In May 2015, Bob Cartwright, Nurture Lakeland's Vice Chair, stepped down from the Board of Trustees. Bob was one of the founders, in 1994, of the Tourism and Conservation Partnership - the forerunner of Nurture Lakeland. He reflects here on Nurture's success, the changing environment in which it operates - and on why its role continues to be vital as the Lake District seeks the accolade of World Heritage Site inscription.
When I joined the Lake District National Park Authority in 1992 relationships between ‘the Park’ and 'the Tourist Board' could best be described as frosty. Warm words were expressed at our meetings but the mercury always seemed to sink quickly afterwards. Any suggestion that traffic congestion was a problem or that a bed tax was needed to pay for National Park management or that Windermere needed a 10 mph bylaw inevitably drove both sides back to their trenches and the cold war resumed.
Many visionaries in the tourism industry were later to emerge but the first to propose a new way of working was Haydn Morris, a Tourist Board officer. I already knew Haydn. His background was in National Parks and we shared a philosophy that demanded a cooperative approach if our most precious landscapes were to be managed effectively and for the long term. Haydn’s idea was to find a way for visitors to give voluntarily to look after the landscapes they loved. Two factors could make this work: an acknowledgement by tourism operators that the Lake District’s competitive advantage relied on a well- maintained National Park; and practical examples of what could be done if this new revenue stream could be tapped.
We and the National Trust immediately set about creating those examples: a repaired footpath; a stock-proofed woodland; and a repaired historic spa well; and appointed a ‘neutral’ project officer in an independent office to promote the concept among hoteliers and others. Two crucial decisions at the outset of the then Tourism and Conservation Partnership have stood the test of time. Firstly it has always been apolitical and industry led. This offers credibility and demonstrates the responsibility tourism operators feel for maintaining the fabric of the Lake District. Particular credit must go to Langdale Hotel and Spa, Heart of the Lakes, and English Lakes Hotels for their continuing commitment and leadership in this respect. Secondly, although support from the National Park Authority and National Trust has been unstinting, we never relied entirely on public sector funding or short term grants for survival or development (many similar organisations have failed in making that mistake).
Fast forward 20 years or so and what do we see? A relationship between ‘the Park’ and ‘the Tourist Board’ that is constructive, collaborative and convivial. A National Park Authority that celebrates and promotes tourism and supports investment in quality and customer care. A tourism industry that embraces the concept of a Low Carbon Lake District, low-impact transport solutions and the inscription of the Lake District as a World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape. Has Nurture Lakeland played its part in building trust and forging that partnership? I would like to think so.
Perhaps more importantly, does Nurture Lakeland have a continuing role to play in raising and channelling funds into landscape management, combatting climate change and promoting responsible tourism? Most definitely. In fact, as public sector funding dwindles and demands grow to meet visitor expectations and ever-higher environmental standards, I would argue its role has never been more important.
As I step aside from Nurture’s Board, but continue my association as an individual member, I look forward to seeing every business that associates itself with - or benefits from - the Lake District finding ways to show their commitment to looking after this special place.
Bob Cartwright was a Director with the Lake District National Park Authority between 1992 and 2012. He was an adviser to the Board of the Tourism and Conservation Partnership from 1994, later becoming a Trustee and Vice Chairman of Nurture Lakeland in 2008.