Friends of the Lake District

Championing the Landscapes and Communities of Ullswater

By Chris James

Banner Image: Ullswater © Friends of the Lake District

Landscape charity, Friends of the Lake District (FLD), established in 1934, has long sought to protect the unique character of Ullswater in an effort spanning 84 years.

Undergrounding electric cables

One of the Charity’s early actions was in 1937, persuading the Westmorland and District Electricity Company to place 4.5km of overhead line underground from Sandwick Bay to Glenridding. Its campaign for undergrounding continues, with lines near Matterdale recently being undergrounded and the news that funding for work has now been extended by Ofgem beyond 2023 for a further five years providing new opportunities in future.

Ullswater from Askham Fell, photo Ruth Kirk © Friends of the Lake District

Pollution from Greenside Mine

In 1938, there were more underground issues, this time mining, bringing a joint action with the National Trust in 1942 against the pollution of Ullswater by effluent containing lead and large quantities of silt from Greenside Mines.

Taking water from Ullswater

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, FLD campaigned against attempts to take water from Ullswater. Former FLD President Lord Birkett is commemorated for his passionate speech which saw plans for the large-scale abstraction of water from the lake dismissed. Subsequent smaller plans resulted in an Inquiry in 1965 (later agreed) where FLD fought the plans. FLD objected to Drought Orders in 1995/96 to take more water from the lake and in more recent times there has been an agreement from United Utilities never to impose a temporary weir on the lake when water supplies run low.

Ullswater from Roe Head, photo Ruth Kirk © Friends of the Lake District

Motor Boats

Throughout this period, there were increasing problems being caused by motor boats using the lake. The Charity works to secure a beautiful, diverse, locally distinctive, tranquil and environmentally healthy landscape and motor boats were at odds with this. Vocal campaigning eventually led to the Three Lakes Byelaws Inquiry in 1976 where FLD played a key role in securing a speed limit on Ullswater, securing its tranquillity to this day.

Visitor Pressure

The pressure of visitor numbers and the popularity of the Ullswater area in the 1990s necessitated objections from the Charity to caravan site and hotel extensions on the eastern shore of the lake. Proposed extensions to the season threatened to exacerbate traffic generation and curtail the ‘winter rest’ period for both the landscape and communities. These pressures continue today.

Ullswater Winter Mist © Friends of the Lake District

Leadership Training

In recent years, FLD has used the Ullswater area for some of its Leaders Landscape Training Days which provide free training to outdoor walk leaders and guides helping to deepen their understanding of Cumbria’s landscapes and pass on their new-found knowledge to those they work with.

Leaders Landscape Training on Cumbria's Rainforests © Friends of the Lake District

Storm Desmond

In December 2015, Storm Desmond arrived and in 2016 FLD mobilised volunteers for a ‘Fell Care Day’ to lend helping hands to clear up the aftermath. The storm and the response of the communities was captured in ‘Rising’, a film commissioned by the charity to document the aftermath of the storm and the resilience of those affected.

Fell Care Day 2016 - Volunteers repairing wall destroyed by flooding at Cow Bridge, Hartsop © Friends of the Lake District

Support to Patterdale Mountain Rescue

Other positive work, funded through FLD’s Landscape Grant fund has been support for a project to reduce highways signs from Pooley Bridge to Howtown. More recently FLD has held a joint online auction with the Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team to raise funds. As FLD’s history shows, it will continue to play a critical role in championing the landscape and the communities of Ullswater.

by Chris James

© Friends of the Lake District

Other Topics that may interest you


A film commissioned by the Friends of the Lake District to document the aftermath of Storm Desmond and the resilience of those affected

Saving the Lake

The story of Lord Birkett and the Ullswater Preservation Society