/ OPINION: What Makes the Lake District a World-Class Destination?
I very much agree that there is something unique to the Lakes. It has a quiet beauty that is all its own, and retains corners for solitude and secret joys, despite its diminutive size. The proposed gondolas and zip-wires are just so much tat, a fad that will pass without leaving anything worth having.
I think economic development beyond tourism is important. Cuts to arts funding should be reversed and investment in cultural activities and businesses encouraged (e.g. to create and develop places like the Brewery Arts Centre of Kendal elsewhere - hubs and spaces for many other endeavours). Broadband projects should also be finished and extended.
Beyond this, cuts to adult colleges, libraries, healthcare and other public services also need to be reversed, with Cumbrian healthcare being in a dire state. The University of Cumbria has also, sadly, been failed by the Higher Education policies of the last decade - and perhaps beyond. The marketisation of HE has created an uneven playing field, and what could have been a vibrant source of employment and learning has become a shambling institution with a skeleton staff, hanging on for fear of soon becoming a white elephant.
I also agree that significant investment in buses and trains is necessary, connecting Cumbria more smoothly and affordably to Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Glasgow. The current services are often late, don't operate often enough, start early enough, finish late enough or go to enough places. They are also ridiculously expensive - priced for the once-a-year tourist rather than Cumbrians or those who frequently visit from the surrounding area. A few weekends back I left Grasmere at 7pm (hardly late in summer) on a bus and found it took 4 hours to get home to Lancaster (a 1 hr car trip) - solely due to poor timetabling. Very frequently, a delayed train to Oxenholme fails to meet with the Windermere train, meaning hours of delay getting into Langdale or Coniston.
Finally, housing is another major issue. You mention a tourist tax: the obvious target of this in my view should be the buy-to-let landlords, holiday cottages and air bnbs. More housing needs to be protected, too, against this through council ownership or protections that avoid sale for letting.
I'm sure others can advance other ways of developing the Lakes, beyond these jottings. Instead, all Cumbria gets is a Disney makeover out front and hard and dirty industry from behind. Neither nuclear submarines nor gondolas make life in Cumbria better for ordinary people.
”...our lakes, mountains, moors and valleys remain largely unspoilt...”
Are you on crack? It’s about as unspoilt as Hyde Park in Leeds.
The Lakes is beautiful for sure, but with recent World Heretage status seems to be heading in a direction that will result in more cars, and less sustainable tourism. Roads and paths were built over centuries, now it seems to be frozen in time. As a cyclist who lives on the south edge of the lakes I rarely visit by bike. The infrastructure is shockingly bad. I have a vision of a network of cycle paths (taking up some of the land now used by the far too numerous sheep! Sheep numbers have doubled over the last 80 years.}
But car is king, for instance it is now cheaper for a car with four adults to cross the Windermere ferry than it is for 4 cyclists. A recent change in pricing meaning that 4 cyclists would pay £16 for a return journey. A doubling of the price. Such policies encourages car use and makes cycling even more unpleasant.
The routes into the lakes are as bad, bits of footpath pass as cycling routes, the potential for the cycle route over the arnside estuary to Grange is just being talked about.
The author's comments regarding footpaths is interesting. To my mind, the lack of footpaths (as he cites on Mull) is a good thing, and on my most recent visits to the Lake District, I've been horrified to see just how many footpaths there are, scarring the hillsides. It seems strange to assert the beauty of the unspoilt landscape and then to take pride in the network of footpaths.
Despite man's presence over millennia our lakes, mountains, moors and valleys remain largely unspoilt and beautiful
Hmmmmm surely sheep farming has changed the land beyond all recognition from what was once native woodland to pasture
Whilst I broadly agree with Jon Derry that protecting the landscape of the Lakes is very important, I think he needs to get some of his facts right if his argument is going to stand scrutiny.
