September 09th 2019

Lake District heritage at risk as thrill-seekers ‘chew up’ idyllic trails

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Richard Bowness’s heart beats through this landscape. His grandfather broke stones to construct many of the farm tracks, and with his “own bare hands” Bowness built many of the local cottages.

As we wind down one corner through the valleys just north of Coniston Water, he points to the upstairs window of a cottage: “I was conceived there, you know!”

Bowness’s knowledge of this part of the Lake District national park is encyclopaedic. His family have lived in these peaceful valleys for generations and many of them were born in the cottages dotted around the landscape, which became a world heritage site in 2017. But his home is under threat, he says. The tranquillity of the area has been destroyed by off-road cars and motorbikes which have devastated farm tracks, churning up soil and exposing the bedrock beneath, leaving them impassable to farm traffic.

The problem is particularly acute in the valleys surrounding the villages of Little Langdale, Tilberthwaite and Elterwater, and locals have been lobbying for a ban.

Next month a decision will be made whether or not to prohibit recreational off-road vehicles from dozens of farm tracks on this land – much of it once owned by Beatrix Potter and described by Alfred Wainwright as “the loveliest in Lakeland”.

Campaigners say a noticeable change came in 2006 when the Lake DistrictNational Park Authority (LDNPA) – which has been repeatedly criticised for its management of the area – in conjunction with the Motoring Organisations’ Land Access and Recreation Association (Lara), created a “hierarchy of trails” route."

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