TOO HIGH, TOO STEEP, TOO DARK

IMG_0206This year we have read on Tripadvisor about a man who was not happy that he had no view of lake Windermere from his lake view hotel bedroom. Reasonable you might think until further reading of the guest’s rant reveals his real gripe being he couldn’t see the lake after dark because it was… well… dark. Why, he asked nobody in particular (because Tripadvisor is not a two-way forum – how much more entertaining if it were) had somebody not thought to floodlight the lake for guests just as himself? The next morning brought him little relief from his melancholy as the lake was shrouded in fog. A large vacuum to suck the fog away was surely at the forefront of his mind.

This disgruntled guest, who finished his tirade by asking why the Lake District couldn’t be more like Blackpool with its myriad illuminated amenities, has company in the online grumblesphere as this week another Tripadvisor review has come to light airing the author’s constructive comments on how to improve the visitor appeal of the Lake District.

Skiddaw, one of the nation’s most famous, oldest and highest mountains, is, she writes, too steep, too high and lacks any proper facilities at its summit. Why can’t it be more like Mount Snowdon in North Wales with a railway to the top where visitors can then enjoy tea in a cafe, a comfortable crap and a leisurely browse of the gift shop before returning down the mountain by train without so much as scuff on their boots. To have not even a toilet at the summit is nothing short of criminal negligence. Surely, she implores, visitors would then pay at least £5 to visit the mountain, raking in the cash for the local economy.

These are interesting insights in to what makes visitors tick and we all should take careful note. While both are extreme examples of visitors’ unrealistic expectations of their national park experience, the Lake District National Park Authority, the unelected layer of government responsible for the administration and preservation of the UK’s most popular national park has already demonstrated how at odds it is with the expectations and demands of 21st Century visitors.

An application to install a two kilometre zipwire at Honister on top of a mountainside already scarred by slate mining has been repeatedly blocked by the authority on the grounds it would impair the pristine natural beauty of the Lake District – also an economy which relies heavily on tourism to survive.

Clearly the lunatics are well and truly in charge of the asylum. There needs to be a meeting on the middle ground between the expectations of future visitors to the lake District and what the powers that be consider the appropriate balance between preservation of the landscape and provision for those future visitors. While nobody seriously expects there to be facilities on the top of Skiddaw, an outlet village half way up Blencathra or a funicular railway spiralling its way to the top of Catbells, the Lake District must keep up with the times. There are examples all over the world of landscapes being preserved because they are catering for visitors’ thirst for adventure.