Fix the Fells was recently named Park Protector of the year in Campaign for National Parks’ annual awards at a ceremony in the Houses of Parliament. Its mission is to protect the spectacular fells in the Lake District National Park from erosion by repairing and maintaining the upland paths in the face of huge visitor numbers and extreme weather. Programme Manager Joanne Backshall explains more about the work they do and why it’s important.
Over 20 million people a year visit Lake District National Park, but this creates challenges for the mountain environment, with boots, bikes and heavy rain creating unsightly erosion scars and damaging the fragile biodiversity.
It’s wonderful that so many people are enjoying the Lake District fells each year and over the last couple of years we’ve seen more and more people reap the benefits that spending time in nature can bring. However with more people comes more erosion on the landscape. While the mountains will be here forever, they need on-going care to minimise scarring and protect environmentally sensitive habitats.
By repairing and creating more resilient paths better capable of managing increasing visitor numbers and severe weather events, we can reduce the soil, gravel and stone washing off the fells, as well as peat degradation, and help ensure rare upland habitats and species can recover and are not lost.
For over 20 years Fix the Fells has been repairing mountain paths, reversing the trend of erosion damage and restoring habitats. Our dedicated and skilled team of rangers and volunteers from the National Trust and Lake District National Park Authority have been caring for the landscape and nature, creating sustainable routes for the future. They carry out work on many of the much-loved routes across the UNESCO World Heritage Site, including Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and the Coast-to-Coast path.
Erosion leads to loss of vegetation, species and habitats on the fells, as well as damage to the biodiversity of the rivers and lakes below. Many of the areas we repair are Special Areas of Conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest which are suffering damage due to path erosion. Natural England, as partners within Fix the Fells, advocate the work we do to protect and enable recovery of these internationally and nationally important habitats and species. Repairing eroding paths reduces the amount of sediment which is washed off the fells and into rivers and lakes where it is harmful to biodiversity.
We have repaired more than 200 paths over the past 20 years, and there are now over 730 paths identified for repair work, maintenance or monitoring. Last year our team of 23 rangers worked tirelessly repairing paths from April to October and our 110 volunteers contributed over 2,200 days to fixing the fells.
My favourite piece of work completed last year was on the much-loved Loughrigg Fell above Grasmere. Already you can see the difference it has made to the surrounding landscape and habitats.
Fix the Fells has just celebrated its 20th year anniversary and I couldn’t think of a better way of recognising our work than with the Park Protector Award. I’m so proud of the work we do together to protect Britain’s best-loved landscape and ensure that people are able to explore and enjoy this beautiful landscape for years to come.
It’s an absolute honour and privilege to receive this award. This is for the whole Fix the Fells team, the 25 ranger colleagues who build the paths and all the volunteers maintaining the paths – the eyes and ears of the project – our five partner organisations and funders. We don’t receive government funding for the project, it’s down to that support and dedication that we’re able to do what we do.
It’s a privilege to be able to work day in, day out caring for a National Park – especially one as beautiful as the Lake District.
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