Carbon stored in an area this size is significant, explained Ian. It equates to over 10 percent of emissions from flights taken by national park residents each year, or 236 visitors travelling to and from the Lake District.
“Woodland creation for carbon storage is a win/win situation, providing income and helping the environment,” said Ian. “There is such potential for others to follow suit".
“It came about when a Gosforth fell runner approached me and asked if I would be interested in extending my deciduous woodland on to land previously used for sheep.
“I have to say, we thought it would be a lot of hassle and long-term commitment to maintaining and sustaining delicate new trees in a heavily brackened area. But, thanks to sponsorship from ICAP through the Carbon Capture scheme and Lake District National Park Authority help, we got there.”
Over the next decade the woodland will extend to 25 hectares as new planting flourishes alongside existing self-seeded areas and two copses.
Ian and Jennifer’s legacy to Eskdale is inestimable, not just carbon capture, a campsite loved by tens of thousands, but they provided six local occupancy homes too in an area where homes for locals are in critically short supply.
Ian spent eight years as a National Park Authority member and said he tried hard on the housing front, but modestly confesses he is not convinced he left with any notable achievements.
However, there is great and justifiable pride that families in the Fisherground hamlet are now comfortably housed in their own community thanks entirely to the vision of this altruistic couple.
They adore and cherish the Lakes. It is in every fibre of their being. Ian was born just eight miles from Fisherground, his mother, a Bristolian, the only ‘outside’ input for generations. Jennifer came from Keswick, it is where they met and fell in love, while still at school.
In his book, Fisherground, Living the Dream, Ian tells how in the baking summer of 1976 four friends pooled resources to buy the fell farm. In the early days they turned their hands to everything, from potato growing to calf fattening, an unlikely pig enterprise, all with a notable lack of success.
Ian’s final hopes of making it as a farmer clung to his hardy, self-sufficient, bloody-minded flock of Herdwicks, roaming their own hillside hefts. He was within sight of fulfilling his dream when, in one frenzied attack, three local dogs decimated his sheep, killing 42 of them.
“It was the final straw,” recalled Ian. “It would have been possible to rebuild the flock, but my heart had gone from it. Common sense dictated that financial security lay in the campsite.”
Alongside providing tourist accommodation in cedar lodges, the site burgeoned and flourished. It continues to be a sought-after location for campers and holidaymakers looking for an almost unparalleled location.
There were other interests too – Ian became a priest and learned to paraglide. Since moving to Keswick, where he and Jennifer have the Orchard House guesthouse, both have ceased.
“Life moves on,” he explains. “My religious convictions had changed to such an extent that I no longer felt able to address a Christian congregation, as outlined in my book The Unknown Knowns. I don’t recommend it. There is a lot of maths and Chinese philosophy. My best friends tell me it’s unreadable.
“I continued to paraglide until I had a small heart attack carrying my glider up Latrigg. I am now an ardent croquet player!”
Reflecting on the Lake District, he says he and Jennifer love it and would never contemplate living anywhere else.
He hopes World Heritage might bring extra protection, particularly in encouraging respect for the area’s unique attributes.
While he says he is not sure if he has made much of a contribution, there will be many others begging to differ.
“I tried hard on the local housing front,” he says. “I think the campsite at Fisherground which we created from nothing is good. It allows people to visit reasonably cheaply and to experience a beautiful valley a bit off the beaten track.
We will both take a certain pride in the Fisherground wood, when it is grown enough to make its presence felt.
“I don’t think I would change anything, although looking back it all seems very small-scale. Perhaps that’s always the case?”
Article by Karen Barden