The Lake District: Is intensive farming and over-tourism harming this unique National Park?

 

Copyright - Audubon Society
Copyright – Audubon Society

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, the last golden eagles living in the Lake District are gone.  The surviving male lived in Riggindale near Haweswater in the Lake District is thought to have died two years ago.  Though golden eagles are being re-introduced in Southern Scotland, there is no guarantee that they will be seen in Cumbria again.

Unfortunately, reliable sources (academics) report that golden eagles are persecuted in the North of England where laws protecting these animals are not as stringent as in Scotland. At least the birds being released in Scotland have been tagged so that if they ‘disappear’ they will be able to be tracked.

 

Copyright - British Birds of Prey Centre
Copyright – British Birds of Prey Centre

 

But golden eagles are predators and a new-born lamb can be easy pickings for them and provides a protein packed meal for their own young.  Interview farmers that have lost a few lambs to eagles and you will see how complicated it is to re-introduce predators into this now quite managed landscape.

 

Lake District. Photo taken from the bus.
Lake District. Photo taken from the bus.

 

And speaking of a managed landscape, another hugely important environmental issue for the Lake District is tourist numbers.  Visitors are on the increase and now descend on this destination all year round.  Tourism is worth upwards of £2 billion a year to the economy.  So, though you might not hear too many hoteliers, restauranteurs, shop-keepers or business owners complaining, there is no getting around the impact on any environment that huge amounts of visitation has.

It is possibly a blessing that famous citizen William Wordsworth was instrumental in stopping train lines being built throughout Cumbria in the 19thcentury.   But this means that most people drive into the area which could, ultimately, be detrimental.  It is common knowledge that those who live in the UK now avoid visiting during the summer.  This is because the sheer number of people impinges negatively on their experience.  Hopefully, the number of roads built will be limited by the ruggedness of the landscape. This will then, hopefully, limit the number of vehicles that clutter lay-bys and villages and also mean less pollution.

 

Hardknott Pass, Lake District. Credit: roadstodrive.com
Hardknott Pass, Lake District. Credit: roadstodrive.com

 

My first visit to the Lake District revealed that the beauty of this area is unrivalled.  The lakes themselves are peaceful yet stirring vistas to view while the treeless, bleak mountain peaks are equally inspiring.  Attractions such as the Wildlife Park (one is near Bassenthwaite and another is in Milnthorpe) are a wonderful way to introduce youngsters to nature and animals.  We went walking with alpacas which was an unrivalled way to get to know the breed.

Alpacas at the Wildlife Park, Brassenthwaite
Alpacas at the Wildlife Park, Brassenthwaite. Credit: Robert Watson

 

I do wonder if livestock farming may someday be brought down a notch or two.  Intensive farming impacts the Lake District’s natural environment…its fells, its wild animals, its vistas.  This, then, will eventually impact on tourism and tourist numbers.  It is the historic villages, the friendliness of many local people and the landscape that bring visitors to the Lake District in their droves.  They are here to enjoy nature and unspoiled beauty.  A reduction in numbers (both livestock and tourists) may not be such a bad outcome for everyone involved.

 

 

Transportation:

Visitors can leave cars behind and visit the whole of Cumbria by public transport:  https://www.stagecoachbus.com/plan-a-journey

Accommodation:

Elder Grove B&B in Ambleside is an historic B&B. Visit: www.eldergrove.co.uk