We recently received an interesting article and images from one of our members, Peter Knowles. He has written about his personal experience of  zipwire development over the Tara Gorge in Montenegro. Peter, like us, is opposed to 'Thirlmere Activity Hub' planning application and his blog provides an illuminating and sobering insight into the potential impact that zipwire development can have on an area, its character and landscape quality. Many thanks to Peter for taking the time to write to us.

Peter Knowles, Keswick, writes:

"Perhaps it would be helpful to share with members my personal experience of the zip wires that have been built over the Tara Gorge in the new country of Montenegro. This is widely regarded as “Europe’s Grand Canyon” and is part of the Durmitor National Park, which like the Lake District has been selected for UNESCO World Heritage Status. 

"I first visited the Tara Gorge in 2007. It was very much like Thirlmere is now. There was a main road, a high bridge, a single parking lot and a restaurant. Tourists drove up, walked across the bridge, admired the magnificent view, took some photos and maybe had some refreshment. You might call this quiet enjoyment. No doubt a few were inspired to return for a future visit to walk and enjoy the National Park. 

"I returned to the Tara Gorge again in 2016. Sadly, planning controls in the new country of Montenegro had proved to be rather lax.  Four zip wires had been built across the gorge and there were now several car parks, cafes, souvenir shops, etc. The place was buzzing with coaches and car loads of tourists who had driven 3 hours from the coast specifically to do the zip wires. It was noisy with the screech of the pulleys, the delighted screams of the participants and the shouts from their friends – it reminded me of Blackpool Fun Fair when I was a kid.

"I returned again this year in June. It was even busier with lots of cars, coaches, traffic and parking problems.  Another double Zip wire had been built - at over a kilometer long it was claimed to be the longest in Europe.  Our group and myself had a go on this – and yes it was fun and a huge adrenaline buzz! Did it though enhance our experience of this magnificent gorge? Definitely not! Our group all agreed that the development, traffic, people and the noise that accompanied the zip wires ruined our enjoyment of this World Heritage Site. 

"I should mention that I am a friend with Mira who owns the longest zip wire operation. Over a drink I asked him how he was doing and whether it was profitable - “Peter my friend – I have never had it so good – I think you say a cash cow?”

"I don’t think we can blame the Treetop company for trying to get planning permission – the potential profits for them are huge.  However my personal experience and all that we know of Zip wire operations elsewhere (check out the internet) tells us that far from providing a “quality tourist experience” as claimed – I believe that it will do the very opposite and it will damage the future status of the Lake District National Park as a quality tourist destination.  

"Like everyone else who enjoys Thirlmere, I completely agree with the Friends of the Lake District that this is would be a wholly inappropriate development in this location."