Ospreys were extinct in English Lake District for 150 years but, following successful breeding at Loch Garten in Scotland, the Forestry Commission and Lake District National Park decided to create nest platforms at Bassenthwaite in the hope of attracting them back.
In 2001, they came. A pair made a nest and Forestry Commission ranger Nathan Fox was there to witness it. “I was one of the staff under the tree in a tent, watching, listening and hoping,” says Nathan, whose job was to protect the birds from anyone wanting to steal their eggs. To his astonishment (“All we wanted to do back then was to get them to breed”), people flocked to the forest to see the first chick arrive. Today, the ospreys are a big deal for the local economy, attracting thousands of tourists and bringing in an estimated $3million a year in tourism revenue.
Nathan’s role is not all about ospreys. He also has the huge task of maintaining the ecosystem of this mountain forest, whether that means managing timber production, protecting the endangered red squirrel, or even culling the roe deer to control over-population. All the venison is sold to a local game dealer.
“Our job is balancing the timber production, people and recreation, and wildlife management,” says Nathan. “The protection of the environment should form part of anybody’s business plan because that’s in all of our interests. The two go very much hand in hand.”