The Lake District National Park is famous for its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife and cultural heritage. But what makes it different from Britain's other National Parks?
These stretches of water are nationally important for their range of habitats, and species such as vendace, charr, crayfish and schelly. Nutrient-poor lakes, such as Wast Water, contrast with more nutrient-rich lakes like Esthwaite Water.
The lakes and tarns give the Lake District a quality of scenery and recreational resource found nowhere else in England.
The semi-natural woodlands add texture, colour and variety to the landscape and also provide a home for native animals and plants. The high rainfall in the core of the National Park favours woodlands rich in Atlantic mosses and liverworts, ferns and lichen.
The presence of wood pasture, pollards and old coppice woodland form part of the rich cultural heritage of the National Park.
The area's imposing natural landforms are overlaid by thousands of years of human activity. The mix of lakes, farmland, fell, woodland and settlement gives each valley a visual and cultural distinctiveness of its own.
The Lake District attracted the attention of the Picturesque and Romantic Movements.
The Lake District is unique in England for its abundant and varied freshwater habitats. Key habitats include mires, limestone pavement, upland heath, screes and arctic-alpine communities, lakeshore wetlands, estuary, coastal heath and dunes.
The National Park has the highest concentration of outdoor activity centres in the UK. It is the birthplace of mountaineering and there is a tradition of unrestricted access to the fells together with an extensive network of public rights of way. Recreational walking can be traced from Wordsworth's 'Guide to the Lakes' to the guides of more recent writers such as Wainwright. There's a huge range of tourist facilities, attractions and accommodation.
The tranquillity of the fells, valleys and lakes gives a sense of space and freedom. There is an opportunity for spiritual refreshment: a release from the pressures of modern-day life.
The relatively open character of the uplands, and the lack of modern development, is especially important. To walk freely across the fells, or climb their crags, is liberating and gives a feeling of wildness. To many the Lake District is a place where it is possible to feel remote, yet know the nearest settlement is never far away.
The Lake District's rocks provide a dramatic record of nearly 500 million years, with evidence of colliding continents, deep oceans, tropical seas, and kilometre-thick ice sheets. The area has the largest and deepest lakes and highest peaks in England. Its rock sequence contributes to our understanding of past climates. Read more in Geology.
The Lake District National Park has the largest concentration of common land in Britain, and possibly Western Europe. Collective management is characterised by landlords' flocks, smit marked and hefted livestock and the use of traditional breeds including Herdwick sheep.
There have been people in the Lake District since the end of the last ice age. The landscape reflects a long history of settlement with many traces of prehistoric and medieval field systems. Internationally important archaeological monuments include stone circles, Roman roads and forts, and charcoal blast furnaces. The high rainfall has assisted water power as a prime source of energy for mining, gunpowder and wood-processing industries. Check out our Archaeology and history section.
Local materials, including types of slate, are a common link between contrasting styles of architecture. Finishes such as lime wash, and the use of sandstone, granite and limestone add variety. Dry stone walls and hedgerows form a visual and historic link between settlement and countryside. Chimneys, windows and walling, and structures such as hogg houses, peat houses, packhorse bridges and bank barns reflect local building practices.
Lake District locals have worked the land and helped shape the landscape, while writers and environmentalists have campaigned for landscape protection. Artists and writers such as Turner, Heaton Cooper, Kurt Schwitters, Wordsworth, Coleridge and De Quincey have gained inspiration from the area, as well as children's authors Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter. Find out more in Famous writers.
The area has its own dialects and distinctive sports such as hound trailing, fell running, and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. Indigenous breeds of sheep and local crafts and foods are celebrated at valley shows and nationally.
So how can these special qualities be protected without making the National Park into a museum? Read about the Vision for the National Park.