Today the Thirlmere Valley and its lake lie serene, nestled between the central fells and the Helvellyn range and offers its streams, woodlands and rugged fellsides to the deer, squirrels and the sheep, not to mention the many visitors who gain so much solace from this treasure of landscape.
Thirlmere became a reservoir to deliver clean water to the city of Manchester in 1894 and was the subject of a public war of words which spawned the public environmental movement ‘Dawn of Greens’. With its quiet, wooded shoreline, clear waters and conifer clad hillsides Thirlmere is one of the most unassumingly beautiful places you can visit in the English Lake District.
Amidst this picture of peace and tranquility, a raging storm of commercial force is brewing that threatens not just this beautiful valley but the landscapes of the Lake District at large. Within weeks of the Lake District National Park being declared a World Heritage Site a project was announced to place eight wires across the midpoint of Thirlmere to create a thrill seeking, zip wire experience. The project is supported by bodies such as Cumbria Tourism, Cumbria Chamber of Trade and United Utilities have also backed the bid with their resources. These organisations see the potential to increase visitor numbers and hence income for the Cumbrian tourist economy. The plan envisages large influxes of people into the valley – 127,000 by year two, and also changes in the landscape despite the modest infrastructure that exists in the valley.
The decision whether to allow this scheme rests with the Lake District National Park Authority and will take place on 7 March 2018. However, there has been a surge of opposition to the scheme with many people writing letters and emails expressing concern for the area and opposing the plan. A rally took place last weekend and an online petition called ZIP OFF (zipoff.org) currently standing at 13,535 signatures appears on Facebook. The issue has attracted media coverage locally and nationally and has been condemned by the House of Lords.
The Friends of the Lake District view the decision as a litmus test for how this National Park is shaped in the future. Given its reputation, protection and Heritage status no one wishes the Lake Districts's traditional cultural and economic life to stagnate. Equally, the landscapes of the Lake District which are enjoyed by locals and millions of visitors each year are some the most coveted assets that we have in the United Kingdom and should remain so for years to come. Please visit zipoff.org for further information and updates.