Letter: We do not want scars on the fells

I’m sure readers are aware of the Fix the Fells programme of footpath development in the Lake District. I am very concerned that this team is being allowed to change the nature and even route of many footpaths in the Lake District National Park.

I have noticed they are:

  • Importing and using different substrate or construction materials to the natural or local rock or soil.
  • Artificially widening, levelling and building up the paths. In some cases paths were relatively small and now they are huge scars.
  • Changing the route of the path.
  • Changing paths into artificial, uniformly wide and smooth gravel paths, which are completely out of character with the National Park.

An example is the footpath from Langdale campsite heading south up Side Pike. It has been massively changed and is a noticeable scar on the hillside. There are many similar examples, such as the path from Crag Hill heading west up Grasmoor, Place Fell near Ullswater etc.

Obviously some paths need repair but across Lakeland many are being turned into the sort of track you would find in a city centre park. This is causing more damage and has a greater visual impact than the 100-plus years of erosion it’s supposed to be addressing. From what I can gather the Lake District National Park Authority has passed all responsibility and control of this work to the Fix the Fells team and seem ambivalent to the damage being done.

What can we do as walkers to appeal against this sort of damage to our hills?

David Stephens, Oxen Park

  • Editor’s note: The Westmorland Gazette contacted Fix the Fells after receiving Mr Stephens’ letter and here is a response from its Programme Manager Tanya Oliver:

Fix the Fells repairs and protects our heavily-used network of paths. We have repaired over 200 sections of paths in the last 10 years and the work is done by skilled teams of National Park and National Trust rangers, volunteers and contractors to nationally agreed guidelines.

We only ever use locally-occurring materials and while we use modern tools, the techniques are those that have been used for centuries.

Zig-zag paths reflect historic lines such as old pony routes when the paths were used for trade more than recreation. Paths are sometimes re-aligned to make them more sustainable and match the routes people actually want to take – their desire lines.

Other partners include Natural England, Cumbria County Council, Friends of the Lake District and Nurture Lakeland.

In December we shared our draft Fix the Fells business plan for the next 10 years with a range of stakeholders, including walking and climbing clubs and bridleway societies, to gather their views.

We are also fortunate to have the support of hundreds of businesses, groups and individuals within the Lake District, who help raise money through Visitor Giving and donations, as they value our work.

I would be happy to meet Mr Stephens to talk more about the work we do. There is more information on www.fixthefells.co.uk and we are always open to feedback so if anyone wishes to get in touch through the website then please do or email me at tanya@fixthefells.co.uk

We are recruiting more volunteers so if anyone wishes to get directly involved I would be really pleased to hear from them.

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