The English Lake District


 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
N54 28 35.8 W3 4 56.7
Date of Inscription: 2017
Criteria: (ii)(v)(vi)
Property : 229,205.19 ha
Ref: 422rev

The English Lake District is a self-contained mountainous area in North West England of some 2,292 square kilometres. Its narrow, glaciated valleys radiating from the central massif with their steep hillsides and slender lakes exhibit an extraordinary beauty and harmony. This is the result of the Lake District’s continuing distinctive agro-pastoral traditions based on local breeds of sheep including the Herdwick, on common fell-grazing and relatively independent farmers. These traditions have evolved under the influence of the physical constraints of its mountain setting. The stone-walled fields and rugged farm buildings in their spectacular natural backdrop, form an harmonious beauty that has attracted visitors from the 18th century onwards. Picturesque and Romantic interest stimulated globally-significant social and cultural forces to appreciate and protect scenic landscapes. Distinguished villas, gardens and formal landscapes were added to augment its picturesque beauty. The Romantic engagement with the English Lake District generated new ideas about the relationship between humanity and its environment, including the recognition of harmonious landscape beauty and the validity of emotional response by people to their landscapes. A third key development was the idea that landscape has a value, and that everyone has a right to appreciate and enjoy it. These ideas underpin the global movement of protected areas and the development of recreational experience within them. The development in the English Lake District of the idea of the universal value of scenic landscape, both in itself and in its capacity to nurture and uplift imagination, creativity and spirit, along with threats to the area, led directly to the development of a conservation movement and the establishment of the National Trust movement, which spread to many countries, and contributed to the formation of the modern concept of legally-protected landscapes.

Criterion (ii): The harmonious beauty of the English Lake District is rooted in the vital interaction between an agro-pastoral land use system and the spectacular natural landscape of mountains, valleys and lakes of glacial origins. In the 18th century, the quality of the landscape was recognised and celebrated by the Picturesque Movement, based on ideas related to both Italian and Northern European styles of landscape painting. These ideas were applied to the English Lake District in the form of villas and designed features intended to further augment its beauty. The Picturesque values of landscape appreciation were subsequently transformed by Romantic engagement with the English Lake District into a deeper and more balanced appreciation of the significance of landscape, local society and place. This inspired the development of a number of powerful ideas and values including a new relationship between humans and landscape based on emotional engagement; the value of the landscape for inspiring and restoring the human spirit; and the universal value of scenic and cultural landscapes, which transcends traditional property rights. In the English Lake District these values led directly to practical conservation initiatives to protect its scenic and cultural qualities and to the development of recreational activities to experience the landscape, all of which continue today. These values and initiatives, including the concept of protected areas, have been widely adopted and have had global impact as an important stimulus for landscape conservation and enjoyment. Landscape architects in North America were similarly influenced, directly or indirectly, by British practice, including Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the most influential American landscape architects of the 19th century.

Criterion (v): Land use in the English Lake District derives from a long history of agro-pastoralism. This landscape is an unrivalled example of a northern European upland agro-pastoral system based on the rearing of cattle and native breeds of sheep, shaped and adapted for over 1,000 years to its spectacular mountain environment. This land use continues today in the face of social, economic and environmental pressures. From the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century, a new land use developed in parts of the Lake District, designed to augment its beauty through the addition of villas and designed landscapes. Conservation land management in the Lake District developed directly from the early conservation initiatives of the 18th and 19th centuries. The primary aims in the Lake District have traditionally been, and continue to be, to maintain the scenic and harmonious beauty of the cultural landscape; to support and maintain traditional agro-pastoral farming; and to provide access and opportunities for people to enjoy the special qualities of the area, and have developed in recent times to include enhancement and resilience of the natural environment. Together these surviving attributes of land use form a distinctive cultural landscape which is outstanding in its harmonious beauty, quality, integrity and on-going utility and its demonstration of human interaction with the environment. The English Lake District and its current land use and management exemplify the practical application of the powerful ideas about the value of landscape which originated here and which directly stimulated a landscape conservation movement of global importance.

Criterion (vi): A number of ideas of universal significance are directly and tangibly associated with the English Lake District. These are the recognition of harmonious landscape beauty through the Picturesque Movement; a new relationship between people and landscape built around an emotional response to it, derived initially from Romantic engagement; the idea that landscape has a value and that everyone has a right to appreciate and enjoy it; and the need to protect and manage landscape, which led to the development of the National Trust movement, which spread across many countries with a similar rights system. All these ideas that have derived from the interaction between people and landscape are manifest in the English Lake District today and many of them have left their physical mark, contributing to the harmonious beauty of a natural landscape modified by: a persisting agro-pastoral system (and supported in many cases by conservation initiatives); villas and Picturesque and later landscape improvements; the extent of, and quality of land management within, the National Trust property; the absence of railways and other modern industrial developments as a result of the success of the conservation movement.

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