The surge in visitors to the Lake District during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the erosion of its landscape, according to an organisation set up to protect it.
Fix the Fells has carried out £10 million worth of work to repair paths and erosion scars in the Cumbrian national park since it was set up 20 years ago.
The organisation was formed in 2001 when the National Trust, the Lake District National Park, Natural England, Lake District Foundation and Friends of the Lake District combined to seek Heritage Lottery funding.
£500,000 of repairs per year
The organisation relies on fundraising and grants to carry out its work and typically spends around £500,000 on repairs per year, with every metre of path costing £150 to create.
On the anniversary of its formation, those involved in Fix the Fells have said its work is needed now more than ever after the lockdown.
With strict travel restrictions still in place, many Brits have opted to holiday in the UK this year, leading to a huge boost in visitor numbers to the Cumbrian region over the course of the pandemic.
However, the increased popularity has accelerated the erosion of the landscape, thereby increasing the funding needed to maintain the area as a result.
Joanne Backshall, Fix the Fells programme manager, explained: “The pandemic has led to people really appreciating the outdoors and the benefits that can bring.
“That’s brought more people here and more people into the outdoors and that’s all great, we’re not about stopping that, we’re just about managing the impact that it has on the landscape.
“It really has increased over the last 18 months, we have really seen an increase in people enjoying the Lake District, but increasing the erosion that that is causing and that increases the work and the money that is needed to maintain these paths.”
The effects of climate change
As well as the increased footfall on the Lake District’s paths during the pandemic, the organisation said climate change is also to blame for the area’s erosion.
Ms Backshall added: “Climate change is having an impact by the increase in severe weather events and the heavy rainfall that occurs in the Lake District.
“It was always wet anyway but it is now even more so, so what we are seeing is when we have a really heavy storm event that leads to a significant increase in the amount of water that goes down the paths and damages them.”
Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, said the area is seeing more erosion due to the changing climate, making maintenance more important than ever.
He said: “Due to our changing climate and more erosion through intense rainfall, this vital maintenance work is needed on our high fells more than ever.
“We know how important the Lake District has been over the course of the pandemic as we have welcomed many new visitors over the past year.
“As more people come to enjoy all the health and wellbeing benefits the Lake District has to offer, we’re very grateful to our colleagues at Fix the Fells and the amazing team of volunteers for all that they do.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.