National Character Area 19

South Cumbria Low Fells - Landscape Change

The full NCA Profile landscape change page, is temporarily unavailable until publication of the Defra 25 Year Environment Plan Indicator G1 later in May 2024.

Monitoring Landscape Change

Drivers for change
South Cumbria Low Fells is a varied landscape of hills, ridges, and valleys with a range of habitats which are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Temperature changes may alter the area’s characteristic species composition, and droughts may lead to loss of stored carbon in woodlands, wetlands and the peat topsoil of the fells. Additionally, there are increasing pressures on water sources from competing recreational and agricultural uses.

Monitoring landscape change
This section is temporarily unavailable until publication of the Defra 25 Year Environment Plan Indicator G1 later in May 2024.

Additional information on landscape change

Landscape change reported in 2014

Recent changes and trends (reported in 2014)


  • There have been significant reductions in grazing pressure in the past decade, following large increases in the second half of 20th This includes reductions due to foot and mouth disease in 2001, EU Common Agricultural Policy reform in 2005, decoupling payment from stock numbers and agri-environment schemes (particularly to achieve SSSI favourable condition target, 2010).
  • From 2000 to 2009, sheep numbers decreased from 364,881 to 280,015, cattle decreased from 50,767 to 41,743 and the number of people working in agriculture declined by 18 per cent.
  • A change in agri-environment schemes from Environmentally Sensitive Area to a two-tiered Environmental Stewardship (Higher and Upland Entry Level) scheme has provided a wider range of targeted objectives and options.
  • The number of holdings under 100 ha (77 per cent of agricultural land in 2009) has reduced slightly from 2000 with a 5 per cent increase in the area of farms above 100 ha.
  • There has been a significant restoration of farm buildings, particularly under the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme.

Boundary features

  • The condition of boundary features has improved with considerable restoration and maintenance of drystone walls under the Environmentally Sensitive Area and Countryside Stewardship schemes, continuing under Higher Level Stewardship – figures for 2011 reveal over 800,000 m of boundary features managed under such schemes.

Coast and rivers

No information available.

Historic features

  • There have been a significant number of barn conversions in the area (over 100 since 1999). About 69 per cent of historic farm buildings remain unconverted and about 96 per cent are intact structurally.
  • In 1918 about 2 per cent of the NCA was historic parkland. In terms of its share of the resource the NCA was ranked By 1995 it is estimated that 47 per cent of the 1918 area had been lost. About 6 per cent of the remaining parkland is covered by an Historic Parkland Grant, and 35 per cent is included in an agri-environmental scheme.


No information available.

Semi-natural habitats

  • Significant improvements in SSSI condition have been achieved, especially to heather moorland due to sustainable grazing regimes on the Although much is now in appropriate management, these upland habitats have considerably longer recovery rates than lowland habitats.
  • In 2011, 2,599 ha of SSSI were in favourable condition, 1,205 ha were in unfavourable recovering condition, 184 ha were in unfavourable no change condition, and 121 ha were in unfavourable declining condition.

Settlement and development

  • Over the past decade a number of wind farms have been constructed within and on the boundary of NCA (Lambrigg, Kirkby Moor, Harlock Hill and Askam).
  • Some 87 per cent of visitors to the National Park arrive by motor vehicle, with 77 per cent continuing to use their own vehicle as the main method of transport, putting pressure on local traffic infrastructure.
  • Since the 1960s, there has been a 26 per cent loss of undisturbed areas to disturbed areas associated with the towns of Kendal, Windermere, Ulverston and the main transport corridors of the M6, A6, A591 and A594.
  • A reduction in noise disturbance and shoreline damage on Windermere has resulted from the introduction of a 10 mph speed limit in 2005.

Trees and woodlands

  • By 2003 the area of woodland covered by England Woodland Grant Scheme management agreements was about 19 per cent of the eligible. About 49 per cent of the woodland cover is on an ancient woodland site, and the proportion of these sites covered by a Woodland Grant Scheme agreement increased from 12 per cent in 1999 to 27 per cent in 2003.
  • The implementation of forest design plans have enhanced existing plantations and integrate them more successfully into the landscape.
  • Publicly owned woodlands have been developed to increase their recreational potential, for example mountain biking and hiking routes, treetop adventure sport, and a sculpture trail at Grizedale Forest.

Drivers of Change (reported in 2014)

Climate Change

  • Evidence from UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCP09) shows that over the coming century the Lake District climate is expected, on average to become warmer and wetter in winter and hotter and drier in summer.
  • Under the medium emissions scenario by 2080: mean winter temperatures will increase by 2.6 degrees, mean summer temperatures will increase by 3.7 degrees, winter precipitation will increase by 16 per cent, summer precipitation will decrease by 22 per cent and there will be an increase frequency of extreme events (floods/droughts).
  • Species tolerant of cold temperatures and winter drought may be out- competed (for example fish such as Arctic char). Species currently limited by winter cold may expand their ranges (for example bracken and introduced fish species).
  • Peatlands may dry out during prolonged droughts, increasing the risks of soil erosion and wildfires, resulting in loss of habitat, stored carbon and archaeological pollen record.
  • Extreme weather events are likely to increase rates of erosion of river banks and the wider catchment, with impacts on in-bye land, downstream flood risk and increased siltation of river and lakeFreshwater habitats, water supplies and recreation may be affected by low flows, draw-down on lakes and reservoirs and increasing summer lake surface Increasing water temperatures and low flows can also result in deterioration of water quality, including increasing concentrations of nutrients, blue-green algal blooms and lack of oxygen at depth. Deteriorations in water quality include increasing colour and sediment load in water abstracted for public supply.
  • Farming practices may change with new climate conditions (for example a longer growing season) and changing demands on industry.

Other key drivers

  • Reform of EU Common Agricultural Policy and Rural Development Programme for England in 2014 may affect the viability of upland farm businesses, as many benefit from agri-environment schemes.
  • The risk of the spread of invasive species and plant and animal disease, such as ash die-back.
  • Increasing demand for national food security and associated increases in food prices.
  • Maintaining viable farm businesses balancing food production and delivery of other multiple benefits.
  • Continuing diversification of farm businesses, particularly into tourism.
  • Increasing pressure on water resources; the region’s public water supply is dependent on internationally and nationally designated lakes and river systems.
  • Development of renewable energy, including hydro-power, wind turbines and wood fuel.
  • Visitor and transport pressures are likely to continue.
  • Flood risk management requirements, including catchment management to reduce downstream flood-risk.
  • Improved waste water treatment and management of other point source pollutants.
  • Promotion of the management of peatlands to store and sequester carbon, reduce erosion and enhance downstream water quality.
  • Habitat connectivity will be needed to address species movement and adaptation to climate change.
  • Managing the area to make the habitat mosaics more resilient to climate change.
  • Deer numbers can significantly impact upon natural regeneration in woodlands. A landscape scale approach to sustainable deer management is needed, addressing the impact of deer on natural regeneration in woodlands.
  • Expansion of villages and hamlets with new housing that does not always reflect vernacular styles or utilise local materials particularly around Kendal and towards Dalton-in-Furness.
  • Affordable housing may be needed to meet the needs of local communities.