LAKE DISTRICT

ABOUT THE LAKE DISTRICT

The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England.

 

A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells), and its associations with William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.

 

The Lake District National Park was established in 1951 and covers an area of 2,362 square kilometres.  It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

The Lake District is located completely within the county of Cumbria. All the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (914 m) above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England

 

It also contains the deepest and largest natural lakes in England, Wast Water and Windermere respectively

The Lake District extends to the coast of the Irish Sea from Drigg in the north to Silecroft in the south, encompassing the estuaries of the Esk and its tributaries, the Irt and the Mite. The intertidal zone of the combined estuaries includes sand, shingle and mudflats and saltmarsh. The dune systems on either side of the estuary are protected as nature reserves; Drigg Dunes and Gullery to the north and Eskmeals Dunes to the south. South of the estuary the coast is formed in low cliffs of glacial till, sands and gravels.

The district also extends to the tidal waters of Morecambe Bay and several of its estuaries alongside the Furness and Cartmel Peninsulas, designated on M6 motorway signposts as the "Lake District Peninsulas", and the southern portions of which lie outside the park. These are the Duddon Estuary, the Leven Estuary, and the western banks and tidal flats of the Kent Estuary. These areas are each characterised by sand and mudflats of scenic and wildlife interest. The coast is backed by extensive flats of raised marine deposits left when relative sea level was higher.

The Lake District National Park includes all of the central Lake District, though the town of Kendal, some coastal areas, and the Lakeland Peninsulas are outside the park boundary.

The area was designated a national park on 9 May 1951. It retained its original boundaries until 2016 when it was extended by 3% in the direction of the Yorkshire Dales National Park to incorporate areas such as land of high landscape value in the Lune Valley.

It is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors and more than 23 million annual day visits, the largest of the thirteen national parks in England and Wales, and the second largest in the UK after the Cairngorms National Park.

HISTORY

The precise extent of the Lake District was not defined traditionally, but is slightly larger than that of the National Park, the total area of which is about 912 square miles (2,362 km2).

 

The park extends just over 32 miles (51 km) from east to west and nearly 40 miles (64 km) from north to south, with areas such as the Lake District Peninsulas to the south lying outside the National Park.

 

The Lake District National Park is one of the most highly populated.  There are, however, only a handful of major settlements within this mountainous area, the towns of Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, and Bowness-on-Windermere being the four largest.

 

Significant towns immediately outside the boundary of the national park include Millom, Barrow-in-Furness, Kendal, Ulverston, Dalton-in-Furness, Cockermouth, Penrith, and Grange-over-Sands; each of these has important economic links with the area.

 

Villages such as Coniston, Threlkeld, Glenridding, Pooley Bridge, Broughton-in-Furness, Grasmere, Newby Bridge, Staveley, Lindale, Gosforth and Hawkshead are more local centres. The economies of almost all are intimately linked with tourism.

 

Beyond these are a scattering of hamlets and many isolated farmsteads, some of which are still tied to agriculture; others now function as part of the tourist economy.

MOUNTAINS

The Lake District takes the form of a roughly circular upland massif deeply dissected by a broadly radial pattern of major valleys whose character is largely the product of repeated glaciations over the last 2 million years.

 

Most of these valleys display the U-shaped cross-section characteristic of glacial origin, and often contain elongate lakes occupying sizeable bedrock hollows, often with tracts of relatively flat ground at their heads. Smaller lakes known as tarns occupy glacial cirques at higher elevations. It is the abundance of both which has led to the area becoming known as the Lake District.

 

The mountains of the Lake District are also known as the "Cumbrian Mountains", although this name is less frequently used than terms like "the Lake District" or "the Lakeland Fells". As the highest ground in England, Scafell Pike naturally has a very extensive view on a clear day, ranging from the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland to Snowdonia in Wales.

