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The Spiritual heritage of the Lake District

The Spiritual heritage of the Lake District

Non-religious figures have recognised the special qualities of the Lake District that go beyond what can be adequately described in purely rational terms. For example, Alfred Wainwright’ refers to his relationship with the Lake District as a ‘love affair’.

Countless visitors and locals have formed this sort of relationship with the Lake District over the centuries.  There is a long history of outdoor discovery in the Lake District, which was one of the birthplaces of modern rock climbing and of fell racing.  Whilst those pursuing outdoor adventure may lack religious faith, many will have sensed the spiritual dimension to the Lake District’s natural beauty, as voiced by the Romantic poets, though they might not describe it as such.  It is telling that a Remembrance Day service is held each year on the summit of Great Gable, drawing people for whom the mountain has an affinity not felt in church.

This spiritual response has inspired numerous environmental initiatives. The most well-known of these was brought about by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a 19th Century vicar of Keswick who jointly founded the National Trust to protect the natural beauty of the Lake District for future generations.

The spiritual heritage of the Lake District is multi-layered, with Christian religion having been practised since Roman times.  Quakerism, with its belief that ‘God can be found in every man’ and its radical social justice agenda, also flourished in Cumbria in the 17th Century.  More recently, a Buddhist peace temple can be found in Ulverston.  The Romantic poets of the 19th Century, including Wordsworth, Ruskin and Coleridge, were also hugely influenced by the landscape, writing evocatively of the spiritual connection which they felt.