The rose in England's literary garden

15 May 2014 | Article

The Lake District National Park, England

It may not have the grandeur of the Himalayas nor the sun-drenched peaks of the South American Andes, but the English Lake District is every bit as magical and poetic as any National Park on earth. Established as a National Park in 1951, it has served as the backdrop for some of history’s most celebrated writers, from Wordsworth and Coleridge to Wainwright and Tolkien and played a crucial role in the formation of the National Trust in the late 19th century.

The Lakes is famed for its open fell pastures and its native woodland which contrast so effortlessly with its heather-decked rolling slopes and stone walled fields. If you’re not content with the moors or the streams meandering into the turquoise lakes then the quaint villages and radiating U-shaped valleys which typify this geographically isolated 'Eden' of England should quench every nature lover’s thirst for more of this spectacular region.

Its natural landscape stems from its intimate combination of mountains and water, which are strongly influenced by the impacts of past glaciation. The dominant use is upland pastoral farming which reached a peak of prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries when it became a must visit destination for those in search of natural beauty and inspired many a great poet to an early formulation of the concept of human ecology. Should the notorious British drizzle detract from the scenery then there’s always the salvation of a roaring fire in a sleepy village pub to keep the fell walkers happy.

Images of the Site

Size and location

The Lake District is in the northwest corner of England in the county of Cumbria. It covers an area of 2,292 km2 and is the largest of the 13 National Parks in England and the second largest in the United Kingdom after Cairngorms in the Scottish highlands.

Flora and fauna

The Lake District has a rich mosaic of upland habitats including montane and upland heath, blanket bog, juniper scrub, remnant woodland and Arctic Alpine plant communities. These are home to red deer, a variety of birds including buzzards, ravens, merlin and the last resident golden eagle in England.

Red squirrels are also found in the Lake District and, although they are under threat from disease and pressure from grey squirrels, they can still be spotted in the broadleaved woods of the area.

The water quality of the lakes and rivers in the Lake District has improved in recent years and, as a result,  there has been a significant increase in the otter population. Some of the lakes are also home to unusual varieties of fish, including Arctic charr, vendace and schelly.

Challenges (and threats)

In days gone by, the threat of industrialization sparked a popular movement to protect the Lake District’s landscape. This played a crucial role in the formation of the National Trust in the late 19th century and developing the case for National Parks in the 20th century.

Nowadays, tourism has become the biggest threat to this region. The Lake District is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors and more than 23 million annual day visits.

It has failed to be approved as a natural World Heritage Site, because of human activities, such as commercial forestry, which have adversely impacted the park's assessment. Another bid is being prepared for World Heritage Status, this time in the category of cultural landscape.