RENOWNED Westmorland Gazette cartoonist Colin Shelbourn and a university animation team are bringing eight quirky characters to Lake District classrooms.

Five schools will be hosting the beastly bunch, which includes soil pile Murky Merv and invasive plant Trudy the Intruder, in a drive to boost environmental awareness.

The brainchild of groundbreaking lakes and landscape programme Windermere Reflections, Lakes’ cartoonist Mr Shelbourn and Lancaster University have played a crucial role.

Reflections’ education leader Amanda Hancock said five primary schools had already helped bring the characters to life with poetry, stories, dance and music workshops.

She added: “The university’s computing and communication department has done fantastic digitising work and trained our volunteers to use animation software to help make stories.

“Our work to protect some of the county’s most stunning waters and countryside depends on encouraging people to look after their surroundings.

“The classroom is a great place to share messages with the next generation of environmentalists. Field Studies Council tutors are leading the inspirational schools sessions.”

Murky Merv and his foes are taking centre stage at Langdale and Hawkshead primaries, along with Windermere’s St Cuthbert’s, Goodly Dale and St Mary’s.

Supported by the Lake District Sustainable Development Fund, this is one of Windermere Reflections’ 19 projects, which cover a 235 square kilometre target area.

Backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the aim is to raise awareness and help stem environmental problems across Lake Windermere and the rivers and tarns which feed into it, including Grasmere, Rydal and Esthwaite Waters.