22 Aug 2013

Popping up a mountain? Five things we learned in Cumbria

Tourism is Cumbria’s lifeline but how are local people faring after a deep recession and is there enough there to keep young talent at home? #c4newspopup in the Lake District.

1) Young people we spoke to in Cumbria are proud of where they are from and many want to find a rewarding career close to home. But whether the area can hold on to them is another matter.

Luke Skilbeck and Ben Harrison, both 16, received their GCSE results at Cockermouth School on Thursday, and said that the Cumbria community was looking out for its youngsters.

“We all get on really well in the town (Cockermouth)… Everyone helps each other out,” said Luke. Both students were confident they could get work experience and help on the career ladder close to home.

But others like Meghan Avery, 15, who was awarded a staggering 8A*s and 3As at GCSE, doesn’t feel the same.

I don’t know what I want to do, but I’m probably not going to stay in Cumbria. There’s not much to do. Meghan Avery

West Cumbria’s Britain’s Energy Coast is already putting money into apprenticeships and funding training for the young people hoping to get into energy innovation and regeneration. And headteacher Geoff Walker says it has already tempted some of his pupils to stick around and go into industry.

2) The Lake District has a lot of things to offer. But internet access – and even phone reception – is not one of them. When some of you tweeted us about the woes of dodgy internet connections, we paid heed. That’s why Paraic O’Brien decided to look into the issue here.

But try and run a digital-broadcast-news operation without it, and things can get interesting.

3) There is a lot of greenery in the beautiful Lake District. But what about those famed “green shoots” of recovery?

“I think there;s definitely more confidence,” Ian Stephens, MD of Cumbria Tourism, told #c4newspopup. “I certainly know there’s businesses who are hoping to invest in their business over the future – and that hasn’t been the case for the past few years.”

Fifty-thousand people in Cumbria are employed in the tourist industry in some shape or form – that’s one in five people – so it’s a huge employer. And the industry has been hit hard by the recession.

Mr Stephens said that the number concern right now is the rising cost of living and of running a business: fuel, transport and energy. But he’s hopeful that things are picking up.

You also had some questions for Mr Stephens: here’s what he said:

4) Small communities are renowned for gossip and everyone knowing each other’s business. And one Cumbrian land lady said the rumours were true. She was happy to chat business and the demands of running a local village pub. But only off the record, saying that “people would talk”.

However we did manage to persuade one barman to deliver a pop-up pint…

5) It may be a 30 minute drive to get to a big supermarket or cinema; rents might be expensive due to National Park restrictions and second homes; and the pay may not compare to a city. But many Cumbrian locals will put up with their grievances when they have the Lakes on their doorstep.

Carlisle cabbie Margaret Milne told us: “When I’m driving through the Lake District I think, ‘I’m getting paid to do this’. I’d never leave!”