Interview: Looking after the Lake District

With its rugged fells, glistening lakes, charming villages and equally charming sheep, it’s hard to deny that the UK’s Lake District is one of the most breathtaking parts of the country. But with great natural beauty comes great responsibility. In this interview I speak to Sarah Dale – acting director of Lake District charity Nurture Lakeland – about the environmental challenges the area is facing, what can be done to protect it, and some of her local tips for enjoying this spectacular part of the world responsibly.

Lake District

The breathtaking Lake District. Image credit: Andrew Styles

What is Nurture Lakeland?

Nurture Lakeland is a charity which inspires people to care for and contribute to the natural environment of the Lake District and Cumbria. Since we began in 1994 we’ve raised millions of pounds for hundreds of conservation projects that help keep the Lake District special. We represent responsible tourism on the Lake District National Park Partnership, and were a Tourism for Tomorrow Finalist in 2011 for Destination Stewardship.

…without proper maintenance and repair the millions of pairs of boots that visit each year can have a devastating effect on the local environment

Can you tell us about an interesting project you’re working on at the moment?

We are currently supporting businesses to fundraise for 18 different local projects including the Lake District Osprey Project, Red Squirrels Northern England and Fix the Fells to name but a few. The fell paths of the Lake District are some of the most popular walking routes in the UK, but without proper maintenance and repair the millions of pairs of boots that visit each year can have a devastating effect on the local environment. Rare plants are trampled on, soil is washed into rivers and lakes harming the wildlife there, and valuable carbon stores are lost. Fix the Fells aims to reduce footpath erosion by maintaining and reporting our footpaths, and is entirely dependent on grants and donations.

Lake District

Footpath fun in the Lake District. Image credit: Andrew Styles

One of your recent projects was the See More Cumbria Campaign. Can you tell us more about it?

As well as fundraising, we also help to deliver responsible tourism campaigns like this one. The aim of this campaign is to encourage and enable visitors to explore Cumbria and the Lake District without a car, for at least one day of their holiday. A third of carbon emissions in the Lake District come from visitors as they travel around, and car use also causes problems with congestion and local pollution. By getting out of their cars visitors have a more authentic experience of the Lake District, see something different and get closer to nature. They are also playing their part in reducing the carbon footprint of the area.

Lake District

A Lake District local. Image credit: Andrew Styles

What car-free activities do you recommend?

The Lake District is perfect for exploring by boot, bike, boat and bus! The network of footpaths and the walking possibilities are endless, from leisurely strolls to strenuous hikes, and the Eden valley is a haven for cycling. A boat trip is always fun and is a very relaxing way to get from place to place, avoiding the traffic. And on a summers day the open-top bus is the perfect way to travel between the popular towns of Grasmere, Ambleside and Windermere.

Do you have any secret spots that are great for hiking or cycling?

My secret spot would have to be the Duddon Valley, with winding lanes, traditional cottages, and perfect picnicking spots. There are lots of places to take a dip in the river, and if you are lucky you might sport a red squirrel!

Don’t miss Lakeland Herdwick lamb, damson gin, and sticky toffee pudding

Lake Distrcit

Sarah enjoys a spot of hiking with fiancee David. Image credit: Andrew Styles

What’s your favourite thing about the Lake District?

My favourite thing about the Lake District is the changing seasons; the spring time flowers in the woodlands, the lush green fields in summer, the colours of the autumn and the magical snowy fell-tops in winter. Oh and the food is great too. Don’t miss Lakeland Herdwick lamb, damson gin, and sticky toffee pudding … perfect after a day of outdoor activities!

A big thank you to Sarah for sharing her local insights about this beautiful part of the world. If you’re interested in knowing more about Nurture Lakeland’s work in the area, check out their website here.

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