Good news! England's highest mountain — Scafell Pike in the Lake District — will get new footpaths after visitor numbers and extreme weather led to increased erosion.
The prominent mountain, which has an elevation of 978 metres above sea level, is cared for by the National Trust and climbed by more than 250,000 people every year. With lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, it's expected more visitors than ever before will slip on their hiking boots and tackle the famous ascent.
Despite drawing in a steady crowd of ramblers, the pressure of thousands of boots and the Cumbrian weather is leading to rapid erosion of paths, which is now an annual maintenance challenge. As well as preventing further erosion, it's hoped the repair works will also protect the mountain's fragile upland habitat and rare plants.
Work will commence this week, with projects including replacing worn stone, installing drains to help prevent weather erosion, and addressing gullying and degradation caused by heavy use.
"It is wonderful that so many people are enjoying Scafell Pike and the surrounding peaks each year. Now more than ever, we're seeing more people reaping the benefits that spending time in nature can bring," Joanne Backshall, Fix the Fells Programme Manager, says.
"Although the mountains will be here forever, they need ongoing care. With so many people using this route up Scafell Pike, human-related erosion is spiralling out of control and having a devastating effect on wildlife and habitats.
"The work we are doing to maintain and repair eroded footpaths on Scafell Pike is critically necessary to protect this iconic mountain, its environmentally sensitive habitats and this world-renowned scenic landscape, so that people can continue to enjoy this classic ascent and the natural beauty of the Lakes for years to come."
Liam Prior, the National Trust's area ranger for Wasdale, adds: "The work to repair the paths on Scafell Pike is a huge but essential undertaking, requiring the team to work in some challenging conditions.
"Scafell Pike is home to a unique ecosystem of rare upland plants and soils that are particularly thin and fragile. These soils accumulate slowly over hundreds of years so damage from even one stray footprint can take centuries to recover, if at all."
We're looking forward to a weekend walk here again soon.
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