In a talk given at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, Ian Brodie explored the origins of the term and our modern interpretation of what is understood by ‘natural beauty’. This extract focusses on the current understanding of the term but the full transcript of his talk, the historical background to the term with particular reference to William and Dorothy Wordsworth is available here: 

Notes of Ian Brodie – JUNE 2019 – Dove Cottage, Grasmere 

“There was an element to emerge from the campaign to stop the creation of the Thirlmere reservoir which underpinned all future considerations of national parks; again it was a unique piece of British conceptualism in the use of a highly charged term ‘natural beauty’ as an appropriate presentation to describe our finest landscapes. The first written use of this specific phrase appears to be the petition to parliament (House of Commons Committee) in 1878 by the Thirlmere Defence Association (the TDA) when opposing Manchester’s Bill. The term appears to have become established at this time and became enshrined in the 1949 Act establishing national parks, and is still part of our current vocabulary for designated landscapes. 

“National Parks and the other nationally designated landscapes, for example Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, have been given statutory protection primarily for their natural beauty. The cynic will argue that no landscape in the United Kingdom is natural, it has been altered and affected by the economic and food requirements of the human population over millennia. 

“Natural beauty is not, as many people today assume, used to describe untamed, self-willed landscapes in a way other nations define their national parks. Some of our natural beauty does relate to landscapes and habitats where through geology or geomorphology and climate or where the works of people have had a relatively minor impact on the landscape. It includes privately owned land where farming and woodlands and sometimes industrial activities have been instrumental in defining the surface appearance of the land over millennia. However, and this is what is crucial to our use of the word natural and to the understanding of the landscape conservation movement, most of the works which affected the landscape had been gradual and cumulative over a long-period of time.  

“The English concept of natural beauty, for designated landscapes and nature conservation, is more about accommodating beauty within the everyday lives of people with the consent of people, a concept which other countries are now finding attractive for their designated areas. Such a concept can only be successful if consent is given with clear understandings of the values and benefits that are intrinsic to the phrase. The theory is, however, often better than the delivery and the lack of consideration for landscape aesthetics is as much due to greedy developers as it is of the landscape preservationist who has forgotten to explain the values of ‘living with’ rather than in ‘conquering’ nature and natural beauty. The needs of less intensively used landscapes for the re-creation, inspiration and spirituality of the nation is perhaps greater today than at any time in our history yet it is the minor consideration of governments and of people who have become unnaturally divorced from landscapes of beauty”. 

As part of his talk focussed on the historical use of species ion the county and the concept of native and non-native species. We thought that members might be interesting in seeing a list of native trees for Cumbria complied by Ian who states that, 

“It is not intended to be prescriptive, it is my attempt to try and provide a guide to those species of woody perennials which are native to Cumbria and which could be used in future planting schemes. The list is largely based on The Flora of Cumbria by Geoffrey Holliday. The omission of any species should infer that it is not regarded as native in the county”. 

Native Trees for Cumbria 




Scot’s Pine (It is also my view that Scot’s Pine should be included as it is strongly present in the pollen record, there are a few veteran trees in the county and it is an important food source for Red Squirrel)


  • Wych elm
  • Sessile oak
  • Pendunculate oak
  • Silver birch
  • Downy birch
  • Alder
  • Hazel
  • Small-leaved lime
  • Aspen
  • Black popular
  • Field maple
  • Bay willow
  • Crack willow
  • White willow
  • Almond willow
  • Purple willow
  • Osier
  • Goat willow
  • Common sallow/Grey willow
  • Eared willow
  • Dark-leaved willow
  • Tea-leaved willow
  • Downy willow
  • Dwarf/Least willow
  • Field rose
  • Burnet rose
  • Dog rose
  • a rose
  • Sweet briar
  • Blackthorn
  • Gean/Wild cherry
  • Bird cherry
  • Crab apple        
  • Rowan 
  • Wild service tree
  • Common whitebeam
  • Knowledge of locally important Sorbus species e.g Lancastrian whitebeam is vital.
  • Hawthorn
  • Midland hawthorn, rare in Cumbria, has been omitted.
  • Petty whin
  • Gorse
  • Western gorse
  • Dwarf gorse
  • Dogwood
  • Spindle
  • Holly
  • Buckthorn
  • Alder buckthorn
  • Field maple       
  • Ash       
  • Wild privet
  • Elder
  • Guelder rose
  • Mezereon
  • Spurge laurel