The Lake District Pursues UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

February 03, 2016

The Lake District Pursues UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

If you’ve ever seen the inspirational landscape of the Lake District for yourself, you’ll know that the region (all 912 square miles of it) is truly worth celebrating and preserving. Millions of people visit Cumbria or embark on Lake District holidays ever year, and it’s of national importance and interest that we keep the rolling hills and quaint villages of the area in prime condition.

That’s why next year, the Lake District will become the UK’s nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, potentially putting it in the same bracket as landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef and the Taj Mahal.

There are already a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the UK, including Blenheim Palace, St Kilda, Giant’s Causeway and the City of Bath. Applying under the ‘cultural landscape’ category, the Lake District (if successful in its bid) will become an internationally recognised site, as well as providing a boost to tourism and the local economy. What does World Heritage status mean?

UNESCO is the United Nations’ cultural agency, and it’s so far designated more than 1,000 sites around the world as worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status. If it makes the list, the Lake District will officially become a place of ‘outstanding universal value’, and greater efforts will be made to protect and preserve the region as it is.

There are a multitude of benefits to World Heritage status, including:

  • Providing funds for potential restoration or preservation of the area.
  • Access to global project management resources.
  • Promotes local pride – not that the residents of Cumbria are lacking in that!
  • The site will be protected under the Geneva Convention.
  • Significantly boosted tourism in the area.

The Lake District’s bid

There are two main strands to the Lake District’s bid for UNESCO status, the first being the ‘continuity of traditional farming and local industry in a spectacular mountain landscape’. From the native Herdwick sheep to the longstanding farming culture and the majestic landscape of fells, valleys, mountains and woodland, the Lake District is an example of how man and Mother Nature can work in harmony, even in fairly challenging environments.

The Lake District will also be making note of the ‘discovery and appreciation of a rich cultural landscape’ as part of its application. This relates to the ‘Lakes Poets’, which include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, and of course, William Wordsworth. They all wrote extensively about the relationship between humans and the surrounding landscape, blessing the area with an enhanced sense of culture and bolstering efforts to focus on the natural beauty of the area. As a result of the Picturesque interest in the Lake District, a multitude of viewing stations, formal gardens and other early tourist attractions were added to the area – for which we can only thank them!

The next steps

The Department for Culture, Media and Sports, supported by Historic England, has submitted a four-volume nomination to UNESCO, which will be reviewed over the next year or so. A UNESCO visit to the Lake District is also in the offing, and it’s expected we’ll find out whether the Lake District has been granted World Heritage Site status by summer of 2017.

The application looks very strong, and here at The Lake District Guide, we’re confident that the UNESCO team will fall in love with the Lake District just as we all have!