Film-maker Terry Abraham. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Film-maker Terry Abraham. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Acclaimed film-maker and photographer Terry Abraham has resigned from a charity over the planned zipwires at Thirlmere.

The cinematographer announced his decision at the rebranding launch of The Lake District Foundation on Friday.

The organisation was formerly known as Nurture Lakeland and has the stated aims of promoting the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment and cultural heritage of the Lake District by providing funding and support for conservation, environmental and cultural initiatives in the Lake District and Cumbria.

It also says it aims to inspire people to care for and contribute to the natural environment and cultural heritage of the Lake District and Cumbria.

Terry Abraham has produced two films on Lakeland peaks – Scafell Pike and Blencathra – which have screened on the BBC, and this year released a biographical work on mountaineer Alan Hinkes. He had been appointed an ambassador to The Lake District Foundation, whose trustees include Lake District national park chief executive Richard Leafe and Ian Stephens, former chief executive of Cumbria Tourism.

But at the launch near Windermere, he announced to the gathering that he was resigning the post. He said later on Twitter that he was not allowed to express his opinion on the controversial plans for the Thirlmere zipwire as the charity wanted to remain neutral.

He told the audience at the launch: “I have to stand against because the idea that it is meant to inspire youth for adventure and appreciation of the outdoors, I find tenuous at best.

Thirlmere, site of the battle over the planned zipwires. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Thirlmere, site of the battle over the planned zipwires. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“What it’s likely to cost and what’s involved with the ride, never mind the detrimental effects potentially in terms of conservation that it has on the area and the signal that that sends out at large across the whole of the national park and others around the country, I find laughable to a degree.

“You can go gill scrambling, scrambling, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, fellwalking, wild camping. These things afford more in terms of your mental health, your physical health and inspiring people to appreciate the environment that they’re in, the environment, and nature, conservation, to care and protect.

“I hope that you can understand why I have to decline the role and I do apologise for bringing it over to you this way.”

He went on to point out that Zip World Lakes Limited has already been registered as a company.

“A few months ago I rode the longest zipwire in Europe and the fastest in the world in north Wales, on the edge of the national park, in a working industrial quarry is where that zipwire exists.

“And I did a video, I put it out on social media, saying how much I enjoyed it – it’s fun, I am not anti-zipwire, but – I did make the point – in a suitable location,” he said. “And I wouldn’t like to see something like that bang in the heart of a national park, especially when it’s just been designated world heritage site status.”

He said he subsequently was persuaded to remove the video. He pointed out he was simply stating his opinion, that local people in north Wales who had been in favour of the development now complain about noise from the zipwire.

He added: “[Cumbria Tourism’s] argument for the Thirlmere Activity Hub goes against not just everything I feel I stand for and care about in terms of inspiring people to care for the Lake District, in terms of conservation, and what the national park is about to protect, enhance and conserve.

“Hopefully the planners will adhere to the Sandford Principle.”

Mike Turner, owner of Tree Top Trek which is applying for consent for the zipwires, is a member of the executive board of Cumbria Tourism. The Sandford Principle states that if there is a conflict between protecting the environment and people enjoying the environment that can’t be resolved by management, then protecting the environment is more important.

Mr Abraham, who moved from his Nottinghamshire home to live in Cumbria recently, said: “I’ve wrestled with my conscience, and I wanted to maintain my integrity, and if I can get that message out there then I have done, but don’t doubt I do not care about the Lake District – the blood, sweat and tears I’ve gone through in the last few years to produce the documentaries all by myself. I am beholden to nobody, I am independent.

“I can’t not speak out when it’s a conservation charity.”

A spokesperson for The Lake District Foundation said: “The love of the Lake District runs deep and it’s wonderful that people like Terry have such a passion for the area and such strong views on its future.

“We of course respect his right to express his opinion and wish him well as he begins work on his next film.

“The Lake District Foundation is a neutral organisation that raises funds for the area to distribute to a range of projects. As such, our job is not to campaign on either side of issues such as the proposed zipwire in Thirlmere. There are other highly effective interest groups that exist to do this.

“Therefore, although any of our ambassadors are welcome to express their views as individuals, it is important they don’t use the Lake District Foundation as a platform as it would distract attention from our overall task of raising money for all the good causes we support.

“Friday was a great day in the life of The Lake District Foundation. We received so much support from businesses, partners and local beneficiary projects who are excited about our commitment to generate funds to protect this amazing place.

“Our launch is a step towards our ambitious plans to raise £1 from each of the 18 million visitors to the park each year.”

Mr Abraham said he will make a further statement on Monday.

He told grough that before the YouTube recording started, he addressed the gathering. “I felt compelled to speak out. I spoke about how we’re all standing in the shoulders of giants: Wordsworth sowed the seeds of the idea of national parks; John Muir emigrated and created national parks, we in the UK followed suit; the Kinder mass trespass; the roots of the National Trust; Beatrix Potter fought against the industrialists; and of course the national park we sit amongst today.

“Thirlmere was the birthplace of the conservation movement. Ullswater was planned to be a reservoir.

“I am still now so saddened I had to take that considered but ultimately impulsive decision. I’m genuinely sorry if I upset anyone. But my emotions are inevitably overruled by the bigger picture of what matters in the Lakes.”

A YouTube video of Terry Abraham speaking at the launch has been posted.

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