Founder Cannon Hervey
It all began in 1912 when Charles Rothschild, who pioneered the whole concept of nature reserves in this country, set up the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves - which evolved into today's Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts - the parent organisation of our 47 Wildlife Trusts. He identified Meathop Moss, 120 acres of raised bog near Grange over Sands, as 'one of the most interesting places in England' and it became the newly-formed society's fourth nature reserve.
50 years later, in May 1962, our Trust was founded by Canon Hervey as The Lake District Naturalists' Trust with the aim of preventing the destruction of wildlife by acquiring reserves, campaigning, educating and advising. From the very beginning conservation and education were seen to be of equal importance. By the end of the decade the Trust had established itself and was working on eight reserves, including Meathop Moss, South Walney and Bowness on Solway. The 1970s saw the establishment of our Local Support Group network and the employment of professional staff.
By the 1980s the Trust was a substantial and effective organisation for wildlife conservation in Cumbria. We were building up a valuable and varied range of reserves where wildlife was protected; we had a growing reputation for being a good source of advice on conservation and being an organisation that should be consulted by local authorities and other bodies; we were building up our membership in nearly all parts of the county, who were informed about conservation and watchful on its behalf. But the increasing workload needed to be financed.
Luckily for us, in 1997, new money became available from the National Lottery and Landfill Tax. Our Trust's expectations moved up into a different league, and we were able to take on more conservation and educational work. Our staff numbers increased significantly and we became constrained, through lack of office space, from taking on any more sizeable projects based at our Brockhole office. So we began to search for a new Headquarters.
While the Millennium began well, in February 2001, the Foot & Mouth epidemic struck; our reserves were closed for the rest of the year and our fieldwork was severely curtailed. Nevertheless, we were working harder than ever as we continued to plan for the future post F&M and I am very pleased to say that, throughout all the difficulties of that year, our membership continued to grow steadily. By 2002 we had over 7,400 members and had moved into our own headquarters at Plumgarths, just outside Kendal. That year we celebrated our 40th anniversary with many special events throughout the county.
2003 was a year of progress and expansion in all areas of our work, building on our achievements in 2002. We were able to employ more staff and new projects strengthened our expertise and influence in the wider countryside. We were undertaking major programmes of conservation work and buying new areas of land to enlarge our reserves. Our fundraising and marketing department was continually seeking very necessary grants, enabling us to expand all areas of our work. Local Groups continued to work hard in support. Membership was increasing and reached well over 8,000 by the end of the year.
We are now, in the 2010s, still expanding with over 40 members of staff and 15,000 members. We have offices at Gosling Sike Farm and staff located at our South Walney Nature Reserve. Meathop Moss Nature Reserve is still being well looked after since those early days and work is being carried out to restore its neighbour, Foulshaw Moss, back to lowland raised mire.
2012 was our 50th anniversary year and we celebrated with volunteers, members, partners and staff alike.