Friday 22 July 2016

Lakeland's bid to become a World Heritage Site (#lakedistrictbid)

It's been long been my belief, along with many others, that the English Lake District is one of the most scenic and picturesque areas in the world.  As Chris Bonnington, the famous mountaineer, recently suggested in an interview, other special areas of the world may, in their own unique way, equal the Lake District in their natural beauty, but nowhere exceeds it1.

Wast Water
Wast Water in the English Lake District's Wasdale Valley (Copyright Nick Thorne) 
voted "Britain's Favourite View" in a 2007 ITV poll 
For those of us who share this view, it would seem extremely appropriate for the English Lake District to receive some formal international recognition that would place it alongside some of the worlds great National Parks such as Yellowstone, the Great Himalayan and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch to name but a few.

The good news is that this may actually happen within the next year. This is because the English Lake District is in the process of a bid to become a World Heritage Site. Earlier this year, the UK Government's Department of Culture Media and Sport submitted their final nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee who administer this internationally recognised list of sites.

The bid will set out in what way the Lake District is of "Outstanding Universal Value" and demonstrate how the area meets one or more of the ten World Heritage Committee's cultural and natural criteria.  These include criteria such as whether an area is "is directly or tangibly associated with ... artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance" and/or whether the area is "... of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance".

Buttermere (Copyright: Nick Thorne).
Looking at the photograph's of Wast Water and Buttermere above, the natural beauty of the Lake District, with it's glacial valleys, lakes and fells, speaks for itself; and as far as literature is concerned, the area is inextricably linked to the Lakeland Poets of the early 19th century. One poet in this group was William Wordsworth whose work was inspired by the landscape of the area, and is known by people throughout the world.  Thousands of people come to the Lake District each year to visit his former home - Dove Cottage in Grasmere - which, along with the nearby Wordsworth museum, is open to the public.

Dove Cottage
Dove Cottage (Copyright: Christine Hasman)
So what would it mean for the English Lake District to be inscribed in the World Heritage List? Well, the original idea of the list was a way of preserving and protecting sites of world cultural and natural heritage. UN member states who ratified the World Heritage Convention, of which the UK is one, have additional responsibilities in their management of such sites. In practical terms, the Lake District is already taking care of these responsibilities as a result of it's status as a National Park, so there wouldn't need to be any great change in this regard.  

However, the local organisations who put the big together are hoping that recognition as a World heritage Site will attract additional funding and investment.  The government has, for example, pledged additional resources to help protect such sites. This could be good news to struggling Lakeland farmers who play such an important role in looking after the areas's landscape. The local organisations are also hoping that inscription on the list would elevate the Lake District National Park internationally, develop the area as an international brand on the A list of places to visit, and attract what they refer to as "cultural visitors".   It is believed that such visitors have a tendency to spend more, stay longer, and have respect for the landscape with the aim of exploring the area. They estimate that a one percent switch to cultural visitors would boost the UK economy by around £20 million a year.

So what happens next?  Well,  the World Heritage Committee will now look at the Lake District Bid and announce their decision on 31st July 2017.  In the meantime we can support the big in two main ways. Firstly, we can go to the Lake District World Heritage Bid website, and click on their "Back the Bid" button to add your 'vote'. Clicks are counted and the total is displayed on their website, thereby showing your support.  Another way is to share your "Lake District Story" by using #lakedistrictbid whenever you post Lake District related photo's, messages and video's on social media. This content is aggregated and displayed on their website's social media feed, again showing your support for the bid.  

Go to the Lake District Heritage Bid's Get Involved webpage for more information on how we can help.

Best of luck to the bid team.  Let's hope for a good result next July!


1. This interview was conducted on the summit of Castle Crag by Julie Bradbury in episode 2 of her ITV series called "Best Walks with a View" broadcast Feb 2016.  This was the general gist of Chris Bonnington's comments when asked (half jokingly) which was best: Castle Crag or Everest?

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