Perspective: Young Person.

Amy Bray – 16 Years Old: Founder of Charity Another-Way

“What makes the Lake District a World Class Attraction?”

There is nowhere else quite like the Lake District. Nowhere can I lose myself better; nowhere with that distinct woodland with its mossy branches, damp patches of wood sorrel and stone walls created by man, reclaimed by nature.

Looking out the window every day, the landscape never looks the same as before. One morning the craggy silhouettes of the mountains are shrouded in misty cloud, its edges softened by the rising sun and the next, the blue sky is as pure as azure and the fells glimmer with dappled greens and browns, at once both new-born and ancient. There is always more that this global treasure has to offer, always another magical surprise to discover. There is nowhere that feels more like home.

The Lake District has shaped me. Since I could walk, I delighted in being tested on the names of passing mountains, or fishing for tiddlers in the shallows. I would sit at school craving to be outside in the mountains, with no roof over my head but the clouds. I would place a little stone on the cairn of every mountain I ‘conquered’ and relish days rambling about on the fells. Even returning from a trip and getting out the car to breathe in the fresh mountain air made my mind buzz with satisfaction. Most of all, I felt a magnetic pull to the water.

The water cures me. The water exhilarates me. Pulled into its icy depths I am restored. I cannot see water without itching to be submerged; this has almost certainly led to the view of strangers that I must be mad, as they see me trekking up a mountain in the howling wind and driving rain with the idea of going for a dip, or stroking through Ullswater while gales whip up white horses across its turbulent surface and even the steamers have been cancelled. They perhaps have never felt the freedom that strips back everything superfluous and leaves only the primal instinct of being alive. Only in the freezing water are your senses reawakened from everyday slumber and your mind crystal clear as the lake around you. Only then am I not a visitor to this place, I am a part of it.

I delight in discovering the treasure troves of nature that the Lake District is so full of; whether it’s a glistening pool, glinting like silver through the trees and falling to infinity below, a tarn full of fish and weed nestled in a mountainside or a woody hollow, where woodpeckers and red squirrels hunt for food. It is finding these places that makes me fall in love with the Lakes over and over again.

This place has something for everyone. For years, the masters of art have been inspired by  the fells and the songs of their lives and love echo through the valleys to those who listen. A place so rich in culture contrasts with its pockets of secluded paradise in a way I have never seen anywhere else. History, adventure, art, food, exploration, nature are all seamlessly sewn into one tapestry for everyone to enjoy. That is, perhaps, why so many people find themselves drawn here. Whether you are fancying a walking holiday, a break from the city or a cultural trip of indulgence (or even revising for your GCSEs sitting on rocks in the middle of rivers as I did last year), the Lake District never disappoints.

And then of course there is how the Lake District led me to another way.

When I was younger- I was climbing Steel Fell at the time- I decided that life was like climbing my beloved mountains. I would only place a foot down if it was going to get me one step further, one step higher or one step closer to being who I wanted to be. Sometimes I had to take a step out onto a scree slope or onto a narrow ledge but if I had enough faith in myself, that step would take me closer to where I wanted to be. Of course, the journey was to be enjoyed too but we all have a vision and for me that summit was my drive forward. In life, my summit is Another Way. This summit is off the beaten tracks, just like those cairns at the top of the fells. You see, my love affair with the Lakes grew into a passion for our natural world, very early on. For as long as I remember, I have wanted to be a marine biologist and research all the creatures I am so fascinated by. Then I learned about the damage we are causing our planet and realised that when I grew up, there would no longer be anything left for me to study. I was heartbroken. From then on, I found where my summit lay. I had to do everything I possibly could to conserve our beautiful earth - the home I adore so much.

Looking out the window at the fells, it is hard to imagine how anything will affect them. It is hard to imagine a world in which forests will no longer be full of vibrant insects, noise and birds or fields void of diversity. But I know that the world is at a tipping point, humanity is at a tipping point, and it will not be long before the unimaginable is true. I am only 16. When the 11 years have passed that scientists have given us before climate breakdown I will be 27. It feels like I have a timer on my future. I want to enjoy the Lakes in decades to come. I want my children to be able to enjoy nature as I have done. Yet this will not be the case unless we find another way, fast.

I am now founder of conservation charity, Another Way. I deliver awareness sessions in schools and community groups around Cumbria and beyond and have collected pledges of behavioural change from over 800 people. Another Way is working with famers in Matterdale to trial a nature friendly farming project, restoring the valley back to its original state of healthy ecology alongside agriculture. On 31st August, hundreds of ambassadors, supporters, organisations and celebrities will be summiting all 214 Wainwright mountains in support of Another Way and its message - we all need to take the future into our own hands and live our lives in the most sustainable manner we can, as a united community of change.

This event is so exciting, as it is bringing together individuals and organisations fighting for the same cause in different ways who rarely come together in one event. It is going to be a potent symbol of care for our environment, and for me it is going to be a personal summit, celebrating my lifelong adoration of the Lake District, my vision and work in conservation and the people who have helped me along the way.

Of course, our ecological crisis is a global problem which requires a global response. However, I could not think of a better place to start than the Lake District, perhaps because for me, this is where it all began. In the undulating hills, the tumbling becks and the secluded woodland I found Another Way. I shall journey towards it with all my heart for the rest of my days.

You can find out more about Amy’s work and Another Way on www.another-way.org.uk, and also sign up to climb a fell on the 31st August. Amy can be contacted to run awareness sessions, talks or activities or otherwise on [email protected]