The Lake District is a largely man-made landscape. Agreed, the topography of the fells and lakes is not a result of human influence (apart from quarried and mined areas, Honister and Hodge Close for instance). The patchwork of fields, vegetation, woods and villages are all man-made. It isn’t unspoilt, it is actually spoiled, it just happens to be spoiled in a way we particularly like. This ‘spoiled’ character of the Lakes is what makes it what it is today and is what we (mostly) love about the place. I think it is relevant to say that if we want to sustain the character of the Lakes we need to make sure that hill farming for sheep, which is marginal at best, can carry on as a viable ‘industry’. The effects of Brexit and end of CAP subsidies anyone? Buying your hill farmed lamb at a premium price rather than imported cheap stuff?
We need to stop characterising the place as some kind of rural timeless idyll and recognise it for what it is.
i don’t know much about the Whinlatter scheme, and in principal don’t like the idea of building gondolas in the National Park, but... Whinlatter is a Forestry England site, managed for producing large amounts of timber, a timber factory if you like. It is in a way a despoiled landscape and not particularly rich in biodiversity. They have certainly developed an intensive tourist attraction there too, with a visitor centre, trails, activities etc. If a gondola was to be built anywhere, this might be the place. By the way Jon, your comment about skiing in the alps, presumably using gondolas, smacks of first class Nimbyism.
The comments about right to roam and lack of footpaths is plain wrong. The reason the Lakes and much of upland England has a strong network of (often eroded) footpaths is because we had no right to roam until recently. We needed the public rights of way otherwise we couldn’t get in the hills at all. If we could have wanderer at will around the hills there’d be fewer eroded paths.
...our lakes, mountains, moors and valleys remain largely unspoilt ... Has this person actually been to the Lake District in the last 20 years!!!
The management of "The Lake District National Park" is an absolute disgrace, it's strategy has nothing to do with maintaining the natural unspoilt beauty of the area and everything to do with attracting more and more visitors i.e. money to substitute for the reduction in government grants it used to receive.
The Lake District Park has become a completely manufactured and Disneyfied park from the ugly ugly F**x the Fells paths to the adventure playground attractions.
The Park seems to have lost focus on one of the main reasons the National Parks were created in the first place ... to maintain the natural unspoilt beauty. They have focused on the other part ... making the park accessible for all to enjoy.
You're correct that the Lakes should not be confused with its romanticised representation. Where do we go with that? For me, we should move forward by prioritising the real needs, rights and agency of people who live in and around Cumbria, followed secondarily by those of visitors. These needs and desires are not easily accessed, however, and are easily misrepresented.
I'm not sure we do need to keep sheep farming as a priority, despite its role in shaping the Lakes. Far better if schemes can be developed that protect farmers' existence and livelihoods, but contribute to increasing the biodiversity of the Lakes. Perhaps this is an open door, as sheep farming looks less and less viable as a livelihood.
The location of the Whinlatter gondola makes it more suitable than other developments, e.g. the Honister zipwire. But, I sincerely doubt it will bring much of value to the Lake District for visitors or local people, whilst it seems to me that its go-ahead makes similar projects more likely.
The concept of 'Nimbyism' is not very critical or helpful. For example, it is currently being used against those opposing fracking; its deployment by the pro-frackers is precisely to delegitimise attempts by local people to participate in the politics of local planning decisions and economy. Local people should have a right to have a say in what happens in the places where they live; if we do not start with this as a first principle, we've already lost.
BAE Systems, the nuclear industry, fracking and the proposed coal mining - all of these projects are supported by both local Labour and Tory MPs, who claim they are upholding the interests of local people by supporting industries that provide jobs in an area with poor investment. But analysis very quickly reveals the paucity of what these big industries really offer to Cumbria and the lack of democratic accountability, as well as their negative impact locally, nationally and globally.
Similarly, but on a smaller scale, I feel these gondola and zipwire schemes are likely to make money for particular companies and landowners, but unlikely to provide much to local people. The governing assumption is simply that increasing the 'offer' to tourists will stimulate the economy, and that wealth will trickle down. Can anyone can really advance this idea anymore with a straight face...?
