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea alpina, and the uncommon Wilson’s filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii which is present on damp shaded rocks do exist here. Good lichen assemblages occur under closed canopy woodland, but the important ancient woodland indicator lichen species are largely restricted to the areas of well-lit and more scattered trees near Seathwaite Bridge and the Borrowdale yews. The lichen assemblages also vary with woodland type; the ash-oak-hazel stands being characterised by a Lobarion pulmonariae community which is particularly well developed on the ash pollards of the lower slopes, while a Parmelion laevigatae community is typical of the more acid oak-birch areas and becomes dominant above 150 m OD. The total of 182 lichen species recorded includes many rarities such as Bacidia isidiacea and B. affinis, which are restricted in Britain to only a few ancient woodland localities; Arthothelium orbilliferum, Sticta canariensis, and Leptogium burgessii, for which this is the only English record; Lopadium pezizoideum for which there is on other English record; and many other species which are scarce in northern England but occur in great abundance in Seatoller Wood. The bryophyte flora contains numerous rare ‘oceanic’ species including Radula voluta and Adelanthus decipiens, which have only two other English localities; and Jamesoniella autumnalis, Hylocomium umbratum and Leucobryum juniperoideum.
Within Gowbarrow Park there are some of the finest stands of alder and wych-elm woodland in the whole of West Cumbria, grading into more open areas of unimproved acidic marshy grassland, acid flushes, bracken, heathland and parkland. Gowbarrow Park hosts outstanding lichen flora, which includes a large number of rare and local species. The woodland has characteristics of primary relic woodland of a type once much more extensive on relatively base-rich slopes in the Lake District. The fine alder stands range from peaty carr below the springline through closed canopy woodland into open stands of widely spaced trees, some of which are coppiced. The ash-wych elm stands occur along water courses and on the rocky bluffs, especially where these are rich in nutrients. Ash and elm have achieved great size, as has small-leaved lime Tilia cordata, which occurs in association with hazel Corylus avellana, bird cherry Prunus padus, yew Taxus baccata and sessile oak Quercus petraea. The presence of spindle Euonymus europaeus is noteworthy for, like small-leaved lime, it is growing here at the northern limit of its range.

At Side Wood, a large number of bryophytes have been recorded (see Averis 2001 for more info) including Breutelia chrysocoma, Campylopus atrovirens, Dicranum scottianum and Hyocomium armoricum, Ptilium crista-castrensis and the liverworts Anastrepta orcadensis, Bazzania tricrenata, Gymnomitrion crenulatum, Harpanthus scutatus, Harpalejeunea molleri, Herbertus aduncus, Plagiochilla exigua, Lejeunea lamacerina, Lejeunea patens, Lepidozia pearsonii, Plagiochila exigua, Plagiochilla killarniensis, Plagiochilla punctata, Plagiochilla spinulosa, Saccogyna viticulosa, Scapania gracilis and Tritomaria exsecta.

At Ullswater there is a cluster of old sessile oak woods, sometimes in association with other woodland types of ashFraxinus excelsior and alder Alnus glutinosa. The woods show outstanding bryophyte assemblages (including northern species such as Ptilium crista-castrensis)
Open water:
The Lake District has areas of open water throughout throughout. Although the tarns are typically species-poor, many are important for their desmid diversity. Desmid diversity hotspots include; Kelly Hall Tarn (a small shallow lake about 1.5 m deep where over 70 species of desmid have been recorded including the potential UK Red Data List desmids: Cosmarium pseudoconnatum, C. retusiforme var. incrassatum, Desmidium aptogonum, Sphaerozosma vertebratum, Staurastrum laeve, S. manfeldtii, S. quadrangulare, S. spongiosum, S. striolatum), Long Moss tarn (which includes 5 potential UK Red Data List desmids; Cosmarium sportella, Groenbladia undulata var. perundulata, Hyalotheca mucosa, Haplotaeniumrectum, Staurodesmus bulnheimii, S. validus and over 70 species recorded overall), Long Moss (which lies in a small valley on Torver Back Common), Lily Tarn (near to Loughrigg Fell - the algal flora is dominated by the desmid genus Staurastrum). In addition, Three Dubs Tarn is particularly important for its rich wetland flora supporting a wide range of aquatic and wetland plants. These include four species of pondweed Potamogeton alpinus, P. berchtoldii, P. natans and P. polygonifolius, quill-wort Isoetes lacustris, lesser bladderwort Utricularia minor, floating bur-reed Sparganium angustifolium, small bur-reed S. minimum and lesser skullcap Scutellaria minor.

At Little Langdale Tarn, the genus Euphrasia is well represented with 12 taxa occurring; Euphrasia arctica subsp. borealis, E. confusa, E. confusa x scottica, E. frigida, E. micrantha, E. nemorosa, E. nemorosa x confusa, E. nemorosa x scottica, E. officinalis agg., E. rivularis, E. rostkoviana subsp. rostkoviana, E. scottica. The genus Euphrasia in Britain comprises a taxonomically complex group; the components are self-compatible, morphologically similar, hemi-parasitic annual plants of which there are 20 hybrid micro-species of high conservation importance.

Coniston Copper Mines consist rocky outcrops, mine spoils and disused mine workings where Purvis and James reported 97 species of lichen existing on the mineralised deposits, most of which belong to the genera Acarospora, Aspicilia, Bacidia, Buellia, Cladina, Cladonia, Fuscidia, Lecanora, Porpidia, Rhizocarpon and Stereocarpon. Many species are characteristic of Acarosporetum sinopicae, although there is variation in species depending on different mineral substrate.

Management guidance notes

IPA consists of component sites: Borrowdale;
Coniston Copper Mines;
Great Wood;
Helton Fell;
Kelly Hall Tarn;
Lake District High Fells;
Long Moss Tarn;
Loughrigg Fell;
Low Stile Wood;
Three Dubs Tarn;
Yew Scar, Gowbarrow.

IPA noted for: Bryophyte, Lichen, desmids, habitat and vascular plant assemblages.