Thursday, 17 October 2013

Home and abroad; a tale of two lakes

During the first couple of weeks in
September, my wife and I were out visiting family in Canada. They are based in Toronto, and so we were able to explore some of the countryside in the region of the Great Lakes. Driving north on Highway 11, you "soon" (in Canadian terms - it is a very, very big country!) enter the fabled land of Muskoka. This is located on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield country. The terrain is very contorted , undulating rather than hilly, glacially scoured outcrops of granite and gneiss largely covered by mixed woodland, harsh, demanding, but softened by a myriad of sparkling lakes. It was the inspiration for the famed "Group of Seven" artists, and many Canadians regard it as the start of the "true" Canada, the edge of the wilderness that stretches up to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Circle. We stayed in a lovely B&B right on the shore of Fairy Lake. Here's a picture of their "dock".

It was a truly beautiful location, made even more special by the first hints of the onset of the fall; a chilly nip in the morning air, and the subtlest change in the tint of the woodland foliage. One morning, the cold night air had fallen on the warm water of the lake, producing a shimmer of mist, a picture of transcendental loveliness. I felt very privileged as I stood on the dock trying to capture the image, but when I looked at the photo I was dismayed to see the number of other docks, each with their accompanying boathouse. And when I looked at the wider scene, I realised that almost all of the shore of that beautiful lake was in private ownership, and accessible to none but a privileged few. This much loved area has little protection beyond local authority restrictions, and it struck me as being an area that was ripe for some sort of safeguarding, maybe not National Park status, but perhaps a Provincial Park, and yet it has none.

Then when I got home I started to wonder about our own Lake District. It has only been in the last sixty years that this other ultra special landscape has come under legislative protection. Before that our own Lakeland was in a very similar position to Muskoka. In 1902, Brandelhow Park on the western shore of Derwentwater could easily have followed down the Fairy Lake route. Instead, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley rallied the troops in the fledgling National Trust, started the first ever National Trust appeal and managed to buy the land on behalf of the nation. Nowadays we all enjoy unfettered access to Brandelhow, one of the quietest, and most beautiful shorelines in the Lake District. Picnicking, walking, boating, a chilly dip, simple pleasures available to all, forever. How much more beautiful would Fairy Lake be if a substantial part of its' shoreline enjoyed that very same principled freedom

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