County Wildlife Sites

County Wildlife Sites (CWS) are areas of land recognised as being at least county, sometimes national, importance for their nature conservation value; this is defined by the presence of important, distinctive and threatened habitats and species. In Cumbria we have some 1600+ sites found on both public and private land. They vary in shape and size and include a great variety of valuable semi-natural habitats such as ancient woodland, species-rich grasslands, wetlands, roadside verges and hedgerows.

The very best wildlife habitats in the county are likely to have been given statutory protection as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). County Wildlife Sites is a non-statutory designation that has been used to recognise other high quality wildlife habitats in each county; some sites may be of similar quality to SSSIs. County Wildlife Sites, therefore, play a vital role in the conservation of the UK’s natural heritage by providing essential wildlife refuges, stepping-stones, corridors and buffers linking and protecting other designated sites and open spaces both in towns and the countryside.

County Wildlife Sites are not protected by law, their survival depends on owners and managers being sympathetic to the needs of wildlife. Selection of areas as sites recognises this historical careful management by owners. Local Authorities as part of their planning function have a responsibility to take account of County Wildlife Sites alongside other material planning considerations. Given information about where these sites are, and why they are important, owners, planners and conservation bodies can work together to make informed decisions about the future of these sites. Available funding can then be targeted where it can be of most value in protecting biodiversity.

Selection procedure for County Wildlife Sites in Cumbria

The way that County Wildlife Sites (CWS) are identified, selected, monitored and protected is through Cumbria Local Sites Partnership. Cumbria Wildlife Trust administers the system on behalf of the partnership. Other members include Cumbria County Council, Lake District National Park Authority, District Councils, Natural England, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, National Trust, and Tullie House Museum.

Potential sites are initially identified through the study of existing habitat survey data and aerial photos. Site visits are then carried out by an experienced ecological surveyor who records wildlife habitats and species found on the site. Following the survey, the results are then assessed against strict selection criteria by an expert panel of ecologists (comprising representatives from the different partnership organizations); the full set of guidelines used for selection can be downloaded below. Those sites meeting the necessary standard are selected as County Wildlife Sites. Landowners receive copies of survey results and advice about sympathetic management. Existing sites are resurveyed when information is out of date, typically within ten years.

Download the Guidelines for selection of County Wildlife Sites using the link at the bottom of this page.

Information for landowners

Our leaflet County Wildlife Sites: Information for landowners should answer most common questions about what it means to own such a site, and can be downloaded below.

Information for environmental/ecological consultants

In Cumbria non-statutory wildlife sites of at least county importance are referred to as County Wildlife Sites (CWS). Please be aware that different counties may use other names to refer to such sites; some common terms used in different parts of the country include Local Wildlife Sites, Sites of Biological Importance (SBI), Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), Biological Heritage Sites, Sites of Nature Conservation Value. They all refer to the same type of non-statutory site.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust manages Cumbria’s CWS system on behalf of the Cumbria Local Sites Partnership. However, Tullie House Museum in its role as the Cumbria Local Record Centre now deals with County Wildlife Site data requests; if you are a consultant, student or member of the public please contact Tullie House Museum (details given below) for site information and data searches. Landowners should continue to contact The County Wildlife Sites officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust (please see the Information For Landowners page for contact details).

The full guidelines used for selecting sites are available for download below. Our Information for landowners leaflet many also be of interest.

Information regarding statutory sites (i.e. SSSI, SPA, SAC, NNR, LNR, Ramsar) can be accessed via Natural England's website, Nature on the Map and MAGIC. For species records (protected or other) across the county please get directly in touch with Tullie House Museum who manage the Cumbria Local Records Centre. Full contact details for both organisations are listed at the bottom of this page.

For information regarding statutory sites in Cumbria contact:
Natural England, Juniper House, Murley Moss, Oxenholme Rd, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 7RL
Tel: 01539 792800

For County Wildlife Sites, data requests and information regarding species records in Cumbria contact:
Natural Sciences Section, Tullie House Museum, Castle Street, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8TP
Tel: 01228 618770 ext. 288.

County Wildlife Sites and NI197

Cumbria Strategic Partnership has chosen to include the new National Indicator 197 (Improved Local Biodiversity – proportion of Local Sites where positive conservation management has been or is being implemented) as one of the indicators within Cumbria’s 2008-2011 Local Area Agreement. Local Sites include both County Wildlife Sites and Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS).

Following this adoption of N197 by the county, Cumbria Local Sites Partnership has been established to steer the management of the Local Sites System and ensure the indicator targets are achieved. The partnership membership includes Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Cumbria County Council, Lake District National Park Authorities, District Councils, Natural England, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, and The National Trust. Partners are working closely together to coordinate efforts across the county and improve the management of Cumbria’s Local Sites.


FilenameFile size
cws_selection_guidelines_july_2008.pdf773 KB
cws_landowner_information_leaflet.pdf453.92 KB