Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, is an iconic and much-loved mountain with a poignant anniversary this year - it was gifted to the National Trust 100 years ago after the end of the First World War, making it a special summit on which to remember fallen heroes. The sheer numbers of visitors, along with severe weather events, are now causing massive erosion problems. As the path grows wider, soil washes away and the fragile mountain habitat is damaged. Here's how you can help.
Work on Scafell Pike and other Lake District mountains has been ongoing since the devastating floods in 2015. Keeping the Lake District’s paths in good shape falls to footpath repair partnership Fix the Fells, who rely entirely on grants and donations. The money raised in this Mend our Mountains campaign will be used to stone-pitch new sections of various paths (e.g. Brown Tongue and Hollow Stones routes) on the way to the top of Scafell Pike, where the summit cairn will also be rebuilt.
The work will not only improve the quality of the path and the ease of access on Scafell Pike, it will also have a positive conservation and ecological impact, ensuring proper drainage and protecting vital ecosystems and habitats nearby. If we can raise the money needed, the path and its users will benefit for generations to come. That's why we are raising funds for its repair through Mend Our Mountains (donate to the effort via Crowdfunder).
In the latest of our series on getting to know the people who care for our National Parks, Sarah Stirling talks to Sarah Swindley, Director of the Lake District Foundation.
Sarah Stirling: Were you born here, or when did you move, and what do you find special about the region?
Sarah Swindley: I was born in Lancashire – not so far away geographically but it can feel like a world away. I spent many weekends in the Lake District walking, sailing and swimming as a child and then with my own children. My dream was to be one of the children in Swallows and Amazons and my sons definitely share that ambition! We moved further north to the fringes of the National Park two years ago.
What particular conservation challenges does the region face?
We have the same challenges that many areas faces in relation to climate change and the very real impacts of extreme weather events coupled with natural erosion. We also have a delicate balancing act to achieve, ensuring that our 19 million annual visitors can enjoy and appreciate the area while visiting in a sustainable way.
What is needed in terms of restoration and conservation?
Upland footpath repair is an ongoing priority and we are a member of the Fix the Fells Partnership who lead on this work. 200 paths have already been repaired by Fix the Fells and another 260 need work.
Other projects for us include working with the Local Nature Partnership to improve biodiversity and wildlife habitats and looking at how we support the cultural heritage of this complex area. The Lake District is a relatively small space but it has a rich and layered history – including of course an iconic climbing heritage.
Why did you decide to work for the Lake District Foundation?
My friends say I have the best charity leadership job in the country and I would tend to agree! Who wouldn’t want to work here? I have worked in the voluntary sector for most of my career and the challenge of setting up a new charity in the Lake District was irresistible. I am loving the challenge of delivering what we were set up to do plus the opportunity to grow a new team with huge potential to connect people with the future of the area.
What does your job entail?
Running a small charity is definitely varied and fun. It's also all hands on deck! I spend a lot of time working with partners to understand need and making sure the money that we give away in the form of grants goes to the places with the greatest impact. We are developing new ways to generate income to support the work needed in the area so I have the luxury of time to plan and explore how best to do this. I do quite a bit of public speaking and try to get out and about as much as possible. Lots of my meetings are on a hill-side or a footpath which is always great for creative thinking! Charites are also small businesses and I have the usual jobs of HR, staff management and making sure we grow in a way that increases our impact plus keeps us within budget.
WATCH Mend the Lake District:
What would you say to anyone considering working in your industry?
The charity sector generally has some amazing career opportunities and I am personally passionate about us attracting young people and talent, encouraging people to see it as a career path. The conservation and environment sector is full of extremely passionate people who are highly educated with in-depth knowledge of specific areas. We also need people with good generalist skills in management and leadership. The sector is a key part of civil society and in all areas of life, but sometimes poorly understood.
Are you a hillwalker yourself?
I do walk in the hills but I'm not sure I would call myself a hill walker? I have raised two mountain mad sons and they would laugh if I called myself that. My real love is water and my favourite place to be is in the middle of Wastwater, looking up at the Scafell Massif and the Screes. My idea of heaven!
The Mend our Mountains appeal, which is generously supported by headline sponsors Cotswold Outdoor and Snow+Rock, is on track for its £1 million target with eight months still to go. So what can you do to get involved? From organising your own fundraising challenge (check out BMC member Richard Duckworth’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ challenge to walk all the projects supported by the appeal here) to donating money or buying something like a box of Clif bars, there are plenty of big and small ways you can do your bit, depending on how much time you have! You can either donate specifically to one National Park or generally to the greater cause.
Check out the Mend our Mountains website for more details of the campaigns currently going on in our other National Parks and how you can help.
For more information on the Lake District Foundation: www.lakedistrictfoundation.org
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million is a BMC campaign to raise £1 million to repair paths across the UK's 15 National Parks.
If you love the outdoors, we're asking you to support your favourite mountain by donating to Mend Our Mountains. You can donate online here.
WATCH: Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million