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by Andy Mac
Getting into the Lake District is a real feat of endeavour these days. You exit the M6 at Penrith, turn left on to the A66, pass the Burger King on your left-hand side, and then you’re confronted with quite an eye-opener. Lengths of barbed wire are strewn across the carriageway; there’s a small booth manned by a park warden brandishing a sub-machine gun. As you draw nearer, you can see a sign attached to the booth. It says: ‘People from ethnic minority backgrounds or those with disabilities are NOT eligible for admittance to the Lake District National Park’. Us able-bodied honky types are waved through, whilst those not so fortunate at turned back at gunpoint.
Before you get too concerned at what you’ve read above, I was only joking. This is the United Kingdom of 2019. There are no prohibitions on people of any kind any where. Indeed, if you stand on the jetty at Bowness-on-Windermere waiting for one of the tour boats to take you out across the lake itself, you’ll hear and see tourists from all over the world. Stroll up the main street in Ambleside (as I have) and you’ll see Chinese and Asian tourists, people in wheelchairs, the elderly using walking sticks, etc. In fact all manner of visitors are welcome in what is indisputably the most beautiful part of England.
Thus, I fail to see where Richard Leafe, the head of the Lake District National Park Authority, has grounds for complaint. If the Lake District is ‘overwhelmingly white’, it’s probably something to do with the fact the UK is overwhelmingly white (87% at the last Census), and the park’s location in a part of the country where there is little in the way of minority groups for at least a 60-mile radius. That doesn’t mean that people from ethnic or foreign backgrounds aren’t welcome. The reverse it true. The staple income for many Lakelanders is tourism. They are hardly going to bite the hand that feeds them, irrespective of what skin colour that hand happens to be.
I have news for Mr Leafe (doubtless another Blairite ‘progressive’ who shinnied his way up the greasy career pole because he had the ‘right’ political outlook): People don’t come to the Lake District to see a multi-culti mosaic of Wokeness and cultural diversity. They come because the place is quintessentially English. They come to see Dove Cottage, Windermere, the narrow gauge railway at Ravenglass, the home of Beatrix Potter, the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ country at Coniston. They don’t want a roadside mosque at Thirlmere, or a Somalian dancing troupe gyrating on the pier at Hawkshead. Understand?!
As for people with physical disabilities, how does Mr Leafe suggest we make the likes of Langdale more suitable to their needs? Flatten all the hills? Install a giant Stannah stairlift from the Wasdale campsite all the way to the summit of Scafell Pike? This is wild, untamed country. People in wheelchairs can’t have unfettered access to the Lake District for the same reason I can’t park within 50 yards of a supermarket entrance because of the proliferation of blue badge parking bays – namely that circumstances are prohibitive.
I’m glad Keswick Town Council hit the authority with a unanimous vote of ‘No confidence’ back in October. That was over a proposal to construct a Tarmac track in the shadow of Blencathra. Those who live in the Lakes want a governing body dedicated to preserving what the area is and what it represents. If they can’t do that, replace them with folk who will.
Happy New Year!