Many of the higher fells are rocky, while moorland predominates at lower altitudes. Vegetation cover across better drained areas includes bracken and heather, though much of the land is boggy, due to the high rainfall.

 

Deciduous native woodland occurs on many of the steeper slopes below the tree line, but with native oak supplemented by extensive conifer plantations in many areas, particularly Grizedale Forest in the generally lower southern part of the area. The Lake District extends to the sea to the west and south.

VALLEYS

The principal radial valleys are (clockwise from the south) Dunnerdale, Eskdale, Wasdale, Ennerdale, Lorton Vale and the Buttermere valley, the Derwent Valley and Borrowdale.

 

The valleys containing Ullswater and Haweswater, Longsleddale, the Kentmere valley and those radiating from the head of Windermere including Great Langdale.

 

The valleys break the mountains up into separate blocks, which have been described by various authors in different ways. The most frequently encountered approach is that made popular by Alfred Wainwright who published seven separate area guides to the Lakeland Fells.

WOODLANDS

Below the tree line are wooded areas, including British and European native oak woodlands and introduced softwood plantations.

 

The woodlands provide habitats for native English wildlife. The native red squirrel is found in the Lake District and in a few other parts of England. In parts of the Lake District the rainfall is higher than in any other part of England. This gives Atlantic mosses, ferns, lichen, and liverworts the chance to grow.

 

There is some ancient woodland in the National Park. Management of the woodlands varies: some are coppiced, some pollarded, some left to grow naturally, and some provide grazing and shelter.

Footpaths and Bridleways

There are many paths over which the public has a right of way, all of which should be signposted.

 

Within the area of the National Park in 2012 there are 2,159 km (1,342 mi) of public footpaths, 875 km (544 mi) of public bridleways, 15 km (9 mi) of restricted byways and 30 km (19 mi) of byways open to all traffic. There is also a general "right to roam" in open country.

Many of these tracks arose centuries ago and were used either as ridge highways (such as along High Street) or as passes for travelling across the ridges between settlements in the valleys. Historically these paths were not planned for reaching summits, but more recently they are used by fell walkers for that purpose.

Cycling and horse riding are allowed on bridleways, but cyclists must give way to all other users. Motor vehicles are only allowed on "byways open to all traffic" (green lanes) but in practice Traffic Regulation Orders have been brought in on several prohibiting motor traffic, although a system of permits operates on Gatesgarth Pass.

THE FELLS (HILLS)

The four highest mountains in the Lake District exceed 3,000 feet (914 m). These are:

  • Scafell Pike, 978 m (3,209 ft)

  • Sca fell, 965 m (3,166 ft)

  • Helvellyn, 951 m (3,120 ft)

  • Skiddaw, 931 m (3,054 ft)

 

NORTHERN FELLS

The Northern Fells are a clearly defined range of hills contained within a 13 km (8 mi) diameter circle between Keswick in the south west and Caldbeck in the north east. They culminate in the 931 m (3,054 ft) peak of Skiddaw. Other notable peaks are Blencathra (also known as Saddleback) (868 m (2,848 ft)) and Carrock Fell. Bassenthwaite Lake occupies the valley between this massif and the North Western Fells.

 

NORTHERN WESTERN FELLS

The North Western Fells lie between Borrowdale and Bassenthwaite Lake to the east and Buttermere and Lorton Vale to the west. Their southernmost point is at Honister Pass. This area includes the Derwent Fells above the Newlands Valley and hills to the north amongst which are Dale Head, Robinson. To the north stand Grasmoor, highest in the range at 852 m (2,795 ft), Grisedale Pike and the hills around the valley of Coledale, and in the far north west is Thornthwaite Forest and Lord's Seat. The fells in this area are rounded Skiddaw slate, with few tarns and relatively few rock faces.

WESTERN FELLS

The view towards Wast Water from the cairn built by the Westmorland brothers in 1876 to the SW of the summit of Great Gable, which they considered the finest view in the district.

