Pandemic boosts Lake District and wears it away at the same time

·3-min read
National Trust rangers from the Fix The Fells project repairing paths on Gowbarrow Fell, Cumbria (Richard McCarthy/PA) (PA Wire)
National Trust rangers from the Fix The Fells project repairing paths on Gowbarrow Fell, Cumbria (Richard McCarthy/PA) (PA Wire)

The staycation boom has led to an increase in the erosion of the Lake District landscape, according to an organisation set up to protect the area.

Fix the Fells has carried out £10 million worth of work to repair paths and erosion scars in the Cumbrian national park since it was set up 20 years ago to protect the landscape and wildlife.

On the anniversary of its formation, those involved in the organisation said its work was needed now more than ever after visitors had flocked to the region for holidays during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fix the Fells programme manager Joanne Backshall said: “The pandemic has led to people really appreciating the outdoors and the benefits that can bring.

Before and after pictures of Silver How fell in Grasmere (Fix the Fells/PA) (PA Media)
Before and after pictures of Silver How fell in Grasmere (Fix the Fells/PA) (PA Media)

“That’s brought more people here and more people into the outdoors and that’s all great, we’re not about stopping that, we’re just about managing the impact that it has on the landscape.

“It really has increased over the last 18 months, we have really seen an increase in people enjoying the Lake District, but increasing the erosion that that is causing and that increases the work and the money that is needed to maintain these paths.”

Ranger Pete Entwistle said: “We have seen a huge increase in footfall on some of the more popular paths.

“It’s a good thing because people get to see what they have in this country, they see what needs protecting and they see the work we do.

“But, certainly, if this was to continue with the numbers of visitors we’re getting now I can see us having an awful lot more work in the future.”

The pandemic has led to people really appreciating the outdoors and the benefits that can bring.

Joanne Backshall, Fix the Fells programme manager

As well as the increased footfall on the area’s paths, climate change is affecting the environment, Ms Backshall pointed out.

She said: “Climate change is having an impact by the increase in severe weather events and the heavy rainfall that occurs in the Lake District.

“It was always wet anyway but it is now even more so, so what we are seeing is when we have a really heavy storm event that leads to a significant increase in the amount of water that goes down the paths and damages them.”

Fix the Fells was formed in 2001 when the National Trust the Lake District National Park, Natural England Lake District Foundation and Friends of the Lake District combined to seek Heritage Lottery funding.

The organisation, which relies on fundraising and grants, spends £500,000 on repairs in a typical year, with every metre of path costing £150 to create.

Before and after pictures of Bleng in Wasdale (Fix the Fells/PA) (PA Media)
Before and after pictures of Bleng in Wasdale (Fix the Fells/PA) (PA Media)

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, said: “Due to our changing climate and more erosion through intense rainfall, this vital maintenance work is needed on our high fells more than ever.

“We know how important the Lake District has been over the course of the pandemic as we have welcomed many new visitors over the past year.

“As more people come to enjoy all the health and wellbeing benefits the Lake District has to offer, we’re very grateful to our colleagues at Fix the Fells and the amazing team of volunteers for all that they do.”

For more information on Fix the Fells and to volunteer or to make a donation to help with its work, visit www.fixthefells.co.uk.

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