Fell Fixing

I was happy to receive an invitation from the National Trust in the Lake District to meet Tanya Oliver, author and programme manager of the Fix the Fells team, and to find out more about the work they do. Responsible for maintaining the upland paths within a national park with over 3,000 km / 1900 miles of rights of way, this is no small workplace. Here is a link to the Fix the Fells donation page which will be given again at the end of this post.

Pennine Way
New flagstones laid on the Pennine Way

Since walking the Pennine Way in the summer of 2013, I have been forced to confront the damage that I can cause to the landscapes I love. Erosion has cut deep trenches into parts of the Kinder plateau, which are so bad that the walk has had to be re-routed in order that the ground can recover from the damage caused by many feet. This process is likely to take many years, and has dispelled the notion I had, that walkers leave no trace on the landscape.

Ongoing erosion caused by walkers, cyclists and poor drainage

As a first world country, I can’t help feeling that there should be resources in the pot for this sort of work, which is essential for the blossoming and lucrative walking based tourism in areas such as the Lake District.

Tanya Oliver
Tanya Oliver surveys her workplace

Fix the Fells relies largely on volunteers, who are provided with specialist training in return for a minimum 12 days maintenance work per year. On my walk up Helm Crag near Grasmere with Tanya, she showed me some of the impressive recent work completed by the Fix the Fells team.

Good footpath
A good footpath near Helm Crag, Central Fells

This essential work included the creation of strategically placed drains to prevent water-logging, stone pitching to create steps up the steeper sections, re-seeding and confining path boundaries which are spreading out too far.

Stepped path
Drainage system to prevent flooding
Established path
An established path

The fells, and the hikers who walk them, are critical to the tourist economy of the Lake District. The footpaths here are said to generate more income than the roads. Unlike other countries, Britain does not charge for access to it’s national parks. This means that most of the maintenance work within our national parks is funded by the government, the heritage lottery fund, the tourist industry, outdoor groups, various specialist grants and donations.

If, like me, you enjoy the freedom of walking in the countryside, and particularly the world famous Cumbrian fells, then please consider donating here to help Fix the Fells minimise the damage we can collectively cause.

Thanks to Tanya and the Fix the Fells team.