The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Of all the places in Bri­tain that are close to my heart – the York­shire Dales, Devon and Corn­wall, the High­lands of Scot­land, north Nor­folk, the Der­byshire Peak Dis­trict – there is one above all oth­ers that seems to me to pos­sess its own par­tic­u­lar magic: The Lake Dis­trict. So it was good to hear the Cul­ture Sec­re­tary Ed Vaizey de­clare that it is to be nom­i­nated as a World Her­itage Site in 2016. Should that nom­i­na­tion be suc­cess­ful, what will it mean to the home of Peter Rab­bit and Wil­liam Wordsworth, Lake Win­der­mere and Ken­dal mint cake? Well, hope­fully it will en­sure that we do not for­get to cher­ish this part of north­ern Eng­land that is unique in terms of both its phys­i­cal and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance – the two cri­te­ria that are con­sid­ered when Unesco ex­am­ine ap­pli­ca­tions for her­itage sta­tus from all over the world. Cur­rently there are 981 World Her­itage Sites, from The Taj Ma­hal and the Aswan Dam to the Great Bar­rier Reef and the Great Wall of China. Amer­ica has 21, Bri­tain has – wait for it – 28. Some of them come as no sur­prise – West­min­ster Abbey and Stonehenge are among the more ob­vi­ous, but it is good to see the City of Bath, the mills of the Der­went Val­ley in Der­byshire and Ti­tus Salt’s model vil­lage of Sal­taire, on the out­skirts of Brad­ford, rub­bing shoul­ders with the more ex­alted Blen­heim Palace and Mar­itime Green­wich. If the Lake Dis­trict is not a shoo-in then I’m a Dutch­man. Aside from the unique­ness of its ter­rain – vast lakes at the foot of tow­er­ing crags that have quite a dif­fer­ent feel to the moun­tains and lochs of Scot­land – the fact that The Lakes is a work­ing com­mu­nity as well as a tourist at­trac­tion adds to its all-round ap­peal. It is not choco­late-boxy af­ter the fash­ion of The Cotswolds (and I say that with­out a hint of crit­i­cism di­rected to­wards the Glouces­ter­shire coun­try­side) and it lacks the bleak­ness of the North York Moors and the Scot­tish High­lands, both of which I hold dear. The Lakes has its own par­tic­u­lar feel, em­bel­lished and bur­nished by cen­turies of po­ets and writ­ers, ex­plor­ers and feisty char­ac­ters. More than 20 per cent of it is now un­der the care of the Na­tional Trust, and the pa­tron saint of the Lake Dis­trict – St Beatrix of Pot­ter – gifted to it 14 farms and thou­sands of acres over the course of her life; Peter Rab­bit re­ally did help save the Lake Dis­trict, thanks to his cre­ator’s gen­eros­ity and vi­sion. One hun­dred and thirty-two Sites of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est and 18 Spe­cial Ar­eas of Con­ser­va­tion, more than 20 lakes, Eng­land’s high­est moun­tain – Scafell Pike – and its deep­est lake – Wast­wa­ter – must surely count in its favour when it comes to the vote. Against it? Well, it rains a lot, but then as long as you have a mac and wa­ter­proof footwear that should not put you off. Wet or dry, walk­ing in The Lakes counts as one of life’s great­est plea­sures (pro­vided the views are not ob­scured by mist), es­pe­cially if you have in your pocket one of Al­fred Wain­wright’s mag­nif­i­cent guide­books. Writ­ten and il­lus­trated by hand, th­ese books are a must for any­one who val­ues cre­ative en­deav­our and skilled pen­man­ship. They were writ­ten by a cur­mud­geonly but en­gag­ing man who was Bor­ough Trea­surer in Ken­dal. I have a com­plete set on my book­shelf and have used them to prac­ti­cal ef­fect, even when climb­ing the slopes of Great Gable with a yel­low Labrador in tow. To reach the sum­mit was an achieve­ment ex­ceeded only by my level of em­bar­rass­ment as she be­gan to de­mol­ish the pic­nic of some stal­wart souls who had ar­rived at the sum­mit be­fore I did. Happy mem­o­ries of a four-legged friend now long gone. If you have never vis­ited The Lakes I urge you to do so. Take a boat on Win­der­mere, buy some Ken­dal mint cake and climb a fell or two. Visit Wil­liam Wordsworth’s House at Gras­mere and see if the wa­ter at Lodore still comes down as it did for Robert Southey: “rat­tling and bat­tling, and shak­ing and quak­ing” – af­ter this win­ter’s rain­fall I would be sur­prised if it did not. Fell­sides speck­led with sheep, lo­cals who love and re­vere the place where they live, wild flow­ers aplenty and more views than you have ever dreamed of make up this most ex­quis­ite hunk of Bri­tish soil that de­serves to be bet­ter known by Brits who imag­ine that the Dor­dogne and the Lot Val­ley are the epit­ome of beauty. Where else within our shores would I nom­i­nate? Well, both the York­shire Dales Na­tional Park and the Der­byshire Peak Dis­trict are also wor­thy of greater recog­ni­tion – Chatsworth and its Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown park­land would get my vote, along with Winch­ester Cathe­dral – a mag­nif­i­cent ed­i­fice wherein lie the re­mains of St Swithun and Jane Austen. Wind­sor Cas­tle and Wind­sor Great park must be a con­tender, though whether or not Her Majesty would re­gard World Her­itage Site sta­tus as nec­es­sary I am un­sure. Then there is the mag­nif­i­cent Rib­ble­head Viaduct in North York­shire, brought to the no­tice of mil­lions world­wide as a high­light of the jour­ney from Water­loo Sta­tion to Hog­warts in the Harry Pot­ter films. De­light­fully we Brits are not short of fea­tures to boast about – whether made by the hands of man or God. The im­por­tant thing is that we ac­knowl­edge the fact and cher­ish our her­itage, as dis­tinct from pre­serv­ing it in aspic. The Lakes are a liv­ing, breath­ing, func­tion­ing part of our land­scape and civil­i­sa­tion and I couldn’t be hap­pier for them that the cus­to­di­an­ship of its na­tives has been recog­nised. Huz­zah! And good luck!

Iwas amused to hear one of the pre­sen­ters on the BBC’s Break­fast News of­fer the fol­low­ing statis­tic the other day, con­cern­ing the per­ils of driv­ing while too tired. A sur­vey had been con­ducted, she in­formed us, which showed that of all driv­ers who fall asleep at the wheel “al­most fifty per cent are men”. As sta­tis­tics go, it was an in­ter­est­ing one. What, one won­ders, are the other fifty-odd per cent who out­num­ber the chaps? I just point it out by way of in­ter­est.

Spec­tac­u­lar views: for those who think the Dor­dogne the epit­ome of beauty, the vista that com­prises Der­went Wa­ter, Skid­daw and Blen­cathra from the slopes of Cat­bells, will make you think again

Caught nap­ping: male driv­ers fall asleep not quite as of­ten as oth­ers

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