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Can we fix them? Yes we can....
"Can we go hill-walking at the weekend, I need to do some sketching?" - that was my 18 year old son, Alex last Thursday. Well it's better than "Can you pick me up at 2 a.m. at the weekend I'm going drinking" isn't it? He's doing Art A Level and his theme is 'weathering in the landscape'. So how lucky is he to live on the doorstep of some of the most magical upland landscapes in the UK? (And the world. I'm partisan and proud!)
So, Saturday morning, minus some blooming chilly degrees wind chill and we're marching up Hallin Fell on the East side of Ullswater. Ok, I'll be honest here, he's marching and I'm using the four wheel drive assistance that is my super-energetic, crazy (but oh-so-loveable) boxer dog Zebedee. Well someone's got to hold the lead and it might as well be me on the ascent.
Finally, we're at a little crag near the top. Oh the views! Oh, so worth the effort every time isn't it? Out comes the sketch pad (Alex) and flask (me; mine's a redbush, milk, one sugar thanks). Perching on a forgivingly soft moss seat while I wait for the masterpiece to be produced, my thoughts turn to how much this upland landscape means to me and to the millions of others who visit every year.
Whether it's for adventure, fitness, personal challenge or just for some soulful re-charging, the famous fells of the Lake District offer an amazing array of possibilities for activity, set against a backdrop of utterly breath-taking scenery. And our uplands give us so much more than just an adventure playground. They provide a catchment for our drinking water, a store for carbon, timber for building or burning, a home and habitat for some wondrous wildlife (seen a red squirrel, fleet of foot, fluffy of tail? Caught a glimpse of the magnificent Osprey, tasty fish-snack for the offspring speared on its tallons? You should. You must).
But so many feet in the landscape don't come without a cost and when combined with Lake District weather (also known as rain!) and a steep gradient, our uplands are in serious danger from erosion - the wearing away of vegetation, soil and aggregate. It's not just that it doesn't look so good, eroded paths and fellsides are bad for the ecology of both the uplands and our beautiful lakes.
Back in the office on Monday morning (mine's a redbush, milk, one sugar thanks) I'm all ready and raring to go. It's EOCA voting week! What? - the European Outdoor Conservation Association public vote has opened and there's a reward of 30,000 euros for the project which gets the most votes - social media, let's get to it! Has Facebook and Twitter ever been so beloved!? - Fix the Fells is one of 6 projects in the Alpine category - the only UK project – the best, well of course it is. Fix the Fells is the partnership project which works to repair and maintain our upland paths, keeping them fighting fit for everyone to enjoy today, tomorrow and right into the future. And this is our chance to make a difference and help protect our fragile uplands - from the comfort of our desks and sofas. No wind-chill, no sweating brow, no effort. Just a simple mouse click to help the Lake District landscape.
If you're reading this before 28th March – you have to vote now. Go on, now, click that mouse HERE. Done it? Hurrah! One more vote to help fund the vital repair work of Fix the Fells. One more vote to protect the fragile beauty of our precious mountain landscape.
And if you're reading this after 28th March when voting has closed? If you're an individual, visit fixthefells.co.uk and make a donation or get involved. If you're a business, you can help your guests or customers donate to a place they love through Visitor Giving. You can still make a difference.