Celebrating 70 years of Lake District National Park

Friends of the Lake District write a guest post - sharing photos from the archive - to mark Lake District National Park's 70th Birthday. The second National Park in England was designated on 9 May 1951.

Buttermere now, and then

We are celebrating this memorable event as our charity - Friends of the Lake District - was originally formed in 1934 to lead the campaign for the creation of the Park.

The call for designating areas of outstanding landscape for special protection was a powerful one with strong voices including the Standing Committee on National Parks (now Campaign for National Parks) pushing the government to do something – which they eventually did after the Second World War.  

Here is the original 1937 booklet calling for the creation of the Lake District National Park by Friends of the Lake District. The Lake District National Park was finally created in 1951.

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 led to the setting up of National Parks to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the areas in question and to promote their enjoyment by the public.  The same legislation also provides that National Park Authorities should foster the economic and social well-being of local communities. This is what differentiates British National Parks from those in many other countries, our National Parks are not wildernesses or rural museums, but places where people live and work.

There will always be different opinions on what is appropriate in a National Park. Over the years changes to the landscape have included road improvements, building reservoirs, the arrival of electricity to the valleys or the provision of tourist attractions.  Finding the correct balance for our cultural landscape will always excite a range of opinions, how we achieve Wordworth’s living in harmony with nature or Ruskin’s ‘right livelihood for man in relation to nature’.  

Since its creation 70 years ago, the Lake District National Park has enlarged. Still campaigning, Friends of the Lake District saw its “unfinished business” resolved in 2016 with the extension of the Park’s eastern boundary, and we have recently applied to Natural England for them to consider further extending the boundary to the South.

The Park is now managed by the Lake District National Park Partnership, 25 organisations – including Friends of the Lake District – representing the public, private, community and voluntary sectors, committed to working together in the best interest of the National Park, its environment, communities, economy and visitors.

Within this Partnership, we have remained active as an independent strong voice, determined to protect and enhance the character, landscape and traditions of this wonderful place. But we believe that we enjoy a special relationship with the Park.

Our founders and their successors had the vision and the determination to drive through the inertia of many years of good intentions but little progress, culminating with the creation of National Parks, while acting as the protectors of the landscape until that time.

Today we remain a true friend of the Lake District   – happy to share all the good times, to offer all the support we can in times of need, but also to be honest enough to point out and resist anything we believe threatens the true purposes of National Parks.

Happy Birthday Lake District National Park. You were one of Government’s gifts to the Nation, rewarding the population after the dark and terrible years of World War Two. Will our emerging from Covid-19 renew our appreciation?

Ambleside Pier through the ages