Fix the Fells plays a vital role in the Lake District
Fix the Fells is playing a vital role in conservation in the Lake District uplands, according to a new report by independent consultants.
Fix the Fells – a multi-agency project that repairs and maintains upland paths in the Lake District National Park – carries out work to address and prevent erosion caused by people using the fells for recreation.
The work, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) until June 2023, aims to protect and restore the World Heritage Site, with its internationally important landscape, habitats, species, history and culture. It creates sustainable paths for people to enjoy.
AMION Consulting Ltd have produced an evaluation report, as required by the ERDF grant funding, which concludes that Fix the Fells is having a significant positive impact on the experience of visitors to the fells through improvements to the visual landscape and to the quality of walks.
The project is also having a very positive impact in terms of changing the behaviour of visitors in relation to protecting the environment when walking in the fells. Visitors view the work of Fix the Fells to be very important in preserving the Lakeland environment and in reducing erosion damage.
In 2022 Fix the Fells Rangers and Volunteers repaired erosion on over 3.8 miles (6 km) of path. The work took place on 30 different paths all over the Lakes from Scafell Pike to Helvellyn, from Coniston to Keswick, and around Ullswater, Grasmere and Buttermere.
Most of the erosion repair work is carried out by hand by highly skilled and dedicated National Trust Rangers who work high in the fells in all weathers. Rangers in the north of the Lake District, for example, walked 765 miles (1231 km) in 2022 going to and from their remote work sites. In the western fells the Rangers walked 1,657 miles (2667 km), particularly around Scafell Pike, and between them they climbed over 160 vertical miles (259 vertical km).
A large and essential part of the work on the paths is carried out by volunteers, who, the report says, make a vital contribution as well as receiving substantial personal, social and health benefits themselves.
In 2022, 110 Fix the Fells Volunteers spent 2,597 days working in the fells, maintaining the paths and repairing erosion. The Volunteers come from all walks of life, retired and working, and all are passionate about giving something back to the fells they love. An impressive 78 (66%) of them contributed more than the minimum 12 days/year asked of them, and two especially committed volunteers contributed over 150 days each.
Volunteers maintain, repair and monitor 733 paths on a regular basis, every 2, 3, 4, 6 or 12 months, bi-annually or 5 yearly. In 2022 they walked a total of 764 paths. They make sure the paths don’t deteriorate further by clearing out the drains, which are the channels built to take rainwater off the paths to stop them from eroding.
Volunteers also carried out 236 “work parties” in 2022, where they repair eroded sections of path by hand. This number is higher than had ever been achieved before. It means that many more paths were kept in good order and made more resilient for the future.
Fix the Fells Programme Manager Joanne Backshall said: “This report highlights the significant benefits of the work of the Fix the Fells Rangers and Volunteers. It illustrates the importance of their work to the natural beauty and economic vitality of the Lake District National Park.
“We hope we can continue this vital work when our current European grant funding ends in June this year. We are looking for additional funding to meet a significant looming shortfall.
“Without our work, the Lake District fells would quickly deteriorate to the scarred landscape of the 1980s and 90’s, when gullies more than 90 feet wide and 12 feet wide were clearly visible along rights of way across the fells. Increasing recreation, visitor numbers and severe weather events would soon take their toll and result in similar damage appearing.”
All the work is funded by grants and donations. At the end of 2022 Fix the Fells had received over £1 million from ERDF since the grant began in April 2019. By the end of the ERDF project in June 2023, £1.5 million will have come from European funding. This is approximately 45% of the annual funding needed – the total spend in the 2022/23 financial year is over £800,00 and the remaining funding all comes from donations.
The work of Fix the Fells contributes to mitigating the decline in nature and climate change in the Lake District National Park. It stabilises soils, allows vegetation to recover and reduces habitat and species loss. It reduces sediment run-off into lakes and rivers where it harms wildlife. It slows the flow of water off the fells and reduces flood risk and water discolouration. The work captures carbon in vegetation and soils and helps to reverse and mitigate climate change. Fix the Fells is critical in reducing future damage to the scenery and biodiversity of the Lake District, for people, nature and climate.