The Lake Dis­trict is WORLD CLASS

…but what will it mean for walk­ers?

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - News Special -

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

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