Lake District chief executive Richard Leafe

Lake District chief executive Richard Leafe

He’s in charge of England’s biggest national park; he’s a big fan of the outdoors and adventurous activities; and he’s no stranger to conflict.

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park, has courted controversy by backing schemes that involve attracting visitors to less traditional Lakeland pursuits, such as hurtling down valleys on zip wires.

It’s hard to imagine Alfred Wainwright approving of such activities in his beloved Lakeland.

Mr Leafe, who turns 50 this month, has had to try to maintain services for the 15 million visitors annually to the Lake District while Government funding has been cut by 30 per cent.

Unlike some national park authorities which have sold off properties and land, the Lake District’s approach has been to enter into commercial partnerships and maximise its revenue from car parking and visitor centres.

Grough travelled to a rainy, windswept Kendal, to the headquarters of the Lake District National Park Authority, to speak to the outdoors fan who just happens to run the national park with England’s highest mountain, biggest natural lake, and some of the biggest headaches as he tries to reconcile Government cuts, huge visitor numbers, choked roads and the conflicting desires for some visitors’ adventure with others’ need for quiet relaxation.

His approach has seen most services maintained during a time of huge austerity. His authority has forged numerous commercial links to support the services that outdoors fans expect and appreciate.

He’s a climber, cyclist, walker, open-water swimmer and all-round fan of high places and he’s determined to entice a younger set of visitors to appreciate the thrill of this most scenic corners of England.

Hear Richard Leafe’s view on the Lake District and how he thinks grough readers can help.