A landowner has moved to reassure the public over access to Helton Fell, after concern was sparked by new signs.
The new sign at the fell says Helton Common, access only and lists rules including: Do not drive on the common, do not obstruct road, and no horseboxes/motorhomes/overnight parking.
Several people spoke out this week about the sign, which they believe could impede access to the common land above Helton and the Lake District’s great outdoors.
Among those voicing concern was Jennifer Ingle, who regularly walks her dogs on the fell.
She said: “If, as I suspect, it is to stop parking up on the fell, then many like me will be denied access to its beauty, archaeology and special atmosphere.”
But Charles Lowther, of Lowther Estate Trust which owns the land, has reaffirmed his commitment to keeping the fells accessible to all but has highlighted many current issues that are damaging the environment and making life harder for the locals that farm the area.
These include damage to verges from traffic, which then leads to flooding when mud from tyres overruns the cattle grid at the top of Helton; decline in bird life due to increased footfall with dogs; and satnavs misdirecting large vehicles.
These issues were brought up at a meeting of Askham and Helton Parish Council, where residents reported the damage being done by excess cars, and the obstruction they cause.
Mr Lowther said: “At no point does the sign say people can not go up the fell road to enjoy the views and fresh air.
“The sign is not saying ‘private, no entry’. The space is a special space and accessible to all, to be enjoyed and having road access makes this possible for those that couldn’t get up under their own steam.
“But consideration of its use by others, and respect for this wonderful resource needs to be borne in mind.”
By law, individuals can park on common land, providing it is less than 15 yards away from a public road. But Mr Lowther is imploring drivers to consider their personal impact on the environment and the community.
Thomas Lowther, chairman of the parish council, said: “It is becoming a nightmare situation up there with damage being done.
“Satnavs especially are directing lorries on to the fell which shouldn’t be there and they’re getting stuck turning as a result, churning up the land.”
Drivers of larger vehicles such as horseboxes and motorhomes are particularly being warned to stay away.
Charles Lowther added: “The fell just isn’t suitable for them. A number got stuck this last winter and caused a terrible mess. There is no reason why someone on a horse can not start from Askham.”
To accommodate this, the Lowther Estates team will be improving the parking in Askham over the next two months.
This will remain free to keep cars off the village greens.