Funds Sought For Key Lake District Paths

The National Trust has launched an appeal to raise £300,000, the rough price tag for repairing 2km of Lake District paths at a cost of £160 per metre. 

Stone pitching work on Cat Bells, 171 kb
Stone pitching work on Cat Bells
© National Trust images Paul Harris

Heavy use and hard weather have made for some serious erosion problems on the affected trails. The combination of increased visitor numbers this summer compared to last year and the extreme weather the region experienced at the start of the year has meant that the requirement for path maintenance and restoration has reached a critical level, say the Trust.

The National Trust owns and manages 20% of the Lake District, spending an average of £200,000 per year on path maintenance. In previous years the work was paid for through Lottery Funding, but this 10-year cash stream recently ended. The conservation charity is now looking for public donations to meet the rising costs.

National Trust rangers will create drainage channels so paths are not washed away in storms, and use traditional methods like stone-pitching, first done by the Romans, and sheep fleecing.

The work of their four-person footpath team is followed by a new twenty-part ITV show ‘Inside the National Trust’ that aired for the first time this week (Sundays, 12.25pm). It's backbreaking work, which proceeds at about 1.5m per person per day.

See this short film for more:

Ian Griffiths, National Trust footpath ranger and star of the ITV show said:

'Walking in the Lakes has been more popular than ever this year and it is fantastic so many people are exploring our incredible national park on foot.'

'But with this comes hard graft from the footpath team as we try to keep the paths open to more than 15 million visitors each year while minimising the damage to the fells and protecting their natural beauty.'

'If all those people who love the Lakes could give a little something back, we can continue our work even in the face of extreme erosion. We could be looking at landslides, loss of habitats and water pollution if we don’t raise the money.'

Key areas affected:
  • Scafell Pike has suffered major erosion in recent years. In the next two years, the major route from Angle Tarn to Esk House needs to be repaired using a helicopter to fly stones to the site.
  • The route from Red Tarn to Crinkle Crags is part of a very popular circular route from Langdale and is growing wider every year leaving a visible scar. With the help of volunteers, rangers plan to narrow the path with a combination of stone pitching and re-alignment will be involved to solve the problem and so stone is required for landscaping, drainage and stabilising the steeper slopes.
  • The path up Swirral Edge on Helvellyn, one of the classic ridges of the Lake District, is already undergoing work to encourage walkers to stay closer to the top of the ridge and not stray down the side and cause damage. The next phase of the repair work is stone-pitching work with an estimated 30 bags of stone.

Historic routes are under threat, say the Trust, with many of the paths in the Lake District evolving from old sheep routes connected with medieval monasteries. Some routes even date back to Neolithic times, when stone axes from Langdale were traded across the country and further afield.

Repair Techniques used:

  • Stone-pitching is a traditional method for surfacing the paths with stone. It uses larges, locally-sourced stones put into the ground to create small, irregular steps that blend into the surrounding landscape. Stone-pitched paths needs minimal maintenance, so are ideal for remote routes and some of the more popular routes. 
  • Sheep fleecing is an old technique that National Trust rangers have revived in recent years. It is used in areas where the paths are boggy or peaty. Sheep fleeces are folded and rolled to create a ‘floating path’ that is then layered with stones to protect the peat but also allow water to drain more easily.

To find out more or donate to the charity’s appeal, visit the website 

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