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World Heritage Day 18th April

04 April 2023

Come to Brockhole on 18th April to find out more about World Heritage and what communities and others are doing to contribute to mitigate future climate change risks and impacts. How can cultural heritage conservation drive climate action?

Climate change has become one of the most significant and fastest growing threats to people and their cultural heritage worldwide (ICOMOS, 19GA 2017/30).

There are many things we can do from championing sensitively retrofitting historic buildings for energy efficiency to mitigate greenhouse gases, to the role of culture in disaster risk reduction, andpromotion of local knowledge.


The Lake District’s historic environment such as its coastal, upland and lowland archaeology, remains of historic upland quarry and mining sites, and vernacular landscape features/buildings are a key component of the World Heritage Site (WHS). All of these assets are vulnerable to climate change impacts and if lost cannot be replaced. In the short term, flooding and erosion from intense storms threaten historic quarry and mining sites, damaging lowland archaeology with vernacular landscape features such as stone walls at risk of being washed away. In the future, peat desiccation and erosion threaten to destroy archaeology on the high fells and sea level rise and erosion could mean the loss of important historical features along the National Park’s coast line.

It is not just the buildings at stake.

The vibrancy of farm businesses in the Lake District is central to the integrity of WHS. Farm businesses will experience both positive and negative effects from climate change. Climate change on the whole could make farming much more productive, increasing the options available to farmers.

Although there will be periods of temporary costs associated with damaging climate events (intense storms, periods of prolonged drought) that can affect the ability of farms to operate and the quality of the products they produce. Also disruption to local communities and other businesses as well as properties and mental wellbeing.

One of the issues in addressing climate change and becoming more resilient to changes caused by it, and protecting the cultural heritage of the Lake District, is finding the balance between measures to address the effects of climate change ie flooding and protecting local communities and protecting those features and practices which contributed to making the Lake District a World Heritage Site. Local communities who know their land are essential to this.

Local communities are doing leading the way. Ullswater Catchment Management Community Interest Company are a not for profit , community interest company based in Ullswater in the ELDWHS. They combine sustainable farming, conservation and natural flood management.

image copyright Danny Teasdale

New wildlife pond Dockray

A recently completed wildlife pond high above Ullswater. With funding from local charity Another Way, we created this pond to compliment an existing wood on the site. The site is already a haven for small birds and amphibians, but the completion of the pond will now also benefit Dragonflies, Swallows, Ducks and other ground nesting birds.


Image copyright Danny Teasdale

Rotational grazing Penruddock

Several farmers in our area are moving to a rotational or "mob" style of grazing. Essentially this style of gazing gives the land longer rest periods with no grazing.


Adaptation and mitigation interventions (tree planting and fencing, natural flood management schemes) help our landscape respond to climate change. At the same time we need to preserve landscape character/ aesthetics, historic environment (e.g. loss of historic water channels through change to meandering channels), as well as functioning of the agro-pastoral farming system (e.g. “hefted” flocks and prevent or minimise loss of dry stone walls, inbye land for grazing).


These interventions are necessary to address the climate crisis and will need to increase in scale and number going forward. This makes it critically important that there is a shared understanding of what is special about the World Heritage Site and what needs to be protected whilst at the same time undertaking necessary works to protect our communities and infrastructure from the effects of flooding.


Climate Change has become one of the most significant threats to World Heritage properties, impacting their Outstanding Universal Value, their integrity and the potential for economic and social development at the local level. (UNESCO).

How to address this through adaptation and mitigation. Phrases like “slow the flow” described how we seek to reduce the speed of run off from the fells by peat restoration with the peat acting as a sponge or through re meandering water courses to slow the passage of water downstream.

Addressing increased rainfall, and flooding

  • Tree planting
  • Natural flood management
  • Re-meandering streams
  • Peat restoration


About the author

Mairi Lock World Heritage Site Coordinator Lake District World Heritage Site

Coordinating World Heritage Site communications on behalf of the Lake District National Park Partnership