It is an odd time in the nations National Parks at the moment, they seem to be confused as to their purpose, their reason for being. It comes at a time when funding is being cut from central government and the political and economic mood of certain ascendant sections of society are for profit.
The latest furore to hit social media is the Thirlmere Zip Wire. People resigning in protest from organisations, business manoeuvring to get their way in the dash for cash. In the Peak District it’s now about false tartan, in plush cafes with cuddly toys on the shelves for the grandparents to buy before they set off back to Sheffield or Derby. Meanwhile the BMC take people out on to the moors at night to educate and illuminate, raise funds for path repairs and generally act as guardians of the park.
Commentators speak about going back to the original reason for the national parks and often quote Sandford in support of one stance or another. One thing that is familiar with the Thirlmere Zip Wire argument is that lots of people speaking against it were never actually born there, but moved there because of its beauty and their own love of the place, they often quote Wordsworth in their argument to keep the Lake District in aspic.
One thing that is striking about the White Peak is how empty the villages are and how many cottages, its always the nice ones, have their doors and windows painted in those pretend national trust colours so favoured by the middle classes. The gentrification of the White Peak is gathering apace, cottages inhabited by retiring oldies who pop off every friday in their Disco’s to shop at Waitrose and come back in their 4×4 laden down with frozen goods to stock up their Wickes kitchens with the granite worktops. Apart from the chintzy names that now adorn the cottages another sign to be seen is the country holiday let. A small plastic holder with leaflets or tiny cards giving the contact details of the owner should you want to book. It usually accompanies an old milk churn, or scythe, something that can add “authenticity” to the “look”. Walk through any village now and you can count on more than one hand the number of such dwellings.
These ghost villages once provided housing and work for young people, who had families and kept things alive. Now the villages are bereft of life, part of a landscape that is now a set in a giant government funded theme park. The locals forced out by low wages and high house prices and no employment. The national park seems to be a landscape that is dying, killed by the very people who profess to be its protectors. It’s now just a photo opportunity and a means to make money.
Perhaps we need to go back to Wordsworth, often quoted in any Lake District battle to preserve what people want as the status quo.
When responding to the proposal to build a railway to Windermere to bring tourists to view the wonderful landscape and bring in much needed revenue for the local economy he said, and I paraphrase, that members of the working class would be unable to appreciate the beauty and character that the area had to offer and concludes that bringing so many travellers in would destroy the landscape.
He may just have been correct.