Rory Stewart MP has visited the Watchtree Nature Reserve on the Solway Plain to discuss its future, and how its volunteer-led team are adapting to secure its future as a community asset.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the MP and Defra Minister met with Director and Chairperson Frank Mawby, his team of volunteers, and officers involved in the day-to-day running of the Reserve, which operates a number of initiatives on-site to encourage visitors to the reserve, which has a unique history. The site was acquired by Defra at the height of foot and mouth disease. It is now an 84-hectare ‘wildlife haven’ of species, including a wide range of animal life, hay meadows, woodlands and wetlands, and has a membership of almost 400 supporters. It is a regionally important specialist cycling facility for people of all abilities, and home to the successful Watchtree Wheelers charity which rents cycles that are adapted for those with special needs.

Rory spent time talking about the volunteer support that the site generates, and its attempts to diversify and generate new income streams from its cafe, visitor centre, and other initiatives to tempt the visitor to the site. He praised them for running an important community asset, and took on board the group’s concerns about securing long-term income for the site.

Rory said: “Watchtree Nature Reserve is a unique place, with a unique history. It shows how adaptable the Cumbrian landscape can be, and its supporters show how valued a community asset it is. I have promised to take Frank and his team’s concerns to Defra, and to discuss further how its long-term future can be secured. I would like to pay tribute to Frank and his team’s efforts, the time and dedication they put into the resource, which – it is clear to me – is truly indicative of the power of voluntary effort.”

Print Friendly and PDF