Fix the Fells– Lake District Mountain Conservation

by The National Trust in Ambleside, England, United Kingdom

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Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 31st March 2025 at 12:00pm

Our mission is to protect our spectacular Lakeland fells. We repair landscape erosion through upland path work and protect fragile habitats.

by The National Trust in Ambleside, England, United Kingdom

Who are we, and what do we do?

 The Lake District National Park is visited by over 15.8m people each year. All these feet, combined with increasingly extreme rainfall events, driven by climate change, create damaging erosion of upland paths, leaving great scars across the landscape. Vegetation is trampled away, and exposed soil is washed down into rivers and lakes, scouring out paths making them hard to use, releasing carbon, and polluting the waterways. All this badly affects this fragile habitat and impacts on the visitor experience. 

 Fix the Fells, is an award winning partnership of five organisations hosted by the National Trust. Together, we work to prevent and repair the erosion of upland footpaths to ensure this UNESCO World Heritage site remains a special place for generations to come. 

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 Before Fix the Fells started work, some of the erosion scars and gullies were over 90 feet wide and 10 feet deep (see Caudale Hause, above). Using a combination of traditional and 21st century techniques, such as stone pitching and helicopter stone lifts, teams of skilled National Trust rangers, together with enthusiastic volunteers, work across the Lakes in all weathers to repair the damage caused by this erosion. They blend paths into the landscape, repair and protect sensitive habitats and maintain paths to secure them against future erosion and damage. 

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Silver How, Grasmere – Before (2004) and After (2019) work by Fix the Fells

What does Fix the Fells deliver?

Fix the Fells delivers multiple benefits. We:

  • Protect the internationally famous World Heritage landscape
  • Protect delicate  upland habitats, including in areas of National importance (Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and of European importance (Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
  • Lock carbon in the soil, by repairing exposed and damaged soil and peat
  • Reduce sedimentation and eutrophication in the rivers and lakes from material washed away from exposed soil
  • Revegetate damaged plant habitats alongside paths, where use has damaged or killed off the fragile upland plant-life
  • Improve the health of upland habitats through all three of the above
  • Create a sympathetic and durable surface for path users, which enables them to stay on the path and protects the surrounding plants, soils and peat from future damage
  • Facilitate access to the fells in a sustainable way so people can better enjoy the benefits of being out in nature
  • Help to ensure the future sustainability of the Lake District as an iconic tourism destination worth over £2bn to the local economy
  • Secure and develop craftmanship skills to enable this to continue into the future.

  With your support, we will:

  • Enhance to up 7km of eroded paths, including renewal of eroded surfaces, with suitable techniques hand-picked and implemented to suit each path, and path definition to keep path users on a single, sustainable line
  • Enable the recovery of up to 8.5ha of priority habitats adjacent to the restored footpaths, protecting and enhancing these habitats by preventing future erosion, run-off, and trampling
  • Enhance public engagement with nature and access.
  • Improve protection of a landscape of international importance (a National Park and World Heritage Site) from unsightly erosion scars, 
  • Preserve and further develop the upland path work craftmanship skills of Rangers 
  • Support our Rangers to innovate in upland path work techniques, to respond to the ever-changing trends in visitor numbers to the fells, climate crisis and upland ecology in ways which continue to evolve best practise in this changing environment
  • Equip c. 130 volunteers with training, equipment, and covering operating costs to enable them to provide long term maintenance of path enhancements.

This contributes to many local and national strategies, including:

  • National 25 Year Environment Plan and Environmental Improvement Plan,  including ‘30x30’, protecting 30% of land for nature and improving adaptation to climate change
  • UK Government’s 2030 Strategic Framework for International Climate and Nature Action
  • Natural England’s Green Infrastructure guide and Site Improvement Plan for the Lake District High Fells
  • Lake District National Park Partnership and World Heritage Site Management Plan – including the vision for an inspirational example of sustainable development in action – with a world class visitor experience and spectacular landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage
  • Cumbria Local Nature Partnership’s Vision and Framework for Future Action 
  • Cumbria Tourism’s Strategy, championing sustainable tourism.

What are we seeking funding for?

 a) Fund our skilled rangers

Fix the Fells employs four teams of rangers, spread across the compass points of the Lakes.  Each team (4 rangers per team) prioritises paths for repairs in their area of the Lakes, based on regular surveys.  Teams work with input from Natural England to develop a programme of path repairs for each coming year. This ensures areas of path erosion posing the biggest risks to important habitats are prioritised. Work on paths takes place each year during the good weather window between April and October.

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We expect to work on up to 7km of paths in a year across the Lakes.  However, plans can change overnight if the Lake District weather throws its worst at us. In this case, the flexible nature of the teams means that we can quickly change focus to concentrate on the new priorities, helping prevent them from becoming major problems.

 We are seeking funding for three of the four teams of rangers to support them to carry out the programme of work planned for 2024 and beyond.  Each ranger team costs us £120,000 per year.

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 b) Fund our Volunteer Engagement Programme

Volunteers are crucial to the delivery of the Fix the Fells mission.  Our 130 volunteers deliver over 2,500 hours of activity each year, valued at around £250,000 and equivalent to nearly 50% of the Fix the Fells annual budget again.  They support our Ranger teams, by carrying out regular monitoring and up-keep to paths, making timely small repairs and keeping drains clear to divert damaging water off the paths.  They are supported by a dedicated Ranger, separate to our four Ranger teams, whose role is to facilitate, train and coordinate volunteer activity.

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 We are seeking funding to support the costs of our volunteer engagement programme – namely our dedicated Ranger and to cover volunteer expenses.  Funding of £75,000 would leverage around £257,000 value of volunteer activity across a year.

 Fix the Fells offers excellent opportunities for corporate volunteering for example, path maintenance work in stunning locations and we’d be delighted to facilitate this for you as part of your support for Fix the Fells.

 Funding and Costs

Fix the Fells received European Regional Development Fund funding between 2018-2023, which allowed us to maintain four teams across the Lakes and deliver a substantial and highly successful programme of path repairs.

 We are now looking for secure funding to enable us to continue this vital work into the future, for landscape, climate, nature and people.

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 Hole in the Wall, Grisedale (1993 and 2023)

We have an existing fundraising programme which supports elements of the programme not supported by Projects for Nature (P4N).  For example, we have recently been awarded Shared Prosperity Funding to support one of our ranger teams to work on high priority paths in their area, and we will also be receiving funding to work on the new Coast to Coast National Trail.  This will be funded outside P4N. In addition, we have received funding from companies such as Montane, Cotswold Outdoors and Starling Bank.

 Funding from P4N is of critical importance to enable us to deliver our critical work for climate, nature and people, across the Lakes for 2024 and into the future. The work of Fix the Fells has never been needed more and is never fully done.

 Our running costs are over £550,000 per year. We receive approximately £100,000/year from donations and local charities, together with grants.   In addition, we have secured funding for 2024 from the Shared Prosperity Fund and for our work on the Coast to Coast path.

 We’re seeking up to £300,000 to make up our shortfall.   Here are some examples of what your support could do:

  •  £30,000 could fund an individual ranger team member for a year,
  • £75,000 could fund our dedicated volunteer support ranger and related volunteer expenses for a year,
  • £120,000 could fund a ranger team of four for a year.

Thank you, from the Fix the Fells team!

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