“With high objects, with enduring things, with life and nature…” A view from Natural England03 July 2017
“Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man, but with high objects, with enduring things, with life and nature” William Wordsworth, The Prelude
William Wordsworth, in The Prelude, describes how the natural world of the Lake District meant so much to him from early childhood and how essential nature is to the human soul. The Lake District is still an area where there are many special places for nature and wildlife managed for the intrinsic value of their biodiversity and geology, for the benefits they provide and for the pleasure they bring to locals and visitors alike.
Acknowledgement of the value of nature came early in the development of landscape appreciation. Thomas West, in his 1778 A Guide to the Lakes, wrote “The white houses, covered with blue slate, …seen under a deep green wood, or covered with a purple background of heath have a pleasing effect”; a perfect illustration of how the natural and man-made come together to form the cultural landscape of the Lake District. Elsewhere, West refers to the verdant meadows bordering the lakes, meadows that in his time would have been bursting with a profusion of colourful flowers typical of traditional upland hay meadows.
The conservation movement inspired by the Lake District has always sought to protect the natural together with the cultural heritage of the landscape. The National Trust defined their purpose as the “preservation for the benefit of the Nation of the natural aspect, features and animal and plant life of [of land].” When the Lake District was designated a National Park in 1949 it was to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
The National Parks Act also created the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest to protect the country’s best wildlife sites and there are 132 SSSIs in the Lake District covering 42,000 ha. Only about a quarter of these are currently in favourable condition, though, so there remains a challenge to improve the prospects of these habitats and species. Agri-environment schemes were introduced in the 1990s to add further protection and to provide payments to look after the natural and man-made features that we value so much. To maintain the Lake District’s heritage as one of the birthplaces of conservation, our work to protect and enhance these areas must go on.
The Lake District National Park Partnership Plan aims to ensure that all of these special natural features will be maintained and enhanced now and in the future. Partners with expertise in the natural environment, including Natural England, the Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency will work together with land managers, including farmers, the National Trust, United Utilities and farming organisations to ensure that the meadows, woodlands, wetlands and moorlands of the Lake District are managed and enhanced as biodiverse habitats and landscape features.
Recognition in 2017 as a World Heritage Site will provide the opportunity to celebrate and protect the natural environment that forms an integral part of the cultural landscape of the Lake District. The Lake District’s upland oak woodlands, lakes with clean water, mountain heaths, ospreys, rare alpine plants, heather clad fells and the remaining flower-rich meadows will all be further protected as parts of the stunning landscape we want to share with visitors from all over the world.