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:
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?
The pride is real. The British Lake District is worthy of World Heritage Site designation.
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.
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.
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?
I hear that the Bowes Museum, just up the A66, has a family friendly prehistoric focus this month through to September 27th. Prehistoric artifact displays sound very good and there’s even a chance to make your own pottery and crafts prehistoric style! The following itinerary is from The Bowes Museum’s webpage and may be subject to change, so check their Prehistoric People page for the latest information.
16 May, 10.00 – 12.30 or 1.30 – 4.00
Adults can enjoy a hands-on experience of with expert Graham Taylor during this practical workshop. Be transported back in time to see authentic prehistoric pottery and explore how people prepared clay to make pots, before creating your own replica. £17.50 per adult, which includes refreshments. To book a place, call 01833 690606; payment is required at the time of booking.
Prehistoric People Crafts
20 July, 6 & 21 August, 10.30 – 3.30
An opportunity to explore the exhibition and to try your hand at making Stone, Bronze and Iron Age inspired creations to take home in this drop in family activity. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.
Stone Age to Iron Age – Family Fun Day
28 July, 11.00 – 4.00
Come along to a day crammed with fun and informative activities, including storytelling with children’s author Adam Bushnell, creating a hunting headdress, making a cave painting and following a themed trail. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.
Creative Cave Painting
14, 24 & 25 August, 10.30 – 3.30
Enjoy a unique opportunity to create your own cave painting in this exciting drop-in workshop. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.
This may be of interest to Cumbrians and visitors, as we have perhaps the finest prehistoric heritage of any county in the UK.
See what’s happening at http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/en-us/visitus/whatson/prehistoricpeople.aspx
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,
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,
P.S. Here are some thoughts on the strength and flexibility of Scottish identity: http://bit.ly/1rScf2j
I’ve just heard from Hands Across The Border that they’re hosting a teddy bear picnic and car boot sale on Saturday the 16th of August with a BBQ and plenty of opportunities for children to get involved decorating stones to place on the cairn.
The car boot sale will run from 12 until 5pm.
It is £5 to bring your car along and free for visitors.
Do tell your friends about it, they may want to come!
Tickets in advance: £10-00; £5-00 for 5-11 year olds
Please ring Jane Owen: 01931 715 570
Alex Barbour: 01931 716 001
Proceeds will go to St. Lawence Church and Crosby Ravensworth and Maulds Meaburn Village Institute.
Pimms, soft drinks and nibbles are included in the ticket price and will be available during the interval.
Phoenix Strings was established on the Fylde coast in 2007, they will play light classical music and popular favourites.The Orchestra is proud to support charities, local initiatives and good causes. John Foster,musical director and conductor, is known both as a performer and teacher throughout Britain and the USA.
For more information: www. phoenixstrings.com