Perhaps a better model can found, not far away, in the 'municipal socialism' of Preston city council. This begins with strategically using public spending to create value and investment locally, rather than following the neoliberal model of cutting and marketizing public services. More can be read about this all over the internet...
You are right that decisions on development must prioritise the needs of the local population, and planning decisions must weigh the benefit to the local economy (jobs particularly) against the damage done to the environment. I’m not sure that encouraging more visitors is a good thing, I don’t go to the Lakes much in the summer because it is so busy. I don’t know about the Preston model (away on holiday st the mo with limited internet), but the principle of focussed spending sure sounds a good idea. How they make that work when most councils can barely fund statutory services is the big question.
As for viability of sheep farming - we need to make a conscious decision. Do we want to fund and maintain it (ie by National government) so the landscape of the Lakes is ‘preserved’ or do we want a more sustainable solution? George Monbiot in Feral talks about the success of rewilding areas in (for example) Poland where land was allowed/encouraged to return to a less managed state. The farmers in those areas now make a better living from tourists than they ever did from farming and this is a more sustainable solution for all stakeholders. Could something like this be applied in the Lakes? I think there would be a lot of resistance but it is worth looking at.
My comment on Nimbyism was off the mark, I take your point. I was trying to point out the double standards applied by the writer.
On a smaller scale, how about closing off some of the Lakeland valleys to vehicles for a few weekends and putting on a sufficient bus or minibus service? Maybe do it outside of peak honeypot season and see how it works. I think a virtually car free Borrowdale/Honister/Buttermere or similar would be amazing.
I thought that this was a spoof article initially.. a gondola! I'm almost speechless, but ultimately very saddened by what's happening in the Lakes. I was Lancaster based for 10 years and appreciated the Lakes and enjoyed it but in the end had to leave because it felt like a theme park, beautiful but changing rapidly into a theme park. It deeply saddens me, and I personally feel partly to blame is the NPA, who's leader has stated numerous times that he wants to turn it into a theme park. How sad. I don't understand why everything has to constantly be developed and 'bettered', I like (good) coffee, but why should we expect it everywhere. Why do we need a f*cking zip wire, or f*cking gondola.. We don't but sadly the human condition is to constantly tinker and develop. Good luck to the Lakes, it will need it. In 10 years it will be owned by Disney.
> But car is king
Indeed - the Lakes is already spoiled . It needs Traffaic Management - just like London. And having named why we all value the Lakes, why not discriminate against the funfair mentality visitors who have no interest in nature - if we chop access for those who go just to buy another icecream that would reduce the traffic !
Gondola. Cool. Be nice if they sorted the roads getting to it though. Our country isn’t large, but if you want solitude it’s easy to find. People moan about the development of popular places, but it’s easy to find wilderness. Just go to places that aren’t popular tourist destinations. Avoid Scafell, Snowdon and Ben Nevis. Head to Torridon, Sutherland, Duddon, Carneddau, Fisherfields Forest etc.
NO to the Gondola or to ANY attraction which is deep within the national park. But howsabout a strategically placed funpark just outside - which could act as a decoy for the ice-cream licking masses - for example Shap. Traffic exits straight off the M6, never gets onto the A591. Give them what they want and attempt to filter the Lakes clientel !
Morecambe? Apparently a new Eden Project is in the works. It would be great to see Morecambe getting some investment...
Would you mind awfully not telling people about the good quiet spots? Torridon is quite busy enough already...
I love the Lakes, I was born there and learnt to climb, cycle and all the rest there. But I moved away (not very far - to the north east) for work as it is really limited. I think this is similar on a larger scale to the bolting debate of the nineties - a balance must be reached where the traditionalists retain most of what they love, but the world moves on and we must cope with change.
Sweden's official high point has had to be revised, after ice loss on the south summit of Kebnekaise. A survey this summer found that the mountain's ice-bound south summit has shrunk to 1.2 metres lower than the rocky north summit, which...