Take a virtual journey with us through the peaks of the Lake District.
The Lake District peaks attract walkers, cyclists and runners from all over the world to the fells each year.
Well marked and maintained trails make it easy to enjoy spectacular views from Wansfell to the the highest mountain in the Lake District, Scafell Pike (right).
Though you may believe the the uplands are quite bare, it is home to many alpine species. There is a diverse variety of vegetation specific to the upland regions in the Lake district. The Lake District is home to one of the smallest smallest woody plants in the world – the dwarf willow (left). After the last ice age this plant was one of the first species to grow in the bare upland soils of Cumbria. At only 5 cm tall this plant is hard to spot and easy to miss.
Take a plant identification guide on your next walk and open up your eyes to the diverse species you could be missing.
What will you find?
There is a wide range of animal species that inhabit the region, most notably you can spot the iconic upland sheep.
If you look up into the sky you may also be lucky enough to spot birds of prey such as buzzards and kestrels.
What’s the problem?
Alpine vegetation is being negatively impacted by walkers and the changing climate. Diverging from marked paths tramples vegetation and the soil making it difficult for plants to grow in the future.
Suitable habitat for alpine vegetation also requires specific temperatures throughout the year. As temperatures begin to increase further up mountains, the range of alpine vegetation will continue to decrease in size.
In the future we face losing large numbers of alpine species not just from the Lake District but from mountain ranges all over the world.
Erosion on the fells is a major issue across the whole of the lake district.
It occurs when people out on the fells whether that be walking, running or mountain biking do not stick to the market paths.
This creates further soil erosion of the land surrounding the path. This also tramples vegetation, which makes it difficult to grow again.
Erosion and trampled land led to increased run off the mountains as water flows off the land too fast to sink into the soil.
Increased run off into streams and rivers can cause high water levels, leading to more intense flooding in the regions.
Not to fear….peat bogs are here!
Peat bogs are prevalent in the Lake District. They may be hard to walk through but they are an important carbon sink.
They absorb and hold a large amount of carbon, therefore are important to locking up carbon CO2 (carbon dioxide) .
This helps to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, reducing the greenhouse effect and impacts of the climate crisis.
Peat also acts to store large volumes of water. This produces less run off in wet periods which further reduces the flooding risk in local lowland regions and erosion on the paths.
What can you do to help?
When out walking on the fells please make a conscious effort to walk on the designated path. This will help maintain the landscape integrity and prevent further erosion and trampling of vegetation.
Support local organisations working to restore footpaths, local vegetation and prevent further erosion like Fix the Fells.
“We are a team of skilled rangers and volunteers who repair and maintain the mountain paths in the Lake District with funding from donations and partners. A combination of millions of pairs of walking boots, the weather and gradient means erosion is a constant problem. Our path work reduces erosion scars and also helps protect the ecology and archaeological heritage of our beautiful landscape. ”Fix the Fells (2017) ‘Who are Fix the Fells?” https://www.fixthefells.co.uk/who-we-are/
Some of Fix the Fells Amazing Work
Fix the fells have been coming up with intuitive ways to protect peat bogs in the fells.
Putting the sheep wool on a path running over a peat bog encourages walkers to use one direct line. This not only produces a sustainable path surface that will stand up to the high number of walkers, but also helps to protect the fragile surrounding landscape.
Additionally landscaping the exposed peat hags prevent soil run-off and enables vegetation to begin to reestablish itself.
Success Stories in Pictures
To find out more visit their website. You can read their newsletter that provides seasonal updates of the hard work they have done and find out how to support their efforts. Do you fancy getting involved? Find out more about volunteering and the youth ranger program.