Home News Why Cumbria needs the Thirlmere zipwire

Why Cumbria needs the Thirlmere zipwire

Woman riding on a zip line

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.

ZipwireIt 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.

Thirlmere before the dam
Thirlmere before the dam: it has changed dramatically.

“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 thirlmereactivity@lakedistrict.gov.uk 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.

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce


  1. The discussions I have been involved in with many hundreds of participants on social media and in person indicates that people are forming a view based on an objective appraisal of the facts. Your assertion to the contrary appears to be based on a quote by Caroline Quentin by extracting one word from one sentence. Hardly a rational conclusion!

  2. I think the Lake District would benefit from a zip wire, but not at Thirlmere. Thirlmere is a beautiful quiet valley, the sort of place people come to the Lake District to see. To put a zip wire here would detract from the natural beauty and tranquillity of the valley.
    Instead of reducing the beauty and attractiveness of one valley for a zip wire, why not put a zip wire in a place that is already busy and noisy and full of people. Honister Mines. It is already a working mine with other similar attractions and they actually want a zip wire there.
    There is growing pressure for a zip wire in the Lakes so to take the pressure off vulnerable areas like Thirlmere and Greenside will the LDNP please stop trying to sabotage the beautiful areas that people come to the Lakes to visit like Thirlmere and allow one at Honister.

  3. I think you need to separate the economics of the zipwire from the location. It will bring money and lots of profit for Mike Turner but it will be in the wrong place. Surely if you’re taking a Cumbria wide view it would be so much better to improve the economy of the many impoverished areas of Cumbria. It could be transformational to parts of West Cumbria and also take the pressure of the central areas of the Lake District.

  4. Am shocked that you and the Chamber of Commerce are pro these proposals and are so out of step with the majority of local opinion and the wealth of national and local very respected organisations who are vehemently opposed to this development IN THIS LOCATION. I appreciate United Utilities are not objecting and am appalled at their work, on the ground, in contravention of planning requirements. I have always respected Rob Johnston, when I have heard him speak as an objective and intelligent commentator on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, but having just read through all the supporting documents to the application including the application itself and all the published responses, I find it very surprising that the economic argument for creating local employment is so flimsy. The Wales Tourist Board figures are based on responses from only one fifth of people employed on the Welsh zip wire – the Cumbrian economy cannot fill many of the low paid, part time jobs as local people cannot afford to live or travel to jobs in our ‘honeypot areas. As someone who has lived in Cumbria and the National Park for over 25 years, I think this development is in the totally wrong location, unlike development at Honister or Go Ape, which are far more suitable. I hope Rob and the Chamber of Commerce will reconsider their opinion – and I would be very interested to know what consultion was done internally by the Chamber – and the results of that consultation. Really hope this development is not allowed, even more because we now have World Heritage Status.

  5. Surely Honister is the ideal spot for this – and will complement the Via Ferratta there into a world class attraction 🙂

    We love to paddle canoes and kayaks on Thirlmere ourselves or with clients – and often have it to ourselves – a rare thing in Cumbria – and the thought of zip wires over the water is most unwelcome – as is the prospect of even more visitors to Ambleside, Grasmere, Keswick ect

    I am all for Adventures – indeed I make my living from leading visitors on more traditional activities – http://www.door2dooradventures.co.uk

  6. You like many other business people have fallen for the figures published by Mike Turner. You cannot compare the North wales sites with Thirlmere. They are NOT in a National Park despite Turner’s assertions. There was and still is high unemployment in Bethesda and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Both those sites are within and adjacent to centres of population the size of Keswick. Housing is cheap, employees can walk to work if they choose. If you bothered to look at Cumbria’s Labour Market Survey you would see that there is virtually no unemployment along the A66/A591 corridors. The wage you quote of £9.36 per hour is spurious. Last summer they were advertising for staff in Wales on minimum wage and zero hours contracts. The cycle path already exists barring one underpass at the Southern end. Indeed the development will significantly decrease the cycling opportunities on the West shore road as many more vehicles and a shuttle bus will be directed onto it with consequential increases of speed. Whatever income you believe will be generated by the project virtually none of it will be spent for the benefit of Cumbrian economy. If a family, say 2+2, is willing to spend upwards of £200 on a 2.5 hour experience that will be £200 not spent with other Cumbrian based businesses. The project will drive away significant proper adventurers from the valley. Please please do some thorough investigative journalism before you next put pen to paper. The Lake District does not need visitors. This year we will have hosted over 18 million with projections of 25 million by 2025.

