Rory has shown his support for red squirrels by climbing a 30ft beech tree and fitting a squirrel nesting box in his garden. The box itself was an amazing example of volunteers working together. The materials for the weatherproof, birch-ply box were donated by local Penrith timber merchants Joseph Richardson & Son Ltd. Butterwick resident Keith Gowling has made the first two of four boxes; Gillhead farmer Jim Hodgson has provided meadow hay for the bedding, with added fleece from Wendy Martin’s Herdwick yows; and local residents Pete Toaig and Sarah Maddicott are putting up the second box in their woodland at Butterwick Cragg, where they regularly spot red squirrels from the windows of Pete’s furniture workshop
Rory said: “It’s been such a pleasure to do something that will, we hope, directly foster the survival of the red squirrel population in this area. Volunteers such as Wendy and Pete show an unbelievable dedication to this cause. Their research tells us that red squirrels can cut themselves by trying to force their way into twig dreys with no obvious openings, and so the boxes should allow them to feed and breed safely without the danger of cuts and grazes that can lead to infection. The boxes are beautifully made by local craftsmen, too, and blend into the trees. I’ve had a wonderful time helping out.”
Designed by retired vet and licensed Red Squirrel breeder Bob Bradley of Witherslack, the boxes have been successfully trialled in the South Lakes and in Melkinthorpe Woods. Bob himself currently has a pair of breeding Red Squirrels in the large enclosure in his orchard, where squirrel kittens will hopefully be raised this spring. ‘Eddie’ the orphaned Red Kitten reared by Wendy Martin last year and released from the garth cage on August 11th last year used a nest box hung in a nearby larch, and other wild Reds have since been seen using the same box.