North Distinctive Area

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Area Ranger Cath Johnson shares our plans for the Keswick to Threlkeld railway path project.

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About the area

The Northern Lake District Distinctive Area is a mixture of upland limestone, high fell fringe, rugged high fell and upland valleys – from gently rolling improved farmland to the rounded mountain massifs of Skiddaw and Blencathra. Oak woodland is a distinctive landscape feature of the area.

There are significant tracts of common land including the Buttermere, Brackenthwaite, Caldbeck and Uldale Commons. Keswick and smaller settlements lie in valleys containing several lakes: Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite, Thirlmere, Buttermere, Loweswater and Crummock Water.

Thirlmere is significant as it is also a reservoir. The reservoir and surrounding valley is owned by United Utilities, a private water company, and still supplies over 220 million litres of water a day to Manchester and parts of Cumbria and Lancashire.

Bassenthwaite Lake is one of the largest water bodies in the Lake District. It is the only body of water in the Lake District to use the word "lake" in its name, all the others being "waters".

Contact details for your local team

Rowing on Grasmere © Dave Willis

Your Area Ranger Catherine Johnson

Cath is the Area Ranger for the North area of the Lake District. Please get in touch with Cath if you have any queries or enquiries about our work in this region, potential projects or community fund applications.

Contact details

You can contact Cath with any general enquiries relating to the North Lake District.

Tel: 01768 871409

Key information 

Community fund information

A fund has been created for projects which are led by, or of benefit to, the resident communities of the Lake District National Park. Find out more about the community fund.

Grants so far: North Distinctive Area


Map of our Lake District areas showing contact details for Area Rangers and Planners

Thirlmere Access Information

Please click on  the link below to find the latest Thirlmere access information which we will keep up to date with important notifications.

Thirlmere footpath signage November 2018

Latest updates

Rights of Way recovery work


For both bridges and paths we are putting together estimates of costs for all the repairs, and these are due to be submitted to central government by the end of January. Where possible these will include measures to build in resilience against future flood events. For example a new bridge may be designed to be stronger, higher, wider, single spanned, or a combination of these.

Until we have confirmation of funding for this recovery work we are only able to carry out repairs that have little or no material costs – such as washed out paths where we can ‘re-claim’ the eroded material and resurface with it.

We are also starting to prioritise repairs, ready for when we receive news of funding. We are doing this to take account of a variety of factors including impact on the community, impact on the economy, and importance of the route.

We have put the National Park’s latest information including temporary rights of way closures and other helpful links on our Cumbria floods update page.
If you are aware of any other damage to Rights of Way that is not already shown on the map, please email Cath Johnson, Area Ranger at

Flood recovery


Since early December the work of the area team has been almost entirely dedicated to flood recovery.

Initially, our Park Management Team, including our volunteers, concentrated on surveying all 1,450 bridges on Rights of Way that we are responsible for to assess their safety and to see what damage there was.

Across the whole National Park, the total is currently 46 footbridges which are not useable and are in need of either replacement or significant repairs, and 214 further footbridges which are passable but damaged, and will also need repair. However, put another way, this means that nearly 97 per cent of our bridges are either open, or passable with care, so this obviously back up the ‘Cumbria is open’ message. After checking the bridges, we are now concentrating on surveying damaged paths in the area, and this is nearing completion.

How have the floods affected the North Distinctive Area? In summary:

  • 20 footbridges are not useable and are in need of either replacement or significant repair.
  • 72 further footbridges are passable but damaged, and will also need repair
  • Across the whole National Park the total is currently 46 footbridges which are not useable and are in need of either replacement or significant repairs
  • 215 further footbridges which are passable but damaged, and will also need repair.

Lake District Osprey Project

Osprey project  

The Lake District Osprey Project is a partnership between the Forestry Commission, Lake District National Park and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) with fantastic support from many volunteers. The partnership aims to ensure the continued success of breeding ospreys at Bassenthwaite; to assist with natural colonisation elsewhere in the Lakes; and to provide visitors to the Lakes with the opportunity to see and find out more about ospreys.

Ospreys have been breeding near Bassenthwaite Lake since 2001 and are currently using a nest near the Lake. The nest has a High Definition camera, which sends live pictures to the osprey exhibition area at the Forest Centre at Whinlatter. Live images can also be seen at the open air viewpoints at Dodd Wood via the project iPad, sponsored by the Lake District Community Fund.

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