Park's red carpet for red squirrels gets the royal seal of approval

by Search Gate staff. Published Mon 23 Nov 2009 12:36, Last updated: 2009-11-23
Natural environment was made as red-friendly as possible

A successful bid to encourage the return of red squirrels to a UK Lakeland holiday park has won praise from The Prince of Wales - and led to its being highlighted as a national role model for championing the reds' return.

Prince Charles' praise for Skelwith Fold Caravan Park in Ambleside came after he heard that red squirrels had once again established colonies in the grounds after a two-year battle by the business.

In a letter to the park's Henry Wild, His Royal Highness said he wished to congratulate Skelwith Fold "most strongly" on its "efforts to preserve this wonderful creature".

Prince Charles also gave details of the park's achievements to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, of which he is the patron, which this month publicised Skeklwith's success strategy UK-wide.

It's hoped that the case study will encourage other landowners in Britain to adopt similar tactics aimed at paving the way for red squirrels to win their fight against the aggressive greys.

Attracting the threatened reds back to the 130-acre park required a concerted effort by Henry and his staff team at Skelwith Fold.

An action group at the park was formed three years ago in conjunction with some holiday home owners, and the necessary cash to support the project came through a variety of fund-raising events.

A reduction in the number of grey squirrels was achieved by humane culling, and a programme of woodland management ensured that the natural environment was made as red-friendly as possible.

A near setback to the group's plans came last year when the parapox virus, deadly to red squirrels, was reported to be spreading through parts of the UK.

Research by the park, however, established that the virus was suspected of being passed via the feeders often used to bolster the diet of red squirrels with seeds, fruit and nuts.

The group quickly moved on to ground feeding and alternative methods of delivering the food to the animals - and as a result, the park has remained completely virus-free.

Then, last year, the first colony of red squirrels was spotted causing excitement amongst the group and other local wildlife organisations - and to date, six colonies have now been identified.

"It's involved a lot of hard work on the part of Skelwith's own conservation team, but this fantastic result has made everything worthwhile," commented Henry Wild.

"News that our efforts have also won the support of Prince Charles has come as a tremendous spur to our work - and we have offered to provide advice to others hoping to win back the reds.

"We look forward to working with the Prince's Red Squirrel Survival Trust, and helping to ensure that these beautiful creatures once again become a familiar part of the landscape," added Henry.

A winter feeding programme has now started at the park, and next spring Skelwith intents to host regular "red safaris" for local wildlife groups and park visitors.

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