A HERDWICK sheep farming couple have handed in their notice to relinquish a Lake District farming tenancy because of damage caused by off-road vehicles.

Glen and Dorothy Wilkinson feel they are no longer able to carry out their jobs at Tilberthwaite Farm, near Coniston, because of the damage caused to an unsealed track that runs through the land, which is owned by the National Trust.

The track, which runs approximately 2.5 miles between High Tilberthwaite and Bridge End. The ground has been churned up to such an extent that bare rock has been revealed beneath.

"They have absolutely wrecked the road," said Mr Wilkinson. "They have made it impossible for us to carry on with our jobs.

"We have had enough of it so we are getting out. We have given our notice in and we are leaving in November.

"It is (sad it has come to this), it was not part of our plan."

Mr Wilkinson said 4x4s passed through the farm on a daily basis, and said the Lake District National Park Authority should be closing such roads to recreational off-roaders.

Campaigners have formed a group called Save the Lake District to protect such lanes in the Little Langdale area.

They have accused the LDNPA of violating its World Heritage status over the issue. In a letter to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, the group says that recreational 4x4s and motorbikes are damaging a particularly beautiful area near Little Langdale.

A petition demanding a Traffic Regulation Order to exclude recreational motor vehicles from unsurfaced tracks has now been signed by over 4,300 people.

In their letter, the campaigners are asking UNESCO to step in and compel the LDNPA to use its traffic regulation powers so that recreational 4x4s and motorbikes can no longer damage the tracks and ruin the tranquillity of the fells near Little Langdale.

Mark Eccles, head of park management for the LDNPA, said the authority was well aware of the issue, and uses a strategy of partnership working to balance to rights of users with conservation requirements.

"Although it would be preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes, it is a legal activity along the small amount of byways open to all traffic and 'unsurfaced county roads' within the Lake District," he said.

“The current use of these routes does not conflict with the Lake District’s World Heritage Site status. In inscribing the Lake District as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO accepted our management approach to the national park, and recognised that our status as a National Park already gives the highest level of protection to the landscape.

"We have not received any communication from UNESCO relating to this matter and will continue to address the concerns through our current management arrangements.

“In Little Langdale / Tilberthwaite, site inspections have been carried out to record the current condition of the route surface. We are in discussion with partners about future maintenance and management options. At this time we have no immediate plans to attempt imposing a TRO without thorough application of the other options.

“TRO making cannot be ruled out, however, where the current approach is not working. The imposition of a TRO prohibiting certain types of traffic needs to be evidenced-based, can involve a public inquiry and is likely to take considerable time to reach a conclusion."