Work is underway to repair paths and prevent damage to the landscape on one of the Lake District’s most popular walking routes at Scafell Pike.
As England’s highest mountain at 978 metres and World War I memorial, it is cared for by the National Trust and climbed by more than 250,000 people every year.
With more people enjoying spending time in nature and the easing of lockdown restrictions expected to lead to a rise in visitors to the Lake District over the coming months, it is anticipated that more visitors than ever will tackle the famous ascent in 2021.
The pressure of hundreds of thousands of boots and the Cumbrian weather is leading to rapid erosion of paths, which is now an annual maintenance challenge for the conservation charity.
Fix the Fells, a partnership between the National Trust and four other organisations which care for the paths in the Lake District, are this week recommencing work to repair worn sections of path on one of the most popular routes to Scafell Pike’s summit from Wasdale Head.
It is hoped the work will prevent further erosion in the landscape and protect the mountain’s fragile upland habit and the rare plants its supports.
Fix the Fells Programme Manager Joanne Backshall said:
By repairing and creating more resilient paths better capable of managing increasing visitor numbers to the Lake District fells, Fix the Fells aims to reduce soil, gravel, stone and peat degradation in upland areas which results in the loss of rare upland habitats and species decline, as well as having an impact on rivers and lakes below as sediment is washed off fellsides.
The current six month repair project, which has just started on Scafell Pike, will concentrate on five sections of path totalling 1km in length and will see repairs and maintenance carried out from the valley bottom up to the summit top.
Work will include addressing gullying and degradation caused by heavy use, replacing worn stone pitching with new, installing drains to help prevent weather erosion and defining paths to limit path spread and damage to the thin, upland soils surrounding the peak.
Most of the work will be carried out by hand by a team of five rangers, using materials found on the mountain where possible, while 230 bags of stone will be lifted onto the mountain by helicopter for repairs.
For a stretch of path between Hollowstones to Lingmell Col, a 360 degree excavator will be used to rework a significantly eroded aggregate surface.
The excavator will be used to ‘sub-soil’ 250m of path to create a resilient surface in this very high and remote location, ensuring the work is completed faster and more efficiently than by hand, allowing the area to recover more quickly.
The excavator will be flown onto the fellside in pieces and reassembled by specialist contractors.
Below this, rangers will tackle an increasing erosion scar by realigning and pitching the path, with landscaping to deter path spread.
Liam Prior, the National Trust’s area ranger for Wasdale said:
With the recent relaunch of the Countryside Code reminding walkers to stick to the paths to help protect crops and wildlife, Fix the Fells are hoping visitors will help prevent further erosion from blighting the Lakeland landscape.
The Fix the Fells partnership, which includes the National Trust, has been repairing paths in the Lake District for the past 20 years, raising £500,000 each year to go towards fixing and maintaining 400 miles of paths across the UNESCO world heritage site.