England’s highest mountain has been a constant headache for its custodians, the National Trust and Fix the Fells, as ever-increasing numbers seek to top England’s highest summit. Yet a poignant anniversary has highlighted the continuing need for large-scale projects to repair and revamp its slopes and pathways.
Last week (19 July) marked a sobering but important date. A century ago, on Peace Day 1919, Lord Leconfield gave the summit of Scafell Pike to the nation, as a memorial to those who had died fighting ‘the Great War’. It seems unlikely that he or anyone else could have predicted that one hundred years later, 100,000 people a year would visit the summit of Scafell Pike, to glory in England’s tallest mountain.
Though the memory of two World Wars lives on, the majority of pleasure-seeking walkers and hikers today probably have no idea that they are stepping onto what has been called ‘the world’s greatest war memorial’.
100,000 pairs of boots a year make a big impact, and the state of the paths on Scafell Pike has long been a cause of concern for Fix the Fells, the partnership organisation set up by the National Trust and others to maintain and protect the Lake District’s ever-popular path network. Since the 1980s, some level of work on Scafell Pike has been required every year, and the rate of use and erosion has only accelerated.
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Nowadays a team of four rangers ostensibly covers the Wasdale and Eskdale area, but in reality their primary area of work is invariably Scafell Pike. An annual helilift brings in stone for repairs (a measure that is unique to the situation on Scafell Pike) and the work is near-constant. Nowhere else in the UK, except perhaps on Snowdon, are such challenging conditions present when balancing the need to conserve the natural environment with accessibility to the public.
That balance is only achievable with substantial levels of investment, and the upkeep of England’s highest mountain was a big priority within the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign. £100,000 for 100,000 walkers and 100 years - it seemed appropriate! The money that thousands of donors provided was boosted by substantial sums from Smartwool (via the European Outdoor Conservation Association) and HF Holidays Pathways Fund.
When combined with generous contributions to Fix the Fells, we were able to hit the £100,000 target earlier this year, and this money has already been put to good use as part of the rolling programs of works.
Find out more
To find out more about the work, check out Fix the Fells and if you are impressed by what Mend Our Mountains achieved and want to keep supporting this work, do consider donating to the BMC’s charity, the Access and Conservation Trust, to help us make projects like this possible in the future.
We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.
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