For over a thousand years, farming has shaped the Lake District landscape and still defines the character of the area today.
This rich farming heritage is key to the World Heritage bid and highlights include shepherds meets, local dialect and traditional shows and sports, as well as our indigenous breeds of sheep. It places emphasis on the distinctive approach to farming Common Land in the Lake District, our small inbye and intake fields and centuries old dry stone walls.
However, the case to be a World Heritage Site is not based on farming alone. Submitted in the category of ‘cultural landscape’, it is about the relationship between farming and industry in shaping the land, and then in turn how this landscape has inspired poets and artists of the Picturesque and Romantic movements from the late 18th century and conservationists from the 19th century.
The cultural landscape continues to inspire the millions who seek out what captivated Wordsworth, Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.
A lot of work has been done to identify the potential benefits to Cumbria in securing World Heritage Site status. The clear message of this work is that a World Heritage Site is ‘what you make of it’. There are no cash prizes for recognition, but being ranked alongside an international A-list of leading sites would have a positive economic and social impact on Cumbria.
The first and immediate benefit is a recognition and celebration of the role of farming in making the Lake District what it is today. The status also captures and documents key aspects of farming, from native breeds to customary practice that can be a reference for all decision makers and land managers in the future.
The UK government has signed a convention to protect all World Heritage Sites, and has pledged to provide adequate resources for their protection. At a time when funding for rural England and farming is under significant pressure, the government, and its agencies, would consequently find it harder to ignore funding appeals from an area with World Heritage status.
Indeed, the nomination has already been successfully used to support funding proposals to Central Government.
The bid was submitted by the Lake District National Park Partnership, the group of 25 organisations who collectively help manage the Lake District National Park. The ambition of the Partnership is to ensure food and farming in Cumbria, which is celebrated by the bid, benefits.
There have been initial discussions with farming groups to identify how World Heritage Site status can be used to help market and attract a price premium for Cumbrian produce, how more local food can be sold to the millions of tourists who visit the area each year, and how the value from processing produce can be kept within the county.
Lake District tourism also stands to benefit from World Heritage inscription. However this doesn’t mean a huge increase in the numbers of visitors. A study carried out for the bid indicates that international visitors who come to World Heritage sites tend to stay longer and spend more money and it is this change in visitor profile that we are seeking.
The Lake District's rich farming heritage is key to the World Heritage bid and highlights shepherds meets, local dialect and traditional shows and sports, as well as our indigenous breeds of sheep.