The Lake District is a great many things to a great many people. Over time it has been the source of slate and coal, of strong wood for building, of swathes of farmland used to graze cattle. For creative types it’s provided endless inspiration for paintings, prose and poetry – acting as a muse to allow vivid images to spill onto canvas, for inspiring words to trickle out of the mouths of women and men overcome by the beauty before them and commit them to paper. And for the energetic, it is has set the scene for a multitude of climbing routes, hill-walks, scrambling escapades, mountain biking, swimming and even skiing.

Image: View of Thirlmere by Sophie Hodge

For me as an adventurer – someone who makes a living by encouraging others to realise that they can have adventures (and that’s real adventures) close to home, that are every bit as rewarding and exciting as those found overseas – it has set the scene for some of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Here I’ve slept out on summits, camped in caves, gazed up at the stars, had close encounters with wildlife, foraged for food and followed in the footsteps of some of mountaineering’s most famous legends. I’ve run down scree slopes, felt the grip of ice beneath my crampons on a cold winters morning and teetered on some of the finest ridges found anywhere in the country.

But, more than that, I have also had many moments of solitude where it is just me and the fells. Moments when I have been able to simply sit and appreciate just how wonderful our world is and how very small a part I play in a much bigger picture. I’ve seen sunsets and felt the purple glow of a sunrise melt the hoarfrost on my tent. I’ve stood in awe above the clouds watching an inversion float beneath my feet. I’ve realised that I can set myself a challenge – be it climbing my first peak, camping out in freezing conditions, or leading my first walk – and succeed, which has translated to a boost in confidence and huge successes in my career off the fells.

Image: View of Borrowdale by Andrew Locking

To experience any and all of these things did not require me leaving anything behind on Lakeland’s beautiful landscape other than a footprint in the snow of the soft imprint of my tent in the grass.

As someone who works in the travel industry, every week I receive a press release about a new zipwire that claims to be the longest, the highest or the fastest. And every week I relegate it straight to the bin. It’s not innovative, it’s not new and it’s not clever. Which is why I was so shocked to see this National Park seemingly embracing the idea.

The Lake District does not need to litter the hills with ‘adventure apparatus’ when it already has all the tools we need to entice new visitors to it – young and old – if only we show them the way. When I speak in schools and show them images of me out on my adventures – the Lake District features in all 8 of my books on the UK – they are always, without fail, captivated by how you can experience so much, with so very little.

And that’s the trick. To demonstrate to everyone that we don’t need fly-by-night gimmicks that will soon be out of fashion in order to bring people here. For we have all we need already. Any good National Park should know that.

As someone who was first introduced to the Lakes as a child by Arthur Ransome in his fantastical story Swallows and Amazons, it seems fitting to paraphrase him now. We need to remember that “the hills had been there before and they would be there for ever. And that, somehow is comforting.” Let’s not destroy the very great assets that have been here long before us all and will remain long after we’ve gone.

Image: View of Wasdale by Andrew Locking

Instead let’s be ground-breaking by showing the rest of the UK’s National Parks the way – championing the excitement and exhilaration already on offer for those who take the time to find it.

Phoebe Smith -

  • Award-winning Travel, Adventure and Outdoor Journalist
  • Extreme Sleeping, Wild Camping Adventurer
  • Editor of Wanderlust Travel Magazine