An introduction to the Lake District's World Heritage Site bid

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Did you know that the Lake District is currently being considered by UNESCO as the UK’s new World Heritage Site for 2017? The big announcement will be on 31st July and our fingers are crossed for good news! If we’re successful, we’ll be part of a special family of iconic places across the planet, like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Barrier Reef and many other world famous locations.

We hope you’ll agree that this is very exciting news, even more so as the story behind the Lakes’ World Heritage Site is very much the Trust’s story. It’s where our founders had their spark of inspiration back in 1895 and we’ve been here ever since.

The Lake District is being considered under a Culture Landscape category and we’ll be judged on our global uniqueness and significance – or as UNESCO calls them Outstanding Universal Values or OUVs. For the Lake District our OUVs are Identity, Inspiration and Conservation.


Identity – the Lakes are a unique landscape that has been shaped for centuries by man’s activities – farming on the uplands and in the valley bottoms, quarrying and mining, forestry and water management, and tourism too. The result is a worked and continually changing landscape, or as we like to think an evolving masterpiece.

Yew Tree Farm is a traditional hill farm with a flock of Herdwick sheep. Part of Monk Coniston Estate. Bought by Beatrix Potter and then sold to the National Trust in 1930.
Jon Watson National Trust farm tenant with the flock of Herdwick sheep at Yew Tree Farm, Coniston, Cumbria

Inspiration – in turn the landscape has shaped man too. Through the Picturesque and Romantic Movements, the way we see the land around us, how we connect with it, and how we think and create as a result of this relationship has evolved and influenced us. As such the Lake District has become and is a nationally valued treasure worth looking after.

Claife Heights Viewing Station overlooking Windermere, Cumbria
Claife Heights Viewing Station overlooking Windermere, Cumbria

Conservation – that initial public love for the Lake District sparked a drive to protect and conserve it, inspired by the thinking of William Wordsworth and John Ruskin, and culminating in the foundation here of the National Trust in 1895. And we’ve been looking after the Lakes ever since. This conservation thinking likewise shaped the development of National Parks in the US. The global conservation movement really started here in the Lake District.

" ...a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy..."
- William Wordsworth
National Trust founders Octavia Hill, Hardwicke Rawnsley and Robert Hunter
National Trust founders

What’s unique about the Lake District’s World Heritage Site bid is the Trust’s role in it. Few organisations can say that they are intrinsic within a World Heritage Site story. This will be a global recognition of the Trust, our conservation heritage, and equally important our work today and that of the future.


Next time you’re up in the Lakes, enjoying the views, the walking, the hills and lakes, pause to consider why you do. Chances are your Lakes experience is a reflection of the World Heritage Site story. Tell us about your visit at #lakedistrictbid