  7. The proposed location is unsuitable for a number of reasons. David’s simple commercial outlook does not fully understand the wider implications for the Lake District and other national parks. The zip wire idea would have worked well up at Honister as proposed a few years ago with far less visual and traffic impact. Access wouldn’t be quite as convenient – but this is the Lake District! Putting in a constant 8 lane screamway in one of the few easily accessible quiet bits of the Lake District shows a total lack of understanding of the real value of the National Parks. The additional traffic movement and crowds that would start to encroach on the on the area simply because it is easily accessible would completely alter the now matured surrounds of Thirlmere. And yes I do understand that it’s a man made reservoir in its current form and that there will be commercial bedlam as work is carried out on the pipelines and surrounding forests – but these are intermittent or temporary and necessary works. The proposed works by treetop treks are totally out of keeping with the relative peace and quiet available at the back of Thirlmere. When first proposed I was equivocal about it and I took the time one evening to visit the dam and walk round the proposed area. it really is a crap idea in that location. There are plenty of other options in industrially ravaged bits of the Lakes, Honister for one and some of the old mine workings in the South Lakes. I really do have to disagree with this!

  8. How do you reconcile supporting a planning application which proposes to run roughshod over the very ethics of acceptable management for conservation and enhancement of a National Park?
    Within TreeTop Trek’s own Appraisal of Landscape Effects, available for viewing on the planning applications website, there are at least ten acknowledgements that the zip-wire proposal will create “adverse” effect on the locality.
    There are further admission within that document, that the scheme will affect the tranquillity of the area, and impact upon the character of the area.

    By definition, the word “adverse” means: – “having a negative or harmful effect on something”. Can it be any clearer than that?

    Your argument that “The landscape of Thirlmere is already hugely altered by man . . .” is an argument by fallacy.
    The Thirlmere reservoir construction occurred over fifty years before the creation of the LDNP, and the area has now had over 100 years to mellow and blend in with surrounding landscape.
    The fact that Thirlmere reservoir was man-made, does not in any way at all exclude that area from the relevant protection that National Park legislation provides.

    I would remind both yourself, and the planning committee of the legal duty under Sandford Principle, translated into law in 1995 by the The Environment Act 1995 s62 (1) (2), which states: –
    “In exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or so as to affect, land in a National Park, any relevant authority shall have regard to the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section five of this Act and, if it appears that there is a conflict between those purposes, shall attach greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area comprised in the National Park.”

    To be clear, it is not permitted by law, to construct major commercial developments within the National Park when they clearly fall outwith the Sanford Principle!

    Again, I ask you, how do you reconcile your support for a scheme which will break that law?

  9. I believe that Thirlmere is a wholly inappropriate location for this type of tourist attraction, a view that is shared by the National Trust, the John Muir Trust, the British Mountaineering Council, the Friends of the Lake District, the Fell & Rock Climbing Club and 9000+ signatories to the current online petition.
    Money isn’t everything.

  10. The LEP and Cumbria Toursim are self-serving business interests.
    The beauty of Thirlmere lies in the fact that there is no commercial activity whatsoever on its shores.
    The Lake District has already been the Capital of Adventure for generations.
    You cannot buy adventure for £50 a zip.
    But you can easily ruin the most tranquil place in the central lakes area.
    The A591 road noise here is no noisier than it is alongside all the other big lakes.
    The road noise is barely audible on the western shores.
    The western shore path is one of the best low level footpaths in the central lakes area.
    Lots of interest around every turn and ever changing propects across the lake towards Helvellyn and Blencathra and so on.
    There is no such thing as an invisible zip wire.
    Tranquillity doesn’t work like that.
    Leave it alone for goodness sake!

  11. Has the appearance of the Thirlmere Valley really changed out of all recognition ? And is this compared to what it looked like 125 years ago ? The raising of the lake level changed the surface area of the lake by about 35%. And the conifer plantations increased the number of trees. But there have been very few (if any) new buildings in the valley since 1900 and minimal other changes. So I would actually argue that Thirlmere is one of the best preserved and authentic valleys in the National Park. As the conifer planations around Thirlmere are felled and replaced by mixed broad leaf trees, the valley is returning much closer to its “natural” state than almost any other valley in the Lakes where the native woodland was all cleared, replaced initially by large industrial activities such as mining, quarrying, milling and sheep farming and then by Tourism, with plenty of large hotels and houses. National Parks are not about Economic Maximisation, they are about Natural Preservation. Zipwires are not what The Lake District wants or needs.


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