The Visual Nature of Lakeland

Sheep in Great Langdale valley with neolithic axe factory in background.

Sheep in Great Langdale valley with neolithic axe factory in background.

In George Monbiot’s recent article Black Box, he describes his frustrated difficulty in communicating with any of the key decision makers at UNESCO in relation to his thoughts on World Heritage Site designation for Cumbria’s Lake District as expressed in his previous article Fell Purpose. In that article, George raised some interesting and valid points but to my mind hasn’t actually established any sound grounds for a complaint against WHS designation for Lakeland, ecological or otherwise, see my previous post for my fuller analysis of the set of grievances voiced in his previous article on the subject. As I said before, there’s no reason why his desire for ecological restoration could not take place within a UNESCO WHS. His grievances strike me as genuinely innocent, underpinned by errors of comprehension and appreciation and fueled by a desire to see ecological restoration take place. UNESCO have already made their decision, correctly in my opinion, to designate the British Lake District as a World Heritage Site. To recap, the key points in favour of designation as I see it, are:

  1. Lakeland as we know and love it is a unique and discreet cultural landscape, not a purely natural one. Human interaction with the landscape for many thousands of years has created what we see today — a visually appealing patchwork of landscape features shaped by glaciation, traditional sheep grazing, forestry and tourism in the form of hiking, riding, boating and simply gazing. There are many scenes in Lakeland that are Tolkeinesque. Their charm is principally visual and clear views are important to their appreciation. The rich heritage of prehistoric monuments are embedded within the landscape, they were erected with regard to features within their landscape, aligned to geophysical points including other sites, as well as cardinal points. Their siting and orientation was deliberate. I am not alone in thinking that many natural features of Lakeland were probably revered as sacred, Saddleback being a good example; it is indeed possible that the whole mountainous area was considered holy.
  2. Our modern appreciation of landscape was greatly shaped by the poetic appreciation of illustrious visitors. The landscape influenced them and they, it. There are a lot of historically and culturally important sites within the designated area that are vulnerable to deterioration without proper maintenance and there is much scope for interpretation to make sense of landscape features, there’s much scope for making areas more accessible physically and in terms of interpretation. This is UNESCO’s area of expertise.
  3. Sheep aren’t responsible for Lakeland’s screes, these are from glacial erosion and it is as much due to glaciers and climatic conditions that we have the exposures of bare rock immortalized in water colour paintings and black and white photographs. Sheep grazing is an integral part of landscape management, few other creatures are hardy enough to graze the higher Fells and I don’t think George is advocating that our mountain views be maintained by lawn mowers, rather he’s thinking that they should be forested, but this would essentially change the cultural landscape which now and previously has always been visually oriented. People also enjoy seeing these sheep within the landscape, even if they’re being herded by farmers on ATVs. It’s the sheepdogs that help make it all manageable now as in previous centuries.  There’s also a very long tradition of industrial exploitation, the neolithic axe factories in Great Langdale are famous, but how many of us know that iron ore was mined by the Romans above Ulswater and transported from there by river for example?

Sheep are hardy managers of Lakeland landscape.

I agree with George’s assertions that there’s a lot of scope for ecological restoration and I think that there’s no reason why this would conflict with UNESCO’s mission, rather it can and should go hand in hand with sensitive planning!  For this to work well, there will obviously need to be open channels of communication between cultural and environmental conservation bodies and landowners and the visiting public. There are great opportunities here for sure. There are Arctic Char in some of the lakes, relict populations of the glacial melt at the end of the Pleistocene. Wouldn’t it be great to sensitively rewild some areas and restore some water meadows and other habitat for hardy traditional British megafauna, some made extinct here by man, but still living elsewhere in northern Europe? Eagles, beavers, elks, boars, wolves, bears?

UNESCO World Heritage Site Designation For Lakeland!

Buttermere reflecting Fells and trees in Cumbria's Lake District National Park. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Buttermere reflecting Fells and trees in Cumbria’s Lake District National Park. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

I am thrilled to learn of the new UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Cumbria’s Lake District. The BBC News article announced  “The Lake District has joined the likes of the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu by being awarded Unesco World Heritage status.”

Hooray! This is a very sound decision imho, a well-deserved status, I think. William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter would likely be very pleased at the prospect. It matches all the qualifying criteria being a discreet area of outstanding and highly distinctive landscape quality with a great many sites that have globally recognized cultural value. Good decision, UNESCO and thank you very much.

World Heritage Site Designation For Lakeland – Some Thoughts

Lakeland landscape with Derwentwater Fells. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Lakeland landscape with Derwentwater Fells. C. Paxton image and copyright.

