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Our work in Wasdale

Lingmell Gill on the West side of Scafell Pike, Cumbria, the stream tumbles in white plumes over a rocky bed
Lingmell Gill stream on the West side of Scafell Pike | © ©National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Over 250,000 visitors come to Wasdale and Scafell Pike every year. Our rangers work tirelessly to protect the landscape and environment, while ensuring the safety of visitors. Find out about our restoration projects and discover how hydro power in the West Lakes is making a difference to our fossil fuel usage.

Restoring Scafell Pike’s summit cairn

Until May 2018, Scafell Pike’s summit cairn – the stone structure which marks the highest point in England – was crumbling. The restoration of the cairn was a massive undertaking for the rangers and volunteers who camped out on the summit for over a week to rebuild the iconic structure.

The cairn represents much more than England's rooftop. After the end of the First World War the summit of Scafell Pike and surrounding land was gifted to the National Trust by Lord Leconfield as a memorial to the men of the Lake District who fell in the Great War. Look out for the war memorial plaque in the rocks of the cairn.

Why did the cairn need re-building?

The summit cairn’s side walls have collapsed in recent years. These were fixed by the ranger team, but we also needed to create more substantial 'through' stones in the structure to make it more stable and able to support the number of visitors climbing it each year.

As well as ensuring the stability of the war memorial plaque, while the work was carried out a time capsule was placed into the stone wall which shares details of the work carried out and includes photos and information about our rangers.

A group of five walkers rest above the clouds at the summit of Great End, Wasdale, Cumbria
Walkers rest above the clouds at the summit of Great End, Wasdale | © National Trust Images/John Malley

Large-scale footpath repair

An estimated 250,000 people visit the summit of Scafell Pike annually, which puts a lot of pressure on the surrounding environment. The increased footfall and the Cumbrian weather is leading to rapid erosion of paths, which is now an annual maintenance challenge. Working in partnership with Fix the Fells, there’s been extensive footpath restoration on both Scafell Pike and Great Gable to reduce the impact of thousands of pairs of feet and help protect the habitats of the rare plants found on the mountain.

In 2021, there was extensive work to repair worn sections of path on one of the most popular routes to Scafell Pike’s summit from Wasdale Head. By repairing and creating more resilient paths better capable of managing increasing visitor numbers, Fix the Fells aims to reduce soil, gravel, stone and peat degradation in upland areas. The damage results in the loss of rare upland habitats and species decline, as well as impacting on rivers and lakes below as sediment is washed off fellsides.

The six-month repair project concentrated on five sections of path totalling 1km in length and saw repairs and maintenance carried out from the valley bottom up to the summit top. The next area the upland team will focus on is at the upper section of the Hollowstones area, which is being badly eroded and the montane habitats damaged by the high numbers of users climbing the fell.

Everyone can help look after the Lake District while they are out and about enjoying the fells by wearing appropriate footwear, sticking to paths and not being afraid to get your boots muddy by going through rather than around puddles. Stepping to the side to let others pass at a safe distance before returning to the path to continue your walk will also help stop paths widening and wearing down surrounding grasslands.

Great Gable under a clear blue sky in Wasdale, Lake District
Great Gable under a clear blue sky in Wasdale | © National Trust Images/Martin Clayton

Hydropower comes to the West Lakes

The Lake District gets plenty of rainfall so it’s a good place to install a green energy hydropower scheme. We aim to produce 50% of our energy from renewables and one of the ways we are working towards this target is to harness the energy that occurs naturally from the water that flows down our Lake District gills, becks and rivers.

Completion of three hydro projects

Netherbeck in Wasdale, which has produced over 1 gigawatt (1 billion watts) of energy since it was commissioned in 2019, Whillan Beck in Eskdale and Crosby Gill in Duddon Valley are now running and producing energy. The ranger team carry out regular maintenance of the hydros: making sure the intake screens are clean and that the generators are greased and running efficiently. They have planted up riparian zones around the becks with over 500 trees being planted at Hazel Head farm.

Diverting water: how we are working with nature

Conservation and nature are at the heart of everything we do and keeping the river flowing is our priority. The hydro intake removes water flowing through the beck, but it is ‘consented flow’, meaning that the amount removed has been calculated by the Environment Agency following a years’ worth of beck monitoring. It ensures that more than enough water remains in the river, before some is diverted, and doesn’t negatively impact on downstream habitats. During dry weather, there will be less water, and in turn the hydro will slow and generate less electricity.

How you support our work in Wasdale

Your car parking payments and donations help to protect the woodland and water. They also contribute to managing and conserving habitats and helping the fells remain accessible for everyone. When you scan your membership card when you visit, we receive more money for our work in Wasdale.

Walkers on the Scafell path with Wastwater in the distance at Wasdale, Cumbria

Make a donation

Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

Two walkers with hiking poles crossing over stones while ascending Scafell Pike, Lake District

Things to see and do in Wasdale 

Explore Wasdale to discover England’s highest mountain peak and its deepest lake, and everything else that this area of the Lake District has to offer.

View of Scafell Pike from Hollow Stones in Wasdale, Cumbria

Climbing Scafell Pike 

Find out more about how to prepare for climbing Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain peak, and follow safety procedures.

Winter sun halo over Langstrath valley, North Lakes, Cumbria

Fix The Fells Appeal 

The Lake District is a popular place to visit, but this means the footpaths become eroded which, along with weather events and climate change means the fells are in need of repair. Money from this appeal will directly improve this unique UNESCO World Heritage landscape.

Scaffolding surrounding the Rotunda at Ickworth, Suffolk, with trees in the foreground

Our cause 

We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.

A volunteer and a member of staff tending the garden at Rainham Hall, with the trees starting to bud around them and a view of the hall in the distance.

For everyone, for ever: our strategy to 2025 

Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.