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 and its mountains (or fells), and its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the Lake Poets.
The central, and most visited, part of the area is contained in the Lake District National Park, one of fifteen National Parks in the United Kingdom and the largest National Park in England.
It lies entirely within Cumbria, and is one of England's few mountainous regions. All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England.
The Lake District is approximately 34 miles (55 km) across. Its features are a result of periods of glaciation, the most recent of which ended some 15,000 years ago. These include the ice-carved wide U-shaped valleys, many of which are now filled with the lakes that give the park its name.
The upper regions contain a number of glacial cirques, which are typically filled with tarns. The higher fells are rocky, with lower fells being open moorland, notable for its wide bracken and heather coverage. Below the tree line, native oak woodlands sit alongside nineteenth century pine plantations. Much of the land is often boggy, due to the high rainfall.
The Lake District is one of the most highly populated national parks. Its total area is near 885 square miles (2,292 km2), and the Lake District was designated as a National Park in 1951
Tourism & Heritage
The formation of the Lake District National Park in 1951 recognised the need to protect the Lake District environment from excessive commercial or industrial exploitation, preserving that which visitors come to see, without (so far) any restriction on the movement of people into and around the district. The M6 Motorway helped bring traffic to the Lakes, passing up its eastern flank. The narrow roads present a challenge for traffic flow and, from the 1960s, certain areas have been very congested.
Whilst the roads and railways provided easier access to the area, many people were drawn to the Lakes by the publication of
the Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells by Alfred Wainwright. First published between 1952 and 1965, these books provided detailed information on 214 peaks across the region, with carefully hand-drawn maps and panoramas, and also stories and asides which add to the colour of the area. They are still used by many visitors to the area as guides for walking excursions, with the ultimate goal of bagging the complete list of Wainwrights. The famous guides are being revised by Chris Jesty to reflect changes, mainly in valley access and paths.
Since the early 1960s, the park has hired rangers to monitor the grounds to cope with increasing tourism and development, the first being John Wyatt, who has since written a number of guide books. He was joined two years later by a second, and since then the number of rangers has been rising.
The area has also become associated with writer Beatrix Potter. A number of tourists visit to see her family home, with particularly large numbers coming from Japan.
Tourism has now become the park's major industry, with about 14 million visitors each year, mainly from the UK's larger settlements, China, Japan, Spain, Germany and the USA. Windermere Lake Steamers are now the UK's second most popular charging tourist attraction and the local economy is dependent upon tourists. The negative impact of tourism has been seen, however. Soil erosion, caused by walking, is now a significant problem, with millions of pounds being spent to protect over-used paths. In 2006, two Tourist Information Centres in the National Park were closed.
Cultural tourism is becoming an increasingly important part of the wider tourist industry. The Lake District's links with a wealth of artists and writers and its strong history of providing summer theatre performances in the old Blue Box of Century Theatre are strong attractions for visiting tourists. The tradition of theatre is carried on by venues such as Theatre by the Lake in Keswick with its Summer Season of six plays in repertoire, Christmas and Easter productions and the many literature, film, mountaineering, jazz and creative arts festivals.