Lake District footpath appeal launched

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Latest update 28.02.2014 10:43

£300,000 is needed to save paths in the Lake District after years of traditional lakes weather and high footfall take its toll. Money raised by the appeal will help us in managing footpath erosion and protecting surrounding wildlife from harm in the famous Lake District fells.

Two thousand metres (1.25 miles) of routes on National Trust land, including one of England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike and one of Alfred Wainwright’s favourite walks, need replacing in the next two years at a cost of £160 per metre or £250,000 per mile.

Rising costs and increased visitor numbers

We look after 20% of the Lake District and spend an average of £200,000 per year on path maintenance in the area. Though Lottery funding has in the past been very generous, path erosion is still a significant problem, and we need public support to meet the rising costs. Helicopter costs, for example, have nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

With Lake District visitor numbers up this summer an estimated 10% on last year and the extreme weather in the region at the start of the year, path maintenance and restoration has reached a critical level. This comes off the back of national research reporting that visitors to outdoor attractions in the UK are up 12% on last year.

A threat to wildlife

The network of paths not only gives access to England’s largest national park but enables walkers to enjoy this beautiful region without damaging historic landscape and wildlife.

When paths become heavily eroded they not only create massive scars on the landscape but destroy fragile wildlife habitats and threaten species. Fish species such as the rare vendace as well as trout and salmon are under threat because their spawning grounds are damaged by soil and debris washed off the paths and into lakes and streams.

Historic routes

By repairing the paths, we are preserving traditional routes used by generations of farmers and miners, as well as historic paths such as coffin routes that were used from late medieval times to transport dead bodies to churches in remote rural areas.

With public support for the appeal, our rangers will create drainage channels so paths are not washed away in storms and use traditional methods like stone-pitching, first used by the Romans, and sheep fleecing. The 20-part ITV show ‘Inside the National Trust’ (Sundays, 12.25pm), follows the Lakes footpath team as they carry out this essential work.

Ian Griffiths, our footpath ranger and star of ITV’s ‘Inside the National Trust’, said: 'Walking in the Lakes has been more popular than ever this year and it is fantastic so many people are exploring our incredible national park on foot.

'But with this comes hard graft from the footpath team as we try to keep the paths open to more than 15 million visitors each year while minimising the damage to the fells and protecting their natural beauty.

'If all those people who love the Lakes could give a little something back, we can continue our work even in the face of extreme erosion. We could be looking at landslides, loss of habitats and water pollution if we don’t raise the money.'

Key areas affected

  • Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain and famous for the Three Peaks challenge, has suffered major erosion in recent years. In the next two years, the major route from Angle Tarn to Esk House needs to be repaired using a helicopter to fly stones to the site
  • One of Wainwright’s favourite walks, Red Tarn to Crinkle Crags is part of a very popular circular route from Langdale and is growing wider every year leaving a visible scar. With the help of volunteers, rangers plan to narrow the path with a combination of stone pitching and re-alignment will be involved to solve the problem and so stone is required for landscaping, drainage and stabilising the steeper slopes
  • Historic routes are under threat, with many of the paths in the Lake District evolving from old sheep routes dating back to medieval monasteries. Some routes date back to Neolithic times, when stone axes from Langdale were traded across the country and even as far as Europe
  • A major route to the mountain of Helvellyn, Swirral Edge, one of the classic ‘edges’ of the Lake District, is already undergoing work to encourage walkers to stay closer to the top of the ridge and not stray down the side and cause damage. The next phase of the repair work is stone-pitching work with an estimated 30 bags of stone

Repair techniques

Stone-pitching is a traditional method for surfacing the paths with stone. It uses larges, locally-sourced stones put into the ground to create small, irregular steps that blend into the surrounding landscape. Stone-pitched paths needs minimal maintenance, so are ideal for remote routes and some of the more popular routes.

Sheep fleecing is an old technique that our rangers have revived in recent years. It is used in areas where the paths are boggy or peaty. Sheep fleeces are folded and rolled to create a ‘floating path’ that is then layered with stones to protect the peat but also allow water to drain more easily.

The figures

The Lakes footpath appeal hopes to raise £300,000 to pay for path replacement and maintenance over the next two years. Just £10 could provide seed and labour to landscape a metre of repaired path and £30 will fund one footstep of stone pitching. At the top end of the scale, £1,200 funds a helicopter for an hour to make up to 20 trips with heavy stones to remote parks of the Lake District – around 500 trips are needed each year.

To support our appeal and to find out more, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lakedistrictappeal