© Teresa Morris

Mapping Wild Rusland (2016-2019)

Bringing together data on important habitats for the first time to create a comprehensive digital mapping database that builds a picture of their extent, condition and current management.

Nationally, through 'Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services', there was an emphasis on improving the quality and extent of priority habitats and building resilient ecological networks at a landscape scale. Mapping Wild Rusland was a pilot that could be used to develop an approach suitable for roll out across the National Park and Cumbria.

The project brought together habitat data for the first time to create a digital mapping (GIS) database that built a comprehensive picture of the extent, condition and current management of priority habitats in the Rusland Horizons scheme area.

Organisations and the local community can now utilise the data and maps to inform discussions and land management decisions regarding the maintenance and enhancement of the area’s wildlife and landscapes. Fundamentally, learnings can now be rolled out across the National Park and Cumbria, in addition to demonstrating the Lake District National Park’s and Cumbria Local Nature Partnership’s commitment to a landscape scale approach.

The data is available to view on the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre’s (CBDC) website.

The mapping process for translating the Rusland Horizons habitats survey data into GIS format comprised of three main stages:

  • Mapping of the Phase 1 Habitat Survey
    • Digitising habitat survey and target notes.
    • Filling gaps using survey information and OS OpenData.
  • Mapping of Farm Environment Plan (FEP) Habitat Features
    • Digitising FEP habitat survey data
    • Adding farm management agreement options as a separate layer
  • Creating the Rusland habitat layer
    • All the mapping habitat data were integrated and the outcome habitats were classified into three categories;
      • Priority habitats
      • Broad habitats
      • Additional habitats


  • Improved awareness of the current extent, condition and management of important / priority habitat located within the scheme area. Diversity and importance of habitat areas were highlighted.
  • An integrated approach to collating, digitising and categorising habitat data was successfully piloted.
  • The new digitised mapping data and maps will help farmers with submission of applications to Countryside Stewardship. In particular, the ability to view the spatial data across multiple land holdings may increase the possibility of successful agri-environment scheme applications in the future.
© Teresa Morris

So far so good...

  • Habitat data has been gathered, digitised and categorised.
  • Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre developed a new process for digitising Phase 1 Habitat Survey data.
  • Over 6,500 polygons in the new GIS database have been drawn, annotated and checked.
  • Interactive maps created and available to view on CBDC’s website.
  • Habitat map layers available for download as pdfs below.

Did you know?

A Phase One Habitat Survey was carried out for Cumbria in the 1980s. This identified and mapped all the different types of habitat in the area. It provided a useful baseline for monitoring any changes in the landscape, but it was all produced on paper, using different coloured pencils, so was difficult to use in this digital age.

Click on READ to download the maps of priority habitat, broad habitat and additional habitat.

The Challenge

Habitat data for the Rusland Horizons area had been collected and stored by a number of organisations and individuals over a long period of time. This information was in a variety of formats and largely paper based. As such, it was inaccessible to a range of people and organisations, including the local community, who could have made much better use of it to inform sustainable management of the area. We also knew that, locally, there were inaccuracies in the nationally produced Priority Habitat Inventory which meant that as a tool for local use and site specific work, the national dataset had limitations.

Our Approach

Partners involved to share and pool data; National Park Authority, Natural England, Forestry Commission and Cumbria Wildlife Trust. We worked with Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre to build a new, comprehensive digital mapping (GIS) database that digitises and mapped the priority habitats in the area.

We used the collated information to provide opportunities for the local community to discuss and explore what the local landscape meant to them. It was a chance to consider the value that is placed on the different habitats in the area and how they should be managed for a sustainable future.

© Rusland Horizons 2017 - 2024. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons was a Landscape Partnership funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund until July 2019. It is now being delivered by The Rusland Horizons Trust Limited. Company No. 2133450; Charity No. 519410; Registered Office: Bleacott Farm, Witherslack, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6RZ.