The pride is real. The British Lake District is worthy of World Heritage Site designation.

Elterwater with mallard duck presents idyllic Lakeland scenery. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Elterwater with mallard duck presents idyllic Lakeland scenery. C. Paxton image and copyright.

I feel compelled to write my reaction to George Monbiot’s May 19th article “Fell Purpose” , a highly stimulating article. Monbiot begins by saying that “The attempt to turn the Lake District into a World Heritage site would be a disaster”. I disagree, but he is right in saying that it is an almost irreversible move and worthy of due consideration, especially in the light of Brexit, as the area currently benefits from three billion pounds of E.U. funding annually. If people turn against the idea of designation as a UNESCO WHS then at least the gauntlet has been dropped and similar funding can then be sought from other more local sources.

The fact is that the Lakeland that we know and love depends very much upon active management from farmers, landowners, non-profit groups and volunteers as well as local and national government. There’s no way they’d let a disaster happen to Lakeland. They love it too.

In short Monbiot’s article presents an illusion of reality from selective observations and condemns plans to assist ‘preservation’ of English Lakeland at international expense begging the question of whether it would be developed in other (better?) ways if the area wasn’t made a WHS. Not only is there no evidence that that would happen, but he needs to explore the ideas of betterment out loud so that we can see the extent of them and ask why they couldn’t happen in a WHS?  In terms of ‘improvement’ he can’t simply equate progressive development with general aforestation. That image of the screes that he has selected for criticism of the region at large, is of Wastwater in Western Lakeland near Scarfell, which is famous for … its craggy screes. There are few other such dramatic screes elsewhere, they continue underwater in what is one of our deepest lakes, yet he would hold that glacial feature as an example of widespread ecological mistreatment and blame sheep for it. He’s being a bit heavy handed there.  Wastwater was never rainforest in the time of man, if you want that visit Lodore Falls. If people want clear views of Fell tops on the whole, and they do seem to, then cluttering them with trees isn’t a particularly bright idea. In fact the report notes that many fine viewpoints that were clear in Wordsworth’s day would benefit from sensitive and judicious clearance. There are already areas of native deciduous forest around Haweswater, Ulswater and Derwentwater for example that are gorgeous and on marginal rocky lowland and grazed.

On p.534 Only landscape character types B, E, F and G are listed as being in any condition equal to or lesser than moderate! I is moderate to good. So, it’s not in a parlous state by any means but there’s quite a lot of room for improvement.  On page 535 the biodiversity table shows the bulk of SSSIs 66%, as recovering. Monbiot is right, this could be better.

However, the real eye opener, I think is Table 4.1 the percentage of  listed buildings and scheduled monuments at risk! A lot of the scheduled monuments will be archaic ones such as the Cockpit. The Lake District has a wealth of heritage that is appreciated worldwide, why should it not receive the official recognition and accompanying financial support that it so richly deserves?

The supporting documents for the bid proposal make good reading for anyone interested in Cumbria’s Lake District (http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/caringfor/projects/whs/lake-district-nomination).

While there’s some truth in what George says about the size of the farms increasing and the need for subsidies to continue even in the face of Brexit, World Heritage Site status would probably suit the Lake District perfectly well as far as I can see because:

a) it’s mainly the farmers,  landowners and teams of volunteers who maintain the landscape and culture nexus that UNESCO wants to preserve. They wouldn’t want to cover the fells with trees anyway, some ravines and along watercourses perhaps but not the felltops, WHS would give a shot in the arm to the cultural and historical sites (some that have struggled to thrive through tourism only, e.g. my wife and I miss Cockermouth’s Sheep and Wool Centre now gone) and offer some degree of maintenance for scheduled monuments that are mostly looked after gratis by landowners.

b) UNESCO would likely act on the advice of the National Trust and Natural England, Eden Rivers Trust, English Heritage etc. with regard to policy decisions and improving public access facilities in a sensitive manner, they have acted sensibly elsewhere.

c) much of the tourism infrastructure is already in place, the grant money could be usefully employed repairing essential infrastructure and improving access and interpretation that benefit locals and visitors alike.

d) The Lake District has large tracts of sheepscape but there is native woodland with deer, cattle pasture with rare breeds, and there are pine plantations e.g. Grizedale some of which could be systematically replaced with native mixed deciduous forest over time, though our red squirrels like the pines too, as do many birds, so some conifers should certainly remain. Herdwicks are one of the few types of animal that will live year-round on some of the higher fells.

e) the elements considered most at risk are scheduled monuments and listed buildings – this is a primary concern of UNESCO.

f) there’s a lot of scope for sensitive and imaginative development for recreation and education.

