As we come to the end of the year, we caught up with Dale, one of our river rangers, to reflect on a busy 2023 and share a sneak peek at what’s next for Cumbria.

What have been your highlights?

There are so many to choose! We have had a busy year - from sharing our commitments to river health and the opening of our Windermere information centre, to the introduction of an ever-growing team of river rangers. All that and the recent announcement of our £13.7 billion investment plan for the period 2025 – 2030, which if accepted, will be the biggest investment in water infrastructure for over 100 years.  

The Westmorland Gazette:

Since September, us river rangers have clocked up 776,917 steps, covering approximately 340 miles. During this time, we’ve collected 158 bags of rubbish and continued to play our part in protecting the environment around rivers and lakes.

We’ve also recently had the news that all four bathing waters on Windermere (Fellfoot, Lakeside WMCA, Millerground Landing and Rayrigg), have once again been classified as ‘excellent’ in Defra’s bathing waters classifications.

Who have you met along the way?

It’s been great to meet lots of our customers, whether that be at our information centre or the drop-in sessions we’ve hosted. We’ve wanted to make sure we are there to answer your questions.

In the summer we opened our information centre on Crescent Road, Windermere. The centre is a focal point for people to ask questions about anything from their water bill to United Utilities’ plans for investment in and around Windermere – pop in to see us if you are passing!  

The Westmorland Gazette:

To reach more of you, we also hosted sessions at the Marchesi Centre and Brockhole on Windermere in May. We then followed up with three events in November in Hawkshead, Windermere and Ambleside to specifically discuss the investment we have planned for Cumbria. This included our plans to build storage tanks to capture more rainwater and exploring innovative natural solutions like wetlands and sustainable drainage systems.

We’ve also welcomed lots of you for a tour around Windermere Wastewater Treatment Works  – more dates are being planned for 2024. You can register your interest here:

Tell us more about the partnerships you’ve formed.

2023 has seen us continue to develop existing partnerships, and create new ones too. In October we teamed up with landowner the Graythwaite Estate, to host hi-tech sensors along the shore of Esthwaite Water and Cunsey Beck, which flow into Windermere. The new monitors measure the water for a number of different factors, all at the same time. These include organic material, ammonia, nutrients, water temperature and levels of oxygen which give a good indication of the health of a lake or river at a given time. This is just the latest research project aimed at advancing the collective understanding of water quality conditions in and around Windermere.

The Westmorland Gazette: L to R: Kevin Pennells (Estate Manager, Graythwaite Estate) and Sion Platts-Kilburn (United

Love Windermere has also continued to do great work. The partnership is using collective expertise to identify and tackle gaps in our knowledge about the impact on Windermere’s water quality.

By taking a scientific and evidence-based approach, we will better understand the complex and interdependent pressures facing Windermere and prioritise effective solutions to improve the condition of the lake. The partnership has recently launched a new podcast where you can hear directly from those working to make a difference to Windermere. Tune in wherever you listen to your podcasts:

The Westmorland Gazette:

What are your hopes for 2024?

I’m dedicated to looking after Windermere’s waterways and my fellow river rangers and I will continue to make that our priority. In 2024 I’m really looking forward to building more relationships with the community, protecting our riverbanks and working together with others. A date for your diary will be in summer 2024 when we’ll be submitting our investment proposals for our work in Ambleside, Elterwater, Hawkshead and Near Sawrey to the local planning authority. We’ll be hosting some more drop-in sessions to share our final plans with you before we plan to start our work in 2025.

We want to build trust and confidence that we are addressing concerns and making our contribution to improving river health, and we are excited to continue to build a stronger, greener, and healthier North West.