Red Admiral butterfly copyright LDNPA

Windermere: wildlife

From fish to underwater plants, birds to otters, Windermere is a nationally important place for wildlife. Windermere has:

  • wintering birds like goldeneye and tufted duck - read more in Birdspotting
  • the widest range of large aquatic plants in the National Park
  • a wide variety of under water plants such as six-stamened waterwort, water lobelia, white water lily and pondweed.
  • a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Low Wray Bay, where undisturbed sediments provide a record of changes over the last 20 000 years
  • soft shore and stony shore hydroseres - meaning the range of plant communities from underwater plants to reedy fringes to wet woodland to dry oak woods.
  • important lakeshore wetlands
  • otters and native white-clawed crayfish
  • charr fish which are usually found in arctic waters - read more in Fishing

Because of this Windermere is on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust's County Wildlife Site list.


Waste water

Windermere has a resident population of over 10,000 people in its catchment - meaning the area around the lake that feeds into the lake's water supply. Because of this it's classified as sensitive under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. This Directive aims to protect aquatic environments from the adverse effects of waste water discharges.

Dwindling reed beds

Reed beds offer essential secure resting places for overwintering birds and breeding birds in the spring and summer. Reed fringes also help break up wave energy from wind and boat wakes and slow down the erosion of the shoreline.

Unfortunately reed beds are declining around the lake. We are working with organisations such as the Freshwater Biological Association, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England to help provide solutions to encourage reed beds to start growing again.

We ask lake users not to land boats on shoreline areas with reed beds or take or drag boats through reed beds. They are also asked to avoid boating in the Wildlife Refuge areas in winter as marked on Your guide to Windermere leaflet (PDF)

The threat from alien species

Alien species compete with native plants and fish for space, light and food and may alter the ecological balance of the lake.

Canadian pondweed was the first to have a major impact, dominating depths greater than one and a half metres. In the 1970s Nuttall's pondweed replaced it as the major threat. And now Australian swamp stonecrop, also known as New Zealand pigmyweed, is spreading.

On river banks Himalayan balsam is a particular problem.

Lake users must clean equipment and clothing after using any lake or river to prevent the spread of alien species to other waterways.

Need more help? Pop in!

Waterfront at Bowness Bay

This page is brought to you by the staff of Bowness Bay Information Centre.

We can help you with booking accommodation, tickets or attractions. See us on the south side of Bowness Bay, home to Bowness Information Centre.