The Western Fells lie between Buttermere and Wasdale, with Sty Head forming the apex of a large triangle. Ennerdale bisects the area, which consists of the High Stile ridge north of Ennerdale, the Loweswater Fells in the far north west, the Pillar group in the south west, and Great Gable (899 m (2,949 ft)) near Sty Head. Other tops include Seatallan, Haystacks and Kirk Fell. This area is craggy and steep, with the impressive pinnacle of Pillar Rock its showpiece. Wastwater, located in this part, is England's deepest lake.

 

CENTRAL FELLS

The Central Fells are lower in elevation than surrounding areas of fell, peaking at 762 m (2,500 ft) at High Raise. They take the form of a ridge running between Derwent Water in the west and Thirlmere in the east, from Keswick in the north to Langdale Pikes in the south. A spur extends south east to Loughrigg Fell above Ambleside. The central ridge running north over High Seat is exceptionally boggy.

EASTERN FELLS

The Eastern Fells consist of a long north-to-south ridge, the Helvellyn range, running from Clough Head to Seat Sandal with the 950 m (3,118 ft) Helvellyn at its highest point. The western slopes of these summits tend to be grassy, with rocky corries and crags on the eastern side. The Fairfield group lies to the south of the range, and forms a similar pattern with towering rock faces and hidden valleys spilling into the Patterdale valley. It culminates in the height of Red Screes overlooking the Kirkstone Pass.

FAR EASTERN FELLS

The Far Eastern Fells refer to all of the Lakeland fells to the east of Ullswater and the A592 road running south to Windermere. At 828 m (2,717 ft), the peak known as High Street is the highest point on a complex ridge which runs broadly north–south and overlooks the hidden valley of Haweswater to its east. In the north of this region are the lower fells of Martindale Common and Bampton Common whilst in the south are the fells overlooking the Kentmere valley. Further to the east, beyond Mardale and Longsleddale is Shap Fell, an extensive area consisting of high moorland, more rolling and Pennine in nature than the mountains to the west.

SOUTHERN FELLS

The Southern Fells occupy the southwestern quarter of the Lake District. They can be regarded as comprising a northern grouping between Wasdale, Eskdale and the two Langdale valleys, a southeastern group east of Dunnerdale and south of Little Langdale and a southwestern group bounded by Eskdale to the north and Dunnerdale to the east.

The first group includes England's highest mountains: Scafell Pike in the centre, at 978 m (3,209 ft) and Scafell one mile (1.6 km) to the southwest. Though it is slightly lower it has a 700 ft (210 m) rockface, Scafell Crag, on its northern side. It also includes the Wastwater Screes overlooking Wasdale, the Glaramara ridge overlooking Borrowdale, the three tops of Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Esk Pike. The core of the area is drained by the infant River Esk. Collectively these are some of the Lake District's most rugged hillsides.

The second group, otherwise known as the Furness Fells or Coniston Fells, have as their northern boundary the steep and narrow Hardknott and Wrynose passes. The highest are Old Man of Coniston and Swirl How which slightly exceed 800 m (2,600 ft).

The third group to the west of the Duddon includes Harter Fell and the long ridge leading over Whitfell to Black Combe and the sea. The south of this region consists of lower forests and knolls, with Kirkby Moor on the southern boundary.

 

The southwestern Lake District ends near the Furness peninsula and Barrow-in-Furness, a town which many Lake District residents rely on for basic amenities.

SOUTHEASTERN AREA

The southeastern area is the territory between Coniston Water and Windermere and east of Windermere towards Kendal and south to Lindale. There are no high summits in this area which is mainly low hills, knolls and limestone cuestas such as Gummer's How and Whitbarrow. Indeed, it rises only as high as 333 m (1,093 ft) at Top o' Selside east of Coniston Water; the wide expanse of Grizedale Forest stands between the two lakes. Kendal and Morecambe Bay stand at the eastern and southern edges of the area.

