Adventure tourism is an area of potential for Cumbria. We’re already dabbling in it with attractions such as the Via Ferrata at Honister – winner of Cumbria Tourism’s ‘best tourist experience in the Lake District’.
But we could do more. Adventure tourism is identified as a growth area in Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership’s Rural and Visitor Economy Growth Plan.
One man who understands this is Mike Turner, managing director of the Treetop Trek woodland attraction at Brockhole. He has tabled the plans for a zipwire across Thirlmere.
The £1.8m scheme would see two sets of four-lane wires across the lake, up to 130m above ground, allowing riders to travel at speeds of up to 50mph. It would also create a family-friendly continuous cycle route around the lake.
The Lake District National Park Authority will decide if the plan can go ahead.
It invited public comments on the proposal and was swamped with responses. The closing date for comments is January 12.
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce backs the scheme and has written to the National Park expressing support for Treetop Trek’s planning application.
Rob Johnston, the Chamber’s Chief Executive, said: “The economic benefits are likely to be substantial.
“It would create 28 full-time equivalent jobs, attract 127,000 visitors annually and boost GVA by £1.3m, so helping to “foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the national park” – one of the National Park’s stated objectives.
“Interestingly, three zipwires have opened in Snowdonia in Wales since 2013 under the Zip World brand.
“Their impact has exceeded expectations.
The arguments in its favour are compelling and we hope the planners agree.
“Research carried out by North Wales Tourism in 2016 found that these attractions had pumped £121m into the local economy and created 218 jobs. Staff were earning at least £9.36 an hour, well above the Living Wage.
“The average spend by visitors using the zipwires was £251-£500, with one-in-10 spending £1,000 or more on accommodation, meals, shopping and so on.
“Almost three quarters stayed at least one night in North Wales, helping to boost occupancy rates for hotels, B&Bs and campsites. These are exactly the sort of visitors Cumbria needs to attract.
“It is significant, that at the launch of the first Snowdonia zipwire in 2013, a local tourism representative, Dewi Davies, said that it was needed to enable Snowdonia ‘to compete with areas like Cumbria’.
“The Thirlmere zipwire will widen Cumbria’s appeal. We can’t survive solely by catering for walkers and for motorists who want to drive around in their cars.
“The arguments in its favour are compelling and we hope the planners agree.”
Objectors argue that the zipwire would spoil the appearance, peace and tranquillity of the lake, and bring extra traffic.
The actress Caroline Quentin, who is President of the Campaign for National Parks, is the latest to step into the fray.
She said: “I am all for development that enhances our National Parks but my instinct is that we should say no to zipwires in Thirlmere.”
But Rob said: “It’s telling that Caroline Quentin says that her ‘instinct’ is to say no to zipwires. We believe the objections are based on emotion and instinct rather than an objective appraisal of the facts.
“The landscape of Thirlmere is already hugely altered by man.
“Prior to 1894, it was two lakes, not one, then a dam was created to make a reservoir for Manchester. After that the lake was surrounded with coniferous plantations. Its appearance has changed out of all recognition.
“The zipwire’s impact will be miniscule in comparison.
“The wires will be barely visible and any noise is likely to be drowned by traffic from the A591, one of the busiest roads in the Lake District, which runs along the full length of Thirlmere’s eastern shore.
“Zipwire users will be able to leave their vehicles at a car park on the A591 or arrive by the regular bus service from Keswick to Lancaster.
“As an added benefit, Treetop Trek’s proposals involve the creation of a continuous family-friendly cycle route around the lake.”
Details of the planning application can be viewed by clicking here.
Businesses and individuals can comment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by January 12. Alternatively, write to: Lake District National Park Authority, Murley Moss, Kendal, LA9 7RL.
The earliest the application can come before the National Park’s development control committee is February 7.