Today, the Lake District National Park was transcribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the 41st session of the United Nations world heritage committee in Krakow, Poland.
This means that Cumbria will now be part of a special family of iconic places across the planet, like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Barrier Reef and many other world famous locations.
About 18 million people visit the Lake District each year spending a total of £1.2bn and providing about 18,000 jobs.
The National Park is home to England’s largest natural lake – Lake Windermere – and highest mountain – Scafell Pike.
A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
The bid to become a UNESCO site, comprised of a number of aspects, the main being:
The unique Lake District farming system is based on rearing the native Herdwick sheep. It has developed for over 1000 years in response to the upland landscape of fells, lakes, valleys and native woodland.
The great beauty of the Lake District comes from the combination of stone walled fields and local farm buildings with a compact and spectacular natural landscape.
The early Picturesque interest in the Lake District led to changes to the landscape that were designed to improve its beauty. These include villas, formal gardens, picturesque tree planting and viewing stations.
The Picturesque movement also influenced the development of Romantic thought, principally through the writings of William Wordsworth and other Lakes Poets. They produced a new and influential view of the relationship between humans and landscape.
Wordsworth’s had a sense of the dependence of individual awareness and sensitivity on landscape. This led him to propose in his Guide to the Lakes of 1810 that the Lake District should be deemed:
A sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.
Analysis in 2009 of over 850 World Heritage properties, other sites, and other upland areas of Britain revealed the unique role played by the Lake District in the development of ideas and beliefs about landscape.
Unlike some other mountainous landscapes, on the World Heritage List, such as the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Italian Dolomites or the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, the Lake District was not proposed for inscription because of its natural grandeur.
Its natural landscape beauty stems from its intimate combination of mountains and water, which are strongly influenced by the impacts of past glaciation. In this it shares attributes with some Scandinavian World Heritage Sites such as the Vega Archipelago, the Swedish High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago and the Laponian Area.
Unlike them, however, the Lake District was not proposed as a natural or mixed site but as a cultural site, because it is the interaction of humans with the landscape, through human usage and embellishment, that most strongly characterises the Lake District.
As a mountainous landscape preserving the cultural traditions of distinctive forms of upland farming, the Lake District most strongly resembles the Causses and Cevennes World Heritage Site, but with an agricultural system suited to more northerly and Atlantic climes.
In its cultural association with art and philosophy, and the associated physical embellishments of the landscape, it shares features with the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhan in China, though the Lake District’s cultural associations are western rather than eastern.
The Lake District shares attributes with a number of existing World Heritage Sites but it does so in a combination that is uniquely its own and in the association of its landscape with the birth of the conservation movement it is entirely distinct.
Helen Maclagan, Culture Director at the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said:
The inscription of the English Lake District demonstrates that it meets the relevant criteria set out in the World Heritage Convention and is a priceless and irreplaceable asset not only to the UK but to humanity as a whole.
It joins 30 other spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies ranging from the ancient landscape of Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire, the remote Gough and Inaccessible Islands in the South Atlantic to the Victorian Forth Bridge in Scotland.
I am delighted that the rich cultural landscape of the Lake District is nowrecognised on the world stage. We look forward to working with the Lake District Partnership and continuing our work with World Heritage Sites in the UK to ensure that the full benefits of World Heritage Site status are realised.
Chairman of the Lake District National Park Partnership, Lord Clark of Windermere, said:
Joining the UNESCO family, both in the UK and globally, is a huge opportunity for the Lake District National Park. We believe this designation will have long lasting benefits for everyone who visits, lives and works in this special place.
Beth Taylor, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said:
Congratulations to the Lake District on becoming the latest member of the UNESCO family in the UK. They are joining an exciting and active network of UK and global UNESCO designations, organisations and specialists working together to create the international collaborations which underpin UNESCO’s mission of creating peace in the minds of men and women.
We look forward to exploring with the Lake District Partnership how we can help them contribute to this impressive record of international collaboration.