Extracts from Alan Titchmarsh: The Lake District deserves World Heritage status
Of all the places in Britain that are close to my heart… there is one above all others that seems to me to possess its own particular magic: The Lake District.
Aside from the uniqueness of its terrain – vast lakes at the foot of towering crags that have quite a different feel to the mountains and lochs of Scotland – the fact that The Lakes is a working community as well as a tourist attraction adds to its all-round appeal.
The Lakes has its own particular feel, embellished and burnished by centuries of poets and writers, explorers and feisty characters. More than 20 per cent of it is now under the care of the National Trust, and the patron saint of the Lake District – St Beatrix of Potter – gifted to it 14 farms and thousands of acres over the course of her life – Peter Rabbit really did help save the Lake District, thanks to his creator’s generosity and vision.
One hundred and thirty-two Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 18 Special Areas of Conservation, more than 20 lakes, England’s highest mountain – Scafell Pike – and its deepest lake – Wastwater – must surely count in its favour.
Walking in The Lakes counts as one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially if you have in your pocket one of Alfred Wainwright’s magnificent guidebooks. Written and illustrated by hand, these books are a must for anyone who values creative endeavour and skilled penmanship. They were written by a curmudgeonly but engaging man who was Borough Treasurer in Kendal. I have a complete set on my bookshelf and have used them to practical effect, even when climbing the slopes of Great Gable with a yellow Labrador in tow.
If you have never visited The Lakes I urge you to do so. Take a boat on Windermere, buy some Kendal mint cake and climb a fell or two. Visit William Wordsworth’s House at Grasmere and see if the water at Lodore still comes down as it did for Robert Southey: “rattling and battling, and shaking and quaking”.
Fellsides speckled with sheep, locals who love and revere the place where they live, wild flowers aplenty and more views than you have ever dreamed of make up this most exquisite hunk of British soil that deserves to be better known by Brits who imagine that the Dordogne and the Lot Valley are the epitome of beauty.
Delightfully we Brits are not short of features to boast about – whether made by the hands of man or God. The important thing is that we acknowledge the fact and cherish our heritage, as distinct from preserving it in aspic.
The Lakes are a living, breathing, functioning part of our landscape and civilisation and I couldn’t be happier for them that the custodianship of its natives has been recognised. Huzzah!
Published in the Telegraph 2014