Beauty takes its time. In this case, 500 million years. But the result is a landscape of mountains, lakes and tarns that has long since bewitched poets and painters; beguiled walkers, hikers and nature lovers; and inspired the birth of the conservation movement, with the understanding that beautiful landscapes restore the human spirit.
In the 18th century the Lake District was ‘discovered’ by the creative community, particularly the Romantics like Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey – collectively known as ‘the Lake Poets’ – who treated the landscape as a source of sublime inspiration and copper-fastened their conviction that communion with nature could solve all human problems.
But the Lake District is much more than just beautiful lakes and towering peaks. It is a cultural landscape of profound significance – from ancient slate mines to traditional stone walls and old-fashioned farming practices, all of which are still in evidence today. Consistent preservation efforts have ensured that much of the landscape you see today – the stone-walled fields and rugged farm buildings in their spectacular natural backdrop – is as the 18th-century poets would have seen them.
The spread of industrialisation and the beauty of the Lake District inspired 19th century campaigners to protect ‘open spaces,’ which later gave rise to the National Trust and inspired the pioneers of national parks in countries throughout the world.
One of the best-known campaigners for conservation in the Lake District was Beatrix Potter, who lived in the area and bred her own flock of native Herdwick sheep – and her commitment to conservation brought her to be a co-founder of the National Trust.