National Trust destroys decades-old Bassenthwaite grassland

Image source, Wild Lakeland
Image caption,
Wild Lakeland said it was "lost for words" when it saw the damage

The National Trust accidentally destroyed an important natural habitat in an attempt to rewild a field.

The conservation charity has apologised for ploughing the grassland near Bassenthwaite in the Lake District, which contained decades-old fungi.

It disturbed waxcap mushrooms, which conservationists said indicate the land had been untouched for years.

Sophie Hall, from conservation company Wild Lakeland, said it would be "very, very difficult" to restore the land.

"It should never have happened in the first place," she said.

Natural grassland "thrives on being undisturbed for long periods of time" and ploughing it destroys established fungi and plants, she said.

Image source, Wild Lakeland
Image caption,
Wild Lakeland said the damage to the roots of an old Birch tree was "absolutely sickening"

Alerted to concerns via Twitter, the trust, which owns the land, initially responded to say ploughing the field was part of work to create a "hay meadow, providing a rich and varied habitat for hundreds of species".

"The area of land pictured which has been sub-soiled had low nutrient value," it tweeted.

However, when people pointed out the grassland had a substantial ecological value, the National Trust admitted it had been "ploughed in error".

"This was our mistake and we recognise that, in this instance, we failed to maintain the standards expected of a conservation charity to manage and protect the land appropriately," it said.

"As a result we are reviewing our working practices to ensure this doesn't happen again."

The charity said it was now working with other organisations to try to repair the damage.

Ms Hall said the trust was "still just human - we're all prone to errors".

"I think that the test will come, though, in the actions that they take as a result of this," she said.

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