Discovering the Lake District National Park

By Nicky Jaquiery

I’ve just been to see the latest Peter Rabbit film, based of course on the stories created by Beatrix Potter. This started me thinking about the National Trust and Beatrix Potter’s 4000-acre donation to the Trust back in 1943, made possible by the success of her Peter Rabbit books. Credited with preserving much of the land that we now know as the Lake District, this is an amazing legacy that we can all enjoy and best of all, most of it can be accessed for free!

The Lake District has long been recognised as a National Park – since 1951 in fact – but what most people don’t know is that it has only recently gained UNESCO World Heritage status. In my opinion this is well deserved and perhaps I’m biased, but I think it is one of the most beautiful and inspirational places in England! One of the special features of the Lake District is that there is so much variety within a relatively compact area. At roughly 2,362 km2, the landscape is home to lakes, forests, valleys and of course, mountains. It is these fells – as they are more commonly known – with which most people associate the Lake District, the highest being Scafell Pike, which is also the highest mountain in England. But the Lake District is about so much more than mountains, and with a wealth of different landscapes and terrain to explore, you are never short of ideas for walking.

Untitled-1 (23).jpgI first went to the Lake District as a child many years ago, and since then I have made numerous trips each year from my home in Yorkshire. I feel very fortunate to live so close, as this means I can easily go just for the day if I wanted to. If you’ve never been to the Lake District, or even if you have and you’d like to plan another visit, here are some suggestions for where you can go walking.

Whether you’re a seasoned walker or relatively new to walking, there’s something for everyone. For those who want to combine a low-level walk with seeing one of the lakes that the area is famous for, you can enjoy the trails around Derwent Water and Buttermere. You can walk all the way round Buttermere, which is a relatively easy route with spectacular views of the surrounding fells. There are a couple of pubs and a café to choose from in the village of Buttermere if you don’t fancy a picnic by the lakeshore.

Another equally scenic and easy circular route is around Grasmere and Rydal Water. This is one of my favourite low-level routes for when it’s raining or the fells are shrouded in cloud. Interestingly, part of the route follows the Coffin road, so called because it was used to carry coffins to the church in Grasmere. Also, it passes Dove Cottage, home of William Wordsworth.

Further south towards Hawkshead is Tarn Hows, an area that is accessible for those in a wheelchair along a 1.5 mile path that goes around the tarn. This is particularly beautiful in early autumn, when you can really appreciate the colours of the trees and the outstanding views towards the Helvellyn and Coniston fells. If you’re in the area, you may as well combine a walk at Tarn Hows with a visit to Hill Top, the 17th century farmhouse where Beatrix Potter lived. Hill Top, located in Near Sawrey and owned by the National Trust, is preserved just as it was when Beatrix Potter lived there, and is well worth a visit.

Untitled-1 (24).jpgIf you’re after a more challenging, multi-day walk taking you up to the higher fells, there are endless options to choose from. Depending on your level of experience, you might want to consider one of the many self-guided walks that Contours has to offer. The most demanding of these is the Bob Graham Round that traverses 42 of the Lake District fells. Other excellent routes include the Lakeland Three Passes walk or the Lakeland Round; both of which showcase the fantastic landscape that the Lake District is famous for.

Like Beatrix Potter, who found inspiration for her books in her surroundings, whatever walk you decide on you won’t be disappointed. In fact, I guarantee after just one walk in the Lake District you’ll be hooked, and it won’t be long before you’re back for more!

Originally published 23/04/18

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