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Some of you may or may not know I am from Windermere in the Lake District, many of my colleagues have different perceptions of what the area is like; Some of them seem to think locals all live in castles and go bear hunting (Hamza) and others think of it as an overly populated tourist destination which mainly distributes inflatables. This blog should give you an insight of what the area is like from an insider’s perspective and hopefully you will get the chance to one day visit if you haven’t already.

Growing up in The Lakes, I never really cared much for the surroundings. As a youth my priorities were hanging around with my friends whenever possible with no real purpose or goal as probably applies to the majority of teenagers across The UK. Apparently as a child I was obsessed with The Lake and The Fells but that was far too long ago for me to remember. For most of my teenage years I actually looked forward to moving away to a city or town, hoping to find a place with more going on, I probably focused more on the negatives of the area than reflecting on how much it really has to offer.

When I was growing up, getting from A to B was a nightmare, there is one central school in the whole of the South Lakes which has around 700 students from all the surrounding villages, and almost all travelled at least 3 miles to go to school. Even now some of my friends live in villages across The Lake and it is more convenient for them to get the car ferry across rather than driving all the way round. By the time I reached 18, I was definitely ready to move away after experiencing nights out in places such as Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool, I no longer felt the same excitement about drinking in my locals, I wanted the excitement and variety that big cities could offer. When I was 19 I moved to Manchester to study and although the nightlife dwarfed anything back home, coming back made me appreciate The Lakes even more, I don’t go hiking or really go on The Lake; but it is nice seeing familiar faces and appreciating the views that previously I wouldn’t have cared less about.

During my degree I studied Geography at Manchester Metropolitan University; for my dissertation I had to create a project involving the relationship between people and place. I conducted a study on what local residents feel best represents The Lake District from their own outlook; below you can find some example images that were produced.

 From the study I gathered a wide range of images highlighting the different meanings people hold with the place.


Many local residents produced scenic images but many others more interestingly produced everyday images associated with the people and day to day rituals that make up the area as opposed to the physical landscape.

 

As you can see above, Picture 1 was produced by Ellen who lives on a farm, in her follow up interview she stated how she feels the livestock and people she interacts with on a daily basis are what reflects the true values of The Lake District. Joseph’s (who created Picture 3 of the football pitch) picture drew attention to the activities & social lives of local people as oppose to work, specifically the local football club which attracts a lot of people from the area, either playing or watching every Saturday. This sense of community was a common theme throughout the images I gathered and having lived in Manchester and The Lakes it is something you appreciate when you come back home, mainly because everyone knows everyone whether you like it or not.


Most importantly Joseph and Ellen’s images diverted away from typical representations of The Lakes and its landscapes, unlike Pamela who produced Picture 2; Pamela’s interview explained how she has an idealistic view of the area and would always look to represent the area the best way possible.

From the follow up interviews the majority of residents continued to echo views similar to Joseph and Ellen, with interviewees discussing the value they place on people and day to day rituals rather than importance of the landscape. Images that emphasise the landscape and nature of the area are usually done with the intentions of appealing to a wider market, specifically tourists. In the interviews, most residents actually spoke of representing Windermere from a personal perspective rather than trying to engage a wider platform.

Local residents went on to discuss the influences tourism has on the area and the consensus was (I am inclined to agree) that; considering how small the place is and how small the local population is, at times it can feel ridiculous how crowded it can get. Whilst it can often be annoying walking down the road because the pavements are full of people gazing into shop windows or you’re stuck in traffic because of a coach unloading, the general opinion was that locals understand the importance of tourism. From the local residents I studied 80% were employed within a tourist/hospitality job role, which is typical of the area as a whole (hence why I decided to commute to Preston). Apart from construction work the vast majority of employment is in the tourist sector and people can see despite the issues tourists may bring, they are driving the local economy and without them we would struggle.

I concluded the study by illustrating that the majority of local residents would not instantly associate their lives with the scenic views despite the fact that they are used to attract great amounts of tourists. You may think this is odd but I would imagine is the case nearly wherever you go; The more familiar you become with a place the more likely you are to value the everyday things and activities in your life. Despite this, the residents of Windermere are fully aware of the significance of common perceptions of the area, such as accepting the need for tourists, which I myself can also appreciate.

Although I don’t immediately associate my home with the scenery, I would say if you have a day or two to spare, it’s well worth a visit. Windermere is located just a 40 minute drive from our offices in Preston and you can see below some of the views that were captured by other participants in my dissertation who took the more ‘idealistic’ approach.

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