The Lake District is WORLD CLASS
…but what will it mean for walkers?
THE LAKE DISTRICT joined destinations like the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef this month, with the awarding of World Heritage Status from UNESCO. But what will it mean for walkers?
According to Lord Clark of Windermere, who led the successful bid, the biggest benefit could be better access to more remote parts of the national park.
“Sustainability is at the heart of World Heritage status and that means there will have to be a complete rethink of how walkers get around the Lakes. That means improving public transport and the railway network,” he told Country Walking.
“The majority of visitors head to Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick, but the whole of the Western Lakes is crying out for economic revival and we need to get more visitors out to there.”
The new status is likely to attract more visitors from around the world. But Lake District National Park chief executive Richard Leafe said it wasn’t about swamping the area with extra visitors, but lengthening the stay of those who come.
“We don’t see this resulting in millions of more visitors. We already have 18 million visitors each year. We see World Heritage Status allowing us to remain competitive so that overseas visitors choose to come to the Lakes.
“And we are keen to see more visitors doing what readers of Country Walking already do: to stay longer, spend a little more and get more under the skin of the area to understand what makes the Lake District so special.”
Some critics – in particular the writer George Monbiot – have raised concerns the status will put the needs of farming above wildlife. But Mr Leafe insists a careful balance can be struck between the competing concerns.
“Our core aim is to protect and enhance the landscape, and our management plan includes work to improve the ecology of the national park and its wildlife. But we are not going to do that at the expense of the farming community, and I think people understand you can still have a farmed landscape that has more wildlife and biodiversity than it does at the moment.”
Lord Clark said the bid team included several avid walkers, including himself and Mr Leafe, and that walkers’ interests would never be overlooked in the ongoing management of the area.
“The whole bid has been driven by people with a real enthusiasm for the area. I’ve been walking here for over 50 years and I’ve completed the Wainwrights on five occasions,” he added.
“Seldom a week goes past when I don’t go out onto the tops, and I always come home saying ‘that takes some beating’.
“So the onus is on us to make sure that the people who truly value the area, including walkers, don’t lose out as we move forward.”
Find out more about the successful bid at www.lakesworldheritage.co.uk
The Lake District National Park will host a free cultural festival from September 8th to 10th to celebrate its World Heritage Site status. Find out more at www.lakesalive.co.uk
The view over Ullswater from Gowbarrow inspired that Wordsworth poem. Insets: Lord Clark and Richard Leafe