New project dips into memories of Windermere

The Westmorland Gazette: Collections manager Tamsen Vicary and project officer Gary Rushworth, of the Clear Waters project Collections manager Tamsen Vicary and project officer Gary Rushworth, of the Clear Waters project

MEMORIES of Windermere from local anglers, wildlife enthusiasts, scientists, and boaters have been collected as part of a Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) project.

The Heritage Lottery Funded proj-ect, known as ‘Clear Waters’, explores the relationship between people, wild-life, and the lake, and highlights the controversial nature of some lake management activities “Everybody agrees there have been big changes, but they don’t agree about whether they’ve been good, or bad,” said project officer Gary Rushworth.

The results have not been extensively analysed yet, but the FBA has created a website and travelling exhibition that can be seen at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, until August 31.

Mr Rushworth has also created eight montages based on different aspects of the lake, which can be viewed on the website, and listened to as audio clips at the exhibition.

Bownessie’, for example, features former Environment Agency fisheries officer John Martin saying he believes a family of otters may be the explanation for sightings of the ‘mythical monster’.

Meanwhile, ‘Need for Speed’ deals with the contentious issue of the Windermere speed limit.

Mr Rushworth said: “We’ve tried to be balanced about that one so, for example, we have a fisherman saying how noisy it used to be, and someone else saying they think children should be able to learn how to waterski on the lake.”

Many of the interviewees linked imp- ortant changes in wildlife to changes in climate, and human activity. Concerns were raised about changes in key habitats, and their associated wildlife, and changes in the volume, and behaviour, of boat traffic.

An increase in alien invasive species, such as skunk cabbage and roach, was also noted.

Another key issue discussed is the loss of the reed beds, which has resulted in declining insect numbers.

Angler and naturalist John Tyson said during his interview that the reed bed loss is down to gravel abstraction from Windermere during the 1970s.

As well as ecology, the project also covered the social history of the lake, such as the fact that during WWII Windermere ‘supplemented’ the nation’s diet with a supply of jellied eels, and tinned perch.

Full versions of the Clear Waters interviews, along with typed transcriptions, will be archived and stored by the FBA, and the Ambleside Oral History Group.

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