LAKES

Only one of the lakes in the Lake District is called by that name, Bassenthwaite Lake. All the others such as Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Buttermere are meres, tarns and waters, with mere being the least common and water being the most common. The major lakes and reservoirs in the National Park are given below.

  • Bassenthwaite Lake

  • Brotherswater

  • Buttermere

  • Coniston Water

  • Crummock Water

  • Derwent Water

  • Devoke Water

  • Elter Water

  • Ennerdale Water

  • Esthwaite Water

  • Grasmere

  • Haweswater Reservoir

  • Hayeswater

  • Loweswater

  • Rydal Water

  • Thirlmere

  • Ullswater

  • Wast Water

  • Windermere

GEOLOGY

The Lake District's geology is very complex but well-studied.

 

A granite batholith beneath the area is responsible for this upland massif, its relatively low density causing the area to be "buoyed up". The granite can be seen at the surface as the Ennerdale, Skiddaw, Carrock Fell, Eskdale and Shap granites.

Broadly speaking the area can be divided into three bands, the divisions between which run south west to north east. Generally speaking the rocks become younger from north west to south east.

 

The north western band is composed of early to mid-Ordovician sedimentary rocks, largely mudstones and siltstones of marine origin. Together they comprise the Skiddaw Group and include the rocks traditionally known as the Skiddaw Slates. Their friability generally leads to mountains with relatively smooth slopes such as Skiddaw itself.

The central band is a mix of volcanic and sedimentary rocks of mid-to-late Ordovician age comprising the lavas and tuffs of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, erupted as the former Iapetus Ocean was subducted beneath what is now the Scottish border during the Caledonian orogeny.

 

The northern central peaks, such as Great Rigg, were produced by considerable lava flows. These lava eruptions were followed by a series of pyroclastic eruptions which produced a series of calderas, one of which includes present-day Scafell Pike. These pyroclastic rocks give rise to the craggy landscapes typical of the central fells.

 

The south eastern band comprises the mudstones and wackes of the Windermere Supergroup and which includes (successively) the rocks of the Dent, Stockdale, Tranearth, Coniston and Kendal groups. These are generally a little less resistant to erosion than the rocks sequence to the north and underlie much of the lower landscapes around Coniston and Windermere.

Later intrusions have formed individual outcrops of igneous rock in each of these groups. Around the edges of these Ordovician and Silurian rocks on the northern, eastern and southern fringes of the area is a semi-continuous outcrop of Carboniferous Limestone seen most spectacularly at places like Whitbarrow Scar and Scout Scar.

 

NATURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

 

The Lake District is home to a great variety of wildlife, due to its range of varied topography, lakes and forests. It provides a home for the red squirrel and colonies of sundew and butterwort, two of the few carnivorous plants native to Britain.

 

The Lake District is a major sanctuary for the red squirrel and has the largest population in England (out of the estimated 140,000 red squirrels in the United Kingdom, compared with about 2.5 million grey squirrels).

 

WILDLIFE

The Lake District is home to a range of bird species and the RSPB maintain a reserve in Haweswater.

 

England's only nesting pair of golden eagles can be found in the Lake District. The female golden eagle has not been seen since 2004 although the male still remains.  Conservationists believe he is now the only resident golden eagle in England.

 

Following recolonisation attempts, a pair of ospreys nested in the Lake District for the first time in over 150 years near Bassenthwaite Lake during 2001. Ospreys now frequently migrate north from Africa in the spring to nest in the Lake District, and a total of 23 chicks have fledged in The Lakes since 2001.

 

Another bird species which has had recolonisation attempts is the red kite which, as of 2012, have a population of approximately 90 in the dense forest areas near Grizedale.  Conservationists hope the reintroduction will create a large red kite population in the Lake District and in North West England where the red kite population is low.

 

Other bird species resident to the Lake District include the buzzard, dipper, peregrine and raven.  Seasonal birds include the ring ouzel and the redstart.