 

The Carles of Catslerigg, near Keswick. C. Paxton image and copyright.

The Carles of Castlerigg, situated in some of England’s finest landscape near Keswick. One of Cumbria’s great Neolithic stone circles, it is also one of the oldest. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Fell walkers pause to admire the Cockpit on Moor Divock, Askham Common. C.Paxton. image and copyright

Fell walkers pause to admire the Cockpit on Moor Divock, Askham Common. C.Paxton. image and copyright

I think there are a lot of prehistoric sites that could benefit from the WHS status; a lot of cultural treasures made more accessible.  When you consider that the amazing rock art on the boulders at Chapel Style were only officially recognized in the 1990’s you can appreciate that there are other wonders awaiting (re)discovery! It’s really a very exciting area. The Moor Divock Necropolis leaps to mind as an example. A plateau 1000 ft above sea level, where chariots raced through one of Europe’s most interesting funerary complexes.  You could walk through it now without learning a thing about it. Sensitive archaeological exploration and interpretation would be great!  Much of the local archaeology was conducted in previous centuries. Amongst other notable monuments there’s a very rare ‘starfish cairn’ in the form of White Raise.

If farmers / landowners are paid to help maintain heritage sites that would be good, because many are maintaining them for nowt at the moment.

Moor Divock's Standing Stones, site number 4.

Moor Divock’s Standing Stones, site number 4 on Askham Common.

Lodore Falls, dramtically blurred by slow shutterspeed.

Lodore Falls, dramatic waterfall set in lush forest.

There’s certainly plenty of scope for selective reforestation and riparian improvements through re-meandering and restablishing water meadows, otteries, heronrys etc. Eden Rivers Trust have the know how.

Landowners / managers could perhaps be encouraged not to kill otters, foxes, badgers, eagles, harriers etc.  Is there scope for one or two beaveries and bear parks? Lordly stags and sounders of wild pigs might yet have their place.

What do you think?

The White Raise burial cairn has a rare 'starfish' shape.

The White Raise burial cairn has a rare ‘starfish’ shape.

Author with his father at Sinside great circle in Novemeber 2013.

Author with his father at Swinside great circle in November 2013.

Summer Pudding In Appleby, Anyone?Live Music, Circus Acts, Crafts Market, Cake Contest, Family Fun!

THIS SATURDAY: DON’T MISS THE SUMMER PUDDING AT APPLEBY CASTLE

BUY TICKETS NOW

Saturday 20th August COME ALONG, SHOW YOUR SUPPORT  Daytime: 1 Fairytale Castle,  3 Live Music stages, 4 Performance Stages, Funfair, Jaw-dropping Circus Acts, Crafty Vintage Market, Cake Competition, Children’s activities, woodland walk and more.

Night-time: Top festival bands on the inner bailey stage The Correspondents, Gypsy Hill & Sam and The Womp 

www.summerpudding.co.uk

BUY TICKETS NOW

A FLOOD RECOVERY EVENT FOR APPLEBY: COME ALONG, SHOW YOUR SUPPORT

supported by Eden District Council, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, Appleby Town Council, Cumberland & Westmoreland Herald, Country Puddings. An Eden Arts event.

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Secretary of State Expands Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks

Limestone pavement on Orton Scar is to be added to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Photo and copyright C.Paxton.

Limestone pavement on Orton Scar is part of the beautiful Cumbrian countryside that will be enjoined with the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Photo and copyright C . Paxton.

The Secretary of State has decided to approve extensions to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. This follows a long and thorough investigation process launched in 2012 that included public consultations by surveys and public meetings into the desirability of the areas that were under consideration for selection by Natural England to be designated National Park status. Together the LDNP and YDNP form a huge protected area that covers much of the best countryside of the ancient British Kingdom of Brigantia.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary has expanded by about 25%, adding some delightful parts of Cumbria that were formerly assigned to old Westmorland. Indeed some of the most beautiful places in YDNP are Cumbrian. These new Westmorland additions are landscapes of wild beauty in the case of the upland limestone moorland of Crosby Ravensworth Fell, Great Asby and Orton Scar. Here ravens soar over prehistoric cairn circles such as the White Hag,  and stone circles such as Gamelands and Oddendale, and funerary Cairn circle mounds like Penhurrock where bones of abnormal size were said to have been unearthed. These moors are reputedly haunted by a headless horseman on Gaythorne Plain.

