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Campaigners are ‘euphoric’ at the announcement that the Lake District has joined just over 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites worldwide.

The announcement was made at the organisation’s 41st meeting in Krakow, Poland, and the breaking news has been welcomed by campaigners. The campaign was led by the Lake District National Park Authority and 25 partnership organisations in the area. They submitted their bid in 2016.

World Heritage Sites include iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Taj Mahal, Grand Canyon and Stonehenge. The Lake District joins 30 other UK World Heritage sites – and is now the largest. It’s the fifth recognised as a cultural landscape.

John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “The Lake District is one of the UK’s most stunning and ancient landscapes and I am thrilled it has been granted World Heritage Site status. It is a unique part of the world, that combines a vibrant farming community with thousands of archaeological sites and structures that give us an amazing glimpse into our past.”

Lake District National Park, Chief Executive, Richard Leafe

Lake District National Park Chief Executive, Richard Leafe

Richard Leafe, the Lake District National Park Chief Executive, said there was much excitement over today’s news. “The Lake District is an evolving landscape that has changed over time and will continue to do so. Improving landscape biodiversity and looking after our cultural heritage underpin the Partnership’s management plan which sets out how, together, we will look after the National Park as a World Heritage Site for everyone to enjoy.”

It’s hoped that the Lake District’s new status will boost the prestige of the area internationally, boosting tourism, local businesses and communities.

In 2015, the UK national commission for UNESCO conducted research concluding that the UK’s World Heritage Sites generated roughly £85m from April 2014 to March 2015 due to their association with UNESCO.

A spokesman said that locals and visitors across the Lake District are being invited to celebrate the announcement by coming together for a ‘picnic in the park’ on the weekend of 15th and 16th of July – take a trip to your favourite picnic spot, café, fell or lakeside view in the National Park and tweet photos using the hashtag #WeAreTheLakes.

National Trust Assistant Director for the Lake District, Mike Innerdale, said: “We are delighted that World Heritage Site status recognises the Lakes as the spiritual home of the Trust and our work to look after it over the last 120 years. The status also celebrates the ever-evolving relationship between people and nature.”

Ullswater by Andrew Locking

Ullswater © Andrew Locking

About the campaign

The campaign website, Lake District World Heritage Bid, has been central to the process. Altogether, 14,113 people backed the bid.

The bid was formed around three key themes: identity, inspiration, and conservation.

  • Identity: the acknowledged beauty of the Lake District is the result of thousands of years of industry and agricultural development of the spectacular natural landscape of mountains, valleys, lakes and woodland. It is a cultural landscape of international significance.
  • Inspiration: the beauty of the Lake District inspired artists and writers of the Picturesque and Romantic movements and generated ideas about landscape that have had global influence.
  • Conservation: the Lake District has been enjoyed and valued by visitors for 250 years. Concern to protect it was the inspiration for the birth of the conservation movement, including the National Trust and protected areas including UK National Parks.

In celebration of the Lake District’s new status, the National Park will host a free cultural festival from the 8th-10th of September with the theme of ‘cultural landscapes’. Lakes Alive is ‘a weekend of spectacular happenings in unexpected locations in and around Kendal and the wider Lake District National Park’.

Main photo of Buttermere © Andrew Locking