A PROPERTY and tourism company started by a celebrated sportsmen and World War One airman is celebrating its 80th birthday.

Lake District Estates, formed by Sir Wavell Wakefield in December 1938, has a portfolio that includes caravan parks at Newby Bridge, Windermere's Hill of Oaks, Woodclose near Kirkby Lonsdale, and Waterfoot at Pooley Bridge; holiday apartments at Tewitfield Marina; and Peter Rabbit & Friends shops.

The company supports 160 jobs across Cumbria and has a yearly turnover of more than £9 million.

Sir Wavell, who became Lord Wakefield of Kendal, was instrumental in preserving Ullswater Steamers and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.

He saved the steamer company from bankruptcy in 1954. Six years later he and Midlands stockbroker Colin Gilbert bought the railway from Keswick Granite Company to prevent its closure.

After Mr Gilbert's death in 1968, Lord Wakefield, a former World War One pilot and Grand Slam-winning England rugby captain, became the sole owner.

He died in 1983, aged 85, and one of his daughters, the Hon Ruth Adorian, still serves on the Lake District Estates board of directors, as well as several of his grandchildren.

Chief executive David Little commented: "Strong family ethics and an entrepreneurial spirit are the hallmarks of Lake District Estates and we continue to grow, with Tewitfield Marina being the most recent addition to our portfolio."

The 80th anniversary was celebrated with a small private event at the company’s headquarters in Kendal, featuring a birthday cake made by The Bakery at No 4 in Kendal.