I’ll be adding more pictures to this page in weeks to come that will hopefully convey some of this area’s charming qualities.  http://westmorlandfells.com/westmorlandcharm.html

Where the newly added Dales are concerned, they are rich in old world, ‘Hobbity’ appeal – Orton with its lovely village shop and chocolate factory, Crosby Ravensworth with the winding Llyvennet river, where King Urien of Rheged supposedly best loved to unwind and The Butchers Arms Community Pub.  Maulds Meaburn with its delightful riparian village green dotted with lambs.

Though not within the National Park itself, the Market Town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, is well worth a visit too.

Not only are these additions very delightful landscapes in their own right, many also contain sites of great antiquity and other cultural treasures and have been rightly identified as having superb recreational value.

You can read the letters from the Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs here

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-parks-extensions-to-the-lake-district-and-yorkshire-dales-parks

and view the maps here

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lake-district-and-yorkshire-dales-national-parks-boundary-changes-confirmed

Atlantic Salmon Spawning Again In River Lyvennet

Children fishwatching in the River Lyvennet, Cumbria

Fish watchers on the banks of the Lyvennet river, Maulds Meaburn may now see Atlantic Salmon.

Local children designed the information signs beside Maulds Meaburn’s Salmon ladder at the Lyvennet Weir, and today’s news release from The Environment Agency (8th December 2014) will be greeted with excitement by young and old in the Eden Valley, Cumbria.

These Lyvennet trout, now share their river with Atlantic Salmon again.

These Lyvennet trout, now share their river with Atlantic Salmon again.

According to the release, over 20 Atlantic Salmon spawning sites or redds as they are known, were documented this week along the stretch of river that was improved by Eden Rivers Trust (ERT) earlier this year in a joint project to naturalise the course of the Lyvennet river.

This highly ambitious groundwork project restored straightened parts of the Lyvennet and Howe Beck back to a natural meandering state, for benefits to people and wildlife (See related article). The project is already reaping great success with over 20 salmon redds seen this week in the restored reach of the Lyvennet river at Maulds Meaburn.

The Atlantic Salmon had completed one of the most iconic migrations in the natural world, they travelled to the rich feeding grounds of Iceland and Greenland, before journeying some 3000 km home to the becks of their birth to become parents themselves!

The Lyvennet river channel was originally straightened for land management purposes and the increased energy in the river water leads to the river removing the smaller gravels necessary to support spawning. Furthermore, the lack of bends, associated scour and natural features, prevented the formation of vital pool and riffle habitats for a range of wildlife to thrive.

Reinstating the river back to its natural state has brought multiple benefits, including creating larger, diverse habitats for plants and animals to flourish. More natural, meandering rivers also help alleviate flood risk by slowing the flow of the river, and reducing bottle necks. This can delay both the height and timing of flood flows, benefiting communities downstream, without increasing flood risk upstream.

The Lyvennet scheme is part of a wider Cumbrian River Restoration Strategy that is tasked with restoring rivers back to a more natural condition, made possible by a partnership between the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Rivers Trusts across the county.
It is part of an ambitious package of significant restoration projects being delivered in the UK right now which all deliver improvements for ecology, habitat and local residents.

Charles Lowther, landowner at Barnskew and Meaburn Hall at Maulds Meaburn, said:

“Hopefully this scheme along with the other excellent work Eden Rivers Trust is doing will help reverse the trend of decline in spawning salmon in the river Eden.
“It has been amazing to see the river Lyvennet transformed in such a short space of time and to have evidence of spawning so soon after the restoration is fantastic news and confirmation that this improvement in habitat has measurable results.  We, the community in the area, are very proud of what ERT have achieved and wish to thank them very much.”

Simon Johnson, Director Eden Rivers Trust, said,

“The welcome return of spawning salmon to this section of restored river is wonderful news. Key to the success of the project has been the close co-operation and support we have received from farmers, landowners and partners.
However, we should remember that Eden salmon populations are in a state of decline. This project is part of ERT’s Saving Eden Strategy which will help to conserve this iconic species for future generations”.

Ben Bayliss, Environment Agency Programme Manager, said:

“It is fantastic news that following our river restoration project, already Atlantic Salmon have been recorded in the reach building redds.
However, while improving the river environment will help to improve salmon stocks, it is not enough on its own and we need to work together with anglers so we can review measures that would increase the number of salmon surviving to spawn.”

In early 2015, ERT will be organising a community tour of the restored reach of the Lyvennet including an opportunity to plant riverside trees. See www.edenriverstrust.org.uk for future announcements!

