In 2019 I walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall, from west to east, taking photographs as I went along. It was a great experience, and one I’d recommend to anyone with a basic level of fitness and some good walking shoes. In lockdown in the first half of this year I turned my photographs into a little hand-made artist’s book, and from there printed this softback book with a short piece of writing about the experience. It’s available for just £6 from my photography website.
In Northumberland, the huts in the dunes at Low Newton are a well-known landmark. From their vantage point overlooking Embleton Bay the view is spectacular: yellow sand, a big sky, and the ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to stay in one for a weekend with some old school friends. The huts were built in the 1930s on land belonging to the owner of the nearby golf course (the land is now owned by the National Trust), and still have a chirpy mid-twentieth century atmosphere about them. While they have running water, and most are comfortable enough even for extended stays, they are not habitable year-round. In any case, the water supply is turned off for half the year, there is no vehicle access, and no mains electricity. The lack of electricity probably didn’t matter much to most people in the 1930s, and it is surprising, when it is not available, how little it matters even now. It wouldn’t be in the spirit of things anyway. Supplies are carried in over the dunes by wheelbarrow, and rubbish carried out the same way. It makes you think hard about what you need, and what you don’t, and reminds you that, for a while at least, you don’t actually need very much at all.
I don’t often get angry enough to write letters, but I wrote one today to the planners at the Lake District National Park Authority, registering my objection to a proposal to open an “Activity Hub” including eight zip wires, across Thirlmere, in the Lake District. If approved, would damage an important part of one of the most beautiful areas of England.
If you agree, I urge you to sign the petition here:
Please also write a letter to the planners. Information about how to do that is here:
You can send your letter in the form of an email to: email@example.com
The main part of my own objection letter is below.
My objection is principally that the application is in conflict with both the spirit of the National Park’s foundation, and the statutory purpose of the Lake District National Park Authority, which is to “conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage of the Lake District National Park”.
The Lake District National Park has many special qualities, but it is defined by the beauty of its landscape. Although visitors have a wide range of activities available to them in the National Park (including three excellent, low impact zip wire attractions) it is for the landscape that most of them visit: they climb the hills, swim, sail, and paddle the lakes, or just look at the view. These activities are available to almost everyone, and have a universal value. They offer spiritual renewal, and require a personal engagement with the landscape, its wildlife, and its history that are part of the reason for the Park’s existence. Almost all require some level of fitness and adventurousness, but have a manageable impact on the landscape itself.
By contrast, the proposed zip wires and their associated infrastructure will permanently degrade the appearance and tranquility of the Thirlmere valley for everyone, while offering a short thrill ride for a relatively small number of visitors. Riding a zip wire is an almost entirely passive activity, similar to riding a roller coaster at a theme park. It does nothing to enhance the unique and special qualities of the Lake District, but on the contrary reduces it to the level of an Alton Towers or Blackpool Pleasure Beach. It will bring with it traffic, noise, damage to habitats, and will do nothing to foster the idea that the landscape needs to be conserved, looked after, and improved. In this regard it is anathema to everything the National Parks stand for.
In 1935, JB Priestley, wrote “It is still too often assumed that any enterprising fellow after quick profits has a perfect right to destroy a loveliness that is the heritage of the whole community.” I hope that the LDNPA will reject this application, and demonstrate that we have made progress since then.
I took a walk this evening at about 9pm as it began to get dark, around a famliar loop of mine near to the Gorse Hill nature reserve in West Lancashire. I don’t often go for my walk late in the evening as this was but I like seeing familiar things in unfamiliar light. It was a black and white kind of evening, so fans of colour pictures look away now. For those of you who care about such things, these were taken with an Olympus E-PL2 and a Jupiter 8 lens.
The Lake District walk from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater is an easy two miles (at most) on level ground and good paths. For that reason it is popular with families, and people who can’t manage a climb, or just don’t want to. Last weekend we had a sniffly, cold-ridden child with us, so rather than do something more strenuous it made sense to shuttle between the Britannia Inn at Elterwater–great chicken pie with suet pastry, and a well-kept pint of Coniston Brewery’s Bluebird Bitter–and the waterfall at Skelwith Bridge. The leaves were just beginning to turn, and the lake and river were smooth and reflective. This is a popular short walk, especially on a sunny day like this, but it rewards with some of the best low-level scenery in the Lakes.