Tourists Overwhelm Beatrix Potter’s Beloved Lake District

Last month, the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) issued a statement declaring that off road vehicles would not be banned from the park, a move that has upset some locals who say dirtbikes and cars are ruining the countryside. 

**This article has been updated with new information.**

Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017, the Lake District has welcomed a surge of visitors over the past twenty years, and not all sightseers have left the land as they found it: according to a recent report in The Guardian, off road vehicles, 4x4s, and dirtbikes are increasinglychewing up the delicate lands forged in the last Ice Age, damaging dirt roads and surrounding fields. Farmers complain that the roads are so poor that they cannot drive their equipment on them anymore.

The Lake District ‘s spokesperson Sarah Burrows said in a recent email that The Guardian’s article “is inaccurate and, as such, we wrote to the editor in response. We highlighted that the headline Lake District heritage at risk as thrill-seekers ‘chew up’ idyllic trails is misleading and inflammatory, furthermore, parts of the article itself are factually incorrect. The two public roads are open to all users and make up just 0.09 per cent of our rights of way network, so to infer that this is a Lake District-wide ‘problem’ is misleading. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of people enjoying the national park’s 3,280km of trails are highly unlikely to encounter recreational motorists on these routes.”

Lake District residents say the tension between meeting the wants of tourists while preserving the bucolic landscape is at least a decade in the making. In 2006, the LDNPA posted the now-ubiquitous red and white “hierarchy of trails” guides, notifying visitors of proper road etiquette, however local groups say these signs have only encouraged thrill-seekers to take their ATVs off roading. Members of the Save the Lake District Group say that vehicles using these roads have leapt from 90 a month in 2008 to over 400 in 2017. Burrows, meanwhile, provided usage data on the LDNPA website saying that tracking motorized vehicles on the roads has been historically spotty and that the numbers quoted by Save the Lake District “may not be very reliable.” The LDNPA report goes on to state that it has noticed a decrease on vehicular traffic on those roads that have been repaired.

The roads bearing the brunt of these adventure seekers are High Tilberthwaite and High Oxenfell. Part of the appeal lies in these roads’ proximity to Potter’s farm, which she purchased in 1929 and is now part of the National Trust. Meanwhile, the LDNPA maintains that the Lake District trails have historically been a mix of dirt, asphalt, and stone, and that recent severe weather has deteriorated the roads that now require repair. Paving these highly trafficked roads would keep motorists from destroying the surrounding area, and the LDNPA posted before and after images of repaired roads on its website, where some of the “before” roads look downright impassable, but Save the Lake District maintains that these pictures aren’t telling the whole story.

Earlier this month, LDNPA committee members voted not to ban ATVs from trails despite a recommendation from the International Council on Monuments and Sites suggesting that banning these vehicles would drastically improve the quality of the trails and preserve the beauty of the area. The latest vote has lead to frustrated protests and angry outbursts from locals, who fear that this is only another step towards stripping the Lake District of its charm and turning it into a roadside attraction.

Burrows counters that the LDNPA is trying to meet the needs of all park users. “As a national park representing everyone’s right to enjoyment, the decision to restrict anyone’s right to use these roads must not be taken lightly. In line with government guidance, legal intervention through a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) is a last resort and we should explore other management options first. We completed a comprehensive evidence gathering exercise and the findings were presented to our Rights of Way Committee on 8 October where Members decided on the future management of these roads and whether or not a TRO is required.

“The decisions we have to take are often complex, but we do this in an open and transparent way so that everyone can see in detail what the perceived issues are, how we’ve gathered our evidence, and how we’ve come to the reasoning behind our recommendation to committee,” Burrows wrote. The committee’s findings can be read here

Beatrix Potter Portrait to Appear on Cumbrian Currency

Brexit may be in turmoil, but there is a bright spot to leaving the E.U: being able to print hyper-local money that’s backed by the national government. This year, Beatrix Potter, educational reformer Charlotte Mason, and other notable residents of the English region of Cumbria will grace various denominations of the Lake District pound (LD£), a currency launched there in 2018 to encourage local shopping and promote independent businesses.
“It’s been an amazing year for the project,” said Lake Currency Project founder Ken Royall in a January report by the BBC. Available at Lake District post offices and tourism centers, the currency can be swapped pound for pound with sterling and is accepted at over 350 hundred local and independent shops throughout the Lake District, a region in the northwestern region of England popular with tourists. Over 140,000 LD£S are currently in circulation.
Unlike standard currency which never expires, LD£S is an annual currency. The 2018 batch expired on January 31 but could be exchanged until the end of February for fresh 2019 LD£S notes. Any expired currency becomes found money for the district, helping fund community projects and maintaining the stunning landscapes that make the region such a hot tourist spot.
The Lake District currency is the first paper money issued with Potter’s likeness.The brightly colored banknotes were designed by artists Rebecca Gill and Cumbrian native Debbie Vayanos. Meanwhile, Potter’s charming characters like Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin have appeared on the British pound since 2016 and are coveted among numismatics. Last August, a coin collector stabbed a man to death and then stole the victim’s coin collection, which included rare Beatrix Potter 50p coins. (The murderer was recently sentenced to thirty years in prison.)
No need for violence here, nor must Potter collectors book a flight to Cumbria to get their hands on these: Lake District Pounds are available online.

 

Image courtesy of Lake District Currency Project

Pottering About: Catching Up With the Beatrix Potter Society

The Beatrix Potter Society has been keeping tabs on all sorts of various Potter-related events as well as preparing for a springtime gathering in California. Here’s some of the highlights from its winter newsletter:

squirrel nutkin.JPGThe Bookseller reported in December that a first-edition of Potter’s long-forgotten and recently published The Tale of Kitty in Boots, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, was auctioned at the “First Editions Re-covered” sale, fetching nearly $14,000. The event raised funds for Blake’s House of Illustration, a public art gallery in London. The two-hour event raised approximately $180,000.

 
In 2016, the Royal Mint struck a series of coins commemorating the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, and plans to add new coins to the series in 2018. This year Mrs. Tittlemouse, the Tailor of Gloucester, Flopsy Bunny, and a new version of Peter Rabbit will appear on the 50-pence coins. The proclamation announcing the series appeared in the December 15 edition of the Edinburgh Gazette.

 
The United Kingdom’s National Trust celebrated 50 years of its Working Holiday program–an initiative aimed at encouraging participants to help care for and restore Britain’s beautiful coastlines, homes, and gardens–by planting 4,000 saplings near Moss Eccles Tarn in Cumbria’s Lake District. Stocked with water lilies and various fish, Potter once owned this charming fishing spot and donated it to the National Trust upon her death. Volunteers helped clear non-native plants to make room for the new trees–native oak, birch, and hazel.

 
Finally, the next meeting of the Potter Society will take place March 23-25 in San Diego, California. Among other activities–British afternoon tea on Saturday, for example–author Marta McDowell and librarian Connie Rye Neumann will share new research on the surprisingly parallel lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Potter.

Spring can’t get here soon enough.

                                                                                                                                                                  Image via Wikimedia Commons