National Parks are beautiful, spectacular and often dramatic expanses of relatively wild country. Each National Park has its own managing authority to conserve and enhance its natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to help people understand and enjoy its special qualities.
National Parks are protected under legislation and the planning system to ensure conservation and enhancement of their special qualities not just for the present, but also for future generations of residents and visitors.
Our model for running a national park is not based on public ownership and people are often surprised to learn the National Park Authority owns less than four per cent of land in the Lake District. The rest is owned by organisations such as the National Trust, United Utilities, Forestry Commission and other private landowners.
For more information see Land ownership in the Lake District page.
The Lake District National Park is one of a family of 15 National Parks. The others are: Brecon Beacons, the Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Loch Lomond and Trossachs, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, South Downs, the Yorkshire Dales, the Broads and the New Forest.
Read more about them on the National Parks UK website (opens new window).
Until the 19th century relatively wild, remote areas were seen as uncivilised and dangerous. However the Romantic poets found inspiration in the beauty of "untamed" countryside with Wordsworth describing the Lake District as "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 the early 20th century a growing appreciation of the outdoors, the feeling of freedom and spiritual renewal found there and the benefits of physical exercise led to demands for more access to the countryside. The conflict between landowners and public interest groups grew with the expansion of towns and cities and the enclosure of more land by landowners.
In the 1930s leisure enthusiasts and nature conservationists such as the Ramblers' Association, the Youth Hostels Association and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England pressed the government for access for and protection of the countryside. After World War Two the movement towards creating National Parks gained momentum.
There are also lots of facts and dates in the following account by Jeremy Rowan Robinson: Managing the Lake District National Park: the first 60 years (PDF)
As set out in the Environment Act 1995, the Lake District National Park Authority's statutory purposes are:
It also has a duty in pursuing those purposes:
Section 62 of the Environment Act 1995 makes clear that if National Park purposes are in conflict then conservation must have priority. This is known as the ‘Sandford Principle’ and stems from the Sandford Committee’s recommendation, in 1974, that enjoyment of the National Parks ‘shall be in a manner and by such means as will leave their natural beauty unimpaired for the enjoyment of this and future generations’.
The National Trust (opens in new window) is an independent charity who own and look after stately homes, land and coastline which sometimes fall within a National Park boundary. A National Park Authority is a local government organisation set up to look after the whole of the National Park.
Often the National Trust and National Park Authorities work in partnership on conservation projects - Fix the Fells (opens in new window) is just one example.
For more details about our 'siblings', take a look at National Parks UK website (opens in new window).