 

The lakes of the Lake District support three rare and endangered species of fish: the vendace, which can be found only in Derwent Water and until 2008 in Bassenthwaite Lake.  Vendace have struggled in recent years with naturally occurring algae becoming a threat and the lakes gradually getting warmer.  Vendace have been moved to higher lakes on a number of occasions to preserve the species, notably in 2005 and 2011.

 

The Lakes are also home to two other rare species: the schelly, which lives in Brothers Water, Haweswater, Red Tarn and Ullswater, and the Arctic charr, which can be found in Buttermere, Coniston Water, Crummock Water, Ennerdale Water, Haweswater, Loweswater, Thirlmere, Wast Water, and Windermere.

In recent years, some important changes have been made to fisheries byelaws covering the north west region of England, to help protect some of the rarest fish species. In 2002, the Environment Agency introduced a new fisheries byelaw, banning the use of all freshwater fish as live or dead bait in 14 of the lakes in the Lake District. Anglers not complying with the new byelaw can face fines of up to £2,500. There are 14 lakes in the Lake District which are affected. These are: Bassenthwaite Lake, Brothers Water, Buttermere, Coniston Water, Crummock Water, Derwent Water, Ennerdale Water, Haweswater, Loweswater, Red Tarn, Thirlmere, Ullswater, Wast Water and Windermere.

The lakes and waters of the Lake District do not naturally support as many species of fish as other similar habitats in the south of the country and elsewhere in Europe. Some fish that do thrive there are particularly at risk from introduction of new species.

The introduction of non-native fish can lead to the predation of the native fish fauna or competition for food. There is also the risk of disease being introduced, which can further threaten native populations. In some cases, the introduced species can disturb the environment so much that it becomes unsuitable for particular fish. For example, a major problem has been found with ruffe. This non-native fish has now been introduced into a number of lakes in recent years. It is known that ruffe eat the eggs of vendace, which are particularly vulnerable because of their long incubation period. This means that they are susceptible to predators for up to 120 days. The eggs of other fish, for example roach, are only at risk for as little as three days.

CLIMATE

The Lake District's location on the northwest coast of England, coupled with its mountainous geography, makes it the wettest part of England. The UK Met Office reports average annual precipitation of more than 2,000 mm (80 in), but with very large local variation.

Although the entire region receives above average rainfall, there is a wide disparity between the amount of rainfall in the western and eastern lakes, as the Lake District experiences relief rainfall.

 

Seathwaite, Borrowdale is the wettest inhabited place in England with an average of 3,300 mm (130 in) of rain a year, while nearby Sprinkling Tarn is even wetter, recording over 5,000 mm (200 in) per year; by contrast, Keswick, at the end of Borrowdale receives 1,470 mm (58 in) every year, and Penrith (just outside the Lake District) only 870 mm (34 in).

 

March to June tend to be the driest months, with October to January the wettest, but at low levels there is relatively little difference between months.

Although sheltered valleys experience gales on an average of only five days a year, the Lake District is generally very windy with the coastal areas having 20 days of gales, and the fell tops around 100 days of gales per year.

 

The maritime climate means that the Lake District experiences relatively moderate temperature variations through the year. Mean temperature in the valleys ranges from about 3 °C (37 °F) in January to around 15 °C (59 °F) in July. (By comparison, Moscow, at the same latitude, ranges from −10 to 19 °C (14 to 66 °F).)

The relatively low height of most of the fells means that, while snow is expected during the winter, they can be free of snow at any time of the year. Normally, significant snow fall only occurs between November and April.

 

On average, snow falls on Helvellyn 67 days per year. During the year, valleys typically experience 20 days with snow falling, a further 200 wet days, and 145 dry days.

 

Hill fog is common at any time of year, and the fells average only around 2.5 hours of sunshine per day, increasing to around 4.1 hours per day on the coastal plains.

 

 

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