North Distinctive Area

In this area:

Thirlmere Access Information

  • A short section of the West Shore of Thirlmere has been closed to the public. The LDNPA have been having regular discussions with United Utilities (UU) as landowners about this and the importance of maintaining access for recreation to this side of the reservoir. The closure was brought in following extensive damage during Storm Arwen in December 2021, which blew over many trees located on the steep slope above the road. In turn has led to dangerous slope instability which makes it unsafe to travel below the slope until this has been remedied. This is managed officially between UU and Cumbria County Council as transport authority and has been legally agreed through relevant Traffic Regulation Order. We are not party to further details.

  • Access to the Western shore is maintained as far as Dobgill Car Park from the South and Armboth Car Park from the North. It is a 2.3 mile section between them that is closed. All Rights of Way remain open, as do Miles Without Stiles accessible routes, car parks, lake shore access and toilets, so recreational opportunities for all are maintained other than the end to end cycle route, which unfortunately has to use the gravel route on the east side or the A591.  We hope the issue is resolved as soon as possible so the road can be used for cyclists but appreciate the significant challenges ahead for UU. More details of where the closures are can be found on the UU website
  • The section of road over the dam is a longer-term issue due to the safety of the narrow road. This does however remain open for walking, cycling and wheelchair use. Alternative vehicle access to Armboth and the Dam Triangle is still available from the North.

About the North Distinctive 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".

Key updates and news

Take a look at what's going in and around the North Lake District

Lake District Osprey Project

Date: January 2024

Osprey project

Ospreys in the Lake District

The osprey is a fish-eating bird of prey with a five-foot wingspan. There was no record of osprey nests in England since the 1830s, until a pair arrived in the Lake District in 2001 and successfully bred near Bassenthwaite Lake. Since then, the birds have spent the winter in Africa and returned in the spring to nest and rear their chicks.

The ospreys usually arrive around April and stay until early September when they migrate back to Africa. The return of the ospreys was the result of several years’ work with our partners: the Forestry Commission and the RSPB who erected artificial nest platforms at Dodd Wood near Bassenthwaite Lake, now a National Nature Reserve, and the ospreys chose to nest on one of them. Until recently you could view the nest from viewpoint at Dodd Wood managed by FE and supported by the RSPB and LDNPA until the birds decided to nest in a location less visible.

Ospreys spend the summer in England before starting the long 3,000-mile flight back to West Africa in mid-to late-August. Satellite tracking has shown them flying up to 430 km in just one day. It takes them about 20 flying days to complete the journey, but, in autumn, birds stop off to refuel at lakes and reservoirs. They tend to arrive back here in late March or early April each year. Eggs are laid towards the end of April and hatchlings usually appear in early June.

The birds can be seen regularly flying, fishing, and feeding throughout the breeding season, but the best time to look for ospreys is between June and August when they will have to hunt more to feed their young chicks. Though they are likely to be seen at any time of day, early morning and late evening are the best times.

Where to see ospreys in the Lake District

Located in south Cumbria Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve is a lowland raised mires; one of Western Europe’s rarest and most threatened habitats. The current pair have been successfully breeding for a number of years and can be seen from a special viewing platform. You can also observe them all hours through online webcams at certain times of the year.

Esthwaite Water

Esthwaite lies between the larger lakes of Windermere and Coniston water, south of the village of Hawkshead. It is a private fishery and provides a haven for wildlife. The Osprey Safari is a self-drive or guided boat trip around beautiful Esthwaite Water to view our spectacular resident Ospreys when in season. The First week of April to the first week of September.

Cogra Moss Ospreys

Cogra Moss near Workington is a little-known reservoir in the Western Lakes. It regularly attracts feeding ospreys.

Lake District Osprey Project

The Lake District Osprey Project was a partnership set up between the Forestry Commission, Lake District National Park and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) supported by many volunteers, initially aimed 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.

Offspring of the original breeding pair at Bassenthwaite have been spotted around Thirlmere, South Cumbria, Foulshaw Moss and South Scotland. The project was disbanded in 2022, due to the successful re-establishment of breeding pairs at locations around the Lake District.

Flood recovery

Date: February 2016


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.

Rights of Way recovery work

Date: February 2016


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.

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

Map of the North Distinctive Area

Carl Bradford

Your Area Ranger Carl Bradford

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

Contact details

Tel: 01768 871407




£56,614 has been awarded to this area to date.