From the late eighteenth century, the land was no longer seen just as a means for making a living through agriculture or industry. People began to recognise its beauty. Its picturesque qualities inspired literature and art. As a result, the Lake District began to grow in popularity.
The poet William Wordsworth influenced this when in 1810 he wrote his Guide to the Lakes saying:
"persons of pure taste…deem the district a sort of national property in which every man has a right and an interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy".
In 1847 the Windermere railway line opened up the Lake District to the outside world. John Ruskin, a great thinker and Lake District resident, fought against the railway. He believed large numbers of visitors could threaten the area’s tranquillity. Ruskin’s views influenced the creation of the National Trust (opens in new window) in 1895. Today, the Lake District makes up a quarter of the National Trust’s land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The establishment of the Lake District National Park in 1951 sought to preserve the special qualities and limit threats to the landscape. You can find out more in History of National Park.
In recent years, increasing numbers of cars have made the Lake District National Park more accessible than ever. As a result, tourism has become a crucial part of the area’s economy, bringing many new challenges. There are question marks about traditions such as hill farming, which may not be profitable in the future. Without sheep to graze the fells, more plants and trees would grow, changing the way the fells look. This could affect the tourist industry if people no longer find the views or ease of access they expect.
To some visitors the Lake District landscape appears fossilised in time, destined to remain this way forever. But people have shaped the land for thousands of years and it will have to continue changing to cope with social and climatic shifts. Our decisions and actions will influence the future of this very special place.
Beatrix Potter used her profits from the sale of Peter Rabbit and other books to buy farms in the Lake District to preserve for the nation.
Created with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund