MANY of us take the beautiful fells of the Lake District for granted. They have been here for millions of years and they will be here for years to come.

But a dedicated team of countryside volunteers know that many of the well-loved footpaths are in serious danger of completely eroding away and unless they take action, it is just a matter of time before the landscape becomes irreversibly damaged. The Gazette’s Countryside reporter Bethany Abbit joined Fix the Fells volunteers on a project they are currently undertaking in the Langdales.

Early last Saturday morning - when most people were sitting down to read the papers with tea and toast - the Fix the Fells volunteers braved the icy wind and rain to spend the day doggedly fixing a footpath on Blea Tarn, near Little Langdale.

“If we didn’t repair these fells, it would only get worse and worse,” said Fix the Fells supervisor, Ian Griffiths. “You can’t see what it was like three years ago now, but there was a huge great scar running up the path and since we started work here the erosion has practically disappeared.”

Constant wear and tear means Fix the Fells is an ongoing project and the team is currently working on maintaining a drain that was initially installed three years ago.

The partnership is supported by a number of organisations, including Natural England, the Lake District National Park Authority and the National Trust.

National Trust footpath worker, Rob Clark works with volunteers once a month to guide them through the more complicated aspects of repair work.

“The Lake District is an internationally recognised landscape that has been suffering due to the weight of numbers of visitors,” he said. “It’s a victim of it’s own popularity really. It’s a shame to have to dig holes in the footpaths, but if we didn’t dig holes then people’s feet would dig even bigger holes.”

“There’s a misconception that we’re building new paths but really we’re just working on erosion scars to try and create a more sustainable surface so the landscape will stand up to it so it will retain its wonderful look.”

The Fix the Fells partnership has fixed 102 paths so far and has plans for another 70. A number of ongoing projects are currently taking place to protect some of the most walked routes in the area, such as Greenhead Gill, above Grasmere.

This popular steep path leads to the spectacular viewpoint of Stone Arthur, but the steep gradients are vulnerable to erosion. The erosion was first tackled decades ago using zig zag routes, but wear and tear and heavy rainfall means the repair features were eroded away once again.

Volunteers are currently working to stabalise the path and are hoping to complete the work this year.

One of the greatest achievements of the Fix the Fells partnership was the work completed at Coledale Hause, in Keswich - which used to have the deepest path erosion scar in the Lake District.

Rainwater that gathered in path trays ran down the path altering the course of the beck and stripping out tonnes of material.

By installing drainage features and using an industrial digger to create a walking surface, volunteers and skilled professionals were able to halt and repair the damage.

But there is still work to be done as 70 paths remain untouched and in vital need of repair.

Place Fell, at Boredale Hause has now reached a critical point as walkers frequently trample vegetation, allowing rain water to channel down into the soil. As walkers move further away from the main path to avoid the rough terrain, the process continues, gradually widening and deepening the scar.

The partnership hopes to create a stable path line and suitable drainage within the next year.

A recent recruitment drive resulted in another 40 people signing up to work as lenghtsmen. Each volunteer is given a section of path to look after and it is thought that their efforts alone has prevented £50,000 of damage over the last two years.

Volunteer Ian Dowthwaite said he finds working on the scheme a particularly rewarding way to fill his time.

“It’s a very enjoyable experience,” he said. “It’s a useful thing to fill my time with and I get a lot out of helping to preserve the Lake District because I have walked in the Lakes for years.”

For Mr Griffiths, volunteering is all about giving something back.

“It’s just important to let people know what the problems are around the fells,” he said. “If you have a love of the fells and if you love walking, by giving up a little bit of your time you can put so much back into the Lake District.”

For more information or to volunteer visit: