The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North-West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) and its associations with the early 19th century writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets.
It is located in the county of Cumbria, and all the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, respectively Wastwater and Windermere.
The Lake District National Park includes nearly all of the Lake District, though the town of Kendal and the Lakeland Peninsulas are currently outside the park boundary.
The area, which was designated a national park on 9 May 1951 (less than a month after the first UK national park designation — the Peak District), is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors and more than 23 million annual day visits, the largest of the thirteen national parks in England and Wales, and the second largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. Its aim is to protect the landscape by restricting unwelcome change by industry or commerce. Most of the land in the park is in private ownership, with about 55% registered as agricultural land. Landowners include:
- Individual farmers and other private landowners, with more than half of the agricultural land farmed by the owners.
- The National Trustowns about a quarter of the total area (including some lakes and land of significant landscape value).
- The Forestry Commission and other investors in forests and woodland.
- United Utilitiesowns 8%
- Lake District National Park Authority (3.9%) The National Park Authority is based at offices in Kendal. It runs a visitor centre on Windermereat a former country house called Brockhole, Coniston Boating Centre, and Information Centres. It is reducing its landholding.
In common with all other national parks in England, there is no restriction on entry to, or movement within the park along public routes, but access to cultivated land is usually restricted to public footpaths, bridleways and byways. Much of the uncultivated land has statutory open access rights, which cover around 50% of the park.
The lakes and mountains combine to form impressive scenery. Farmland and settlement have altered the natural scenery, and the ecology has been modified by human influence for millennia and includes important wildlife habitats. The Lake District failed in a previous attempt to gain World Heritage status as a natural World Heritage Site, because of human activities, such as commercial forestry, which have adversely impacted the park’s assessment. However, in 2016 the English Lake District bid for World Heritage Status was submitted to UNESCO in the category of cultural landscape. A decision is expected in 2017
The Lake District’s geology is very complex but well-studied. A granite batholith beneath the area is responsible for this upland massif, its relatively low density causing the area to be “buoyed up”. The granite can be seen at the surface as the Ennerdale, Skiddaw, Carrock Fell, Eskdale and Shap granites.
Broadly speaking the area can be divided into three bands, the divisions between which run south west to north east. Generally speaking the rocks become younger from north west to south east. The north western band is composed of early to mid-Ordovician sedimentary rocks, largely mudstones and siltstones of marine origin. Together they comprise the Skiddaw Group and include the rocks traditionally known as the Skiddaw Slates. Their friability generally leads to mountains with relatively smooth slopes such as Skiddaw itself.
The central band is a mix of volcanic and sedimentary rocks of mid-to-late Ordovician age comprising the lavas and tuffs of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, erupted as the former Iapetus Ocean was subducted beneath what is now the Scottish border during the Caledonian orogeny. The northern central peaks, such as Great Rigg, were produced by considerable lava flows. These lava eruptions were followed by a series of pyroclastic eruptions which produced a series of calderas, one of which includes present-day Scafell Pike. These pyroclastic rocks give rise to the craggy landscapes typical of the central fells.
The south eastern band comprises the mudstones and wackes of the Windermere Supergroup and which includes (successively) the rocks of the Dent, Stockdale, Tranearth, Coniston and Kendal groups. These are generally a little less resistant to erosion than the rocks sequence to the north and underlie much of the lower landscapes around Coniston and Windermere.
Later intrusions have formed individual outcrops of igneous rock in each of these groups. Around the edges of these Ordovician and Silurian rocks on the northern, eastern and southern fringes of the area is a semi-continuous outcrop of Carboniferous Limestone seen most spectacularly at places like Whitbarrow Scar and Scout Scar.