 

 

Come to Britrocks Music Festival, Saturday 13th Sept. 2 pm to 7 pm at the Auld Acquaintance Cairn, Gretna

The Britrocks Festival Website Image

Click The Image To Visit The Britrocks Festival Website

According to a message from Rory Stewart MP and Hands Across The Border, this Saturday at the Auld Acquaintance Cairn, Gretna, behind the Old Toll House DG16 5JD. you will be welcome to join the free Britrocks Music Festival, bring a picnic and enjoy some great music. See the Britrocks web page .

The Cairn is now the focal point for people who want a united Britain.

In his latest letter Rory says:

“Dear Friends of Hands Across the Border,

We are 6 days away from a decision which could quite simply destroy our country. We cannot let a country that our ancestors sacrificed for so long to build, simply drift away through apathy, complacency and indifference. Instead, let us prove that when our country was at threat, our citizens were still prepared to stand and work together.

The event will be preceded by poetry readings at one o’clock from our especially commissioned poets: Charlotte Higgins and Magnus Dixon. Charlotte won the poetry society’s 2011 competition and has written a remarkable poem about the cairn. At just thirteen years old Magnus was named the 2013 Foyles Young Poet of the Year. He will read about his identity as a Scot and the referendum.This Saturday, we will gather English, Welsh, Irish and Scots, young and old, in solidarity –with optimism, showing, by our presence at the cairn, what a family of nations can mean.

Then at two o’clock we will host the extraordinary BRITROCKS! free music festival.  We will hear everything from Afro-Jazz act the Waaw Waaws based in Edinburgh to the Opera singer Millie Underwood reflecting the diversity of our union. Other acts include The Alleys, Robby Boyd, Reuben Loftus and Christian Moss.  Take a look at the BRIT ROCKS! website (http://www.britrocks.org/) to find out more details.

Please join us.  Be a cairn-builder. Be a builder of the Union.

Very best wishes, and I very much hope to see you  there,

Rory

Also Rory Stewart MP says:

“on Wednesday 17th, the night before the vote, we will be lighting a ‘Beacon for Britain’ at the Cairn. Everyone is also welcome to join us for our candle-lit vigil from 8 until 10 pm on the night of the 18th as we await the result of the referendum after polls have closed.

Let us unite and save our country!

Very best wishes,

Rory

P.S. Here are some thoughts on the strength and flexibility of Scottish identity: http://bit.ly/1rScf2j

Bring Along Your Stone For ‘Auld Acquaintance’ July 20th Through September

Rory Stewart supporting our community pub

This message in from our MP Rory Stewart (seen here supporting our community pub)

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Dear All,

Please come and join us at Gretna on Sunday 20 July, for the laying of the Foundation stone of “the Auld Acquaintance’, and please forward this to others.

We will be gathering from midday and we will put the first stone down for the cairn shortly before 2pm.

It will be an event for young and old, all nations, and people of any political persuasion or none. We will have food, music, activities for children and of course some stones too! (But please bring a stone that means something to you if you can). And if you can’t make the 20th, the site will be open every day through September. Our hope is that people will continue to come every day after the launch day, to keep building up the cairn.

Detailed directions can be found here. The field is right next to the Old Toll House.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a contribution to the cairn, however small, we have set up a crowd-funding site here.  It also contains some videos of early supporters.

Thank you again for your support. Do email as always with any thoughts, or suggestions.

Please forward this on to as many people as you can, and please also tweet and retweet with the link www.handsacrosstheborder.co.uk.

We look forward to seeing you there,

Hands Across the Border

 

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Copyright © 2013 Rory Stewart UK, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
rory@rorystewart.co.uk

SUMMER EVENING BY THE RIVER – BBQ Fundraiser FRIDAY 27th JUNE 2014

FRIDAY 27th JUNE 2014
Eden Rivers Trust and the
Salmon & Trout Association
(Cumbria Branch)

invite you to a

SUMMER EVENING BY THE RIVER – BBQ Fundraiser

at WARWICK HALL, WARWICK ON EDEN,
Nr CARLISLE

TICKETS £10.00 PER PERSON
Children under 12 free
(all proceeds to Eden Rivers Trust and Salmon and Trout Association)

                                                                                                                 6.00pm ONWARDS

ERT Charity BBQ FRIDAY 27th JUNE 2014

ERT Charity BBQ FRIDAY 27th JUNE 2014

Tickets available in advance from Eden Rivers Trust
(cheques payable to Eden Rivers Trust)

Eden Rivers Trust, Dunmail Building, Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0AH
Tel. 01768 866788 email: office@EdenRT.org
www.edenriverstrust.org.uk

The Trustees of the Eden Rivers Trust

Registered Charity Number 1123285