The mountain and the money…

…I live in Cumbria, the county that is the home of the Lake District. There are lots of hills, fells and mountains in Cumbria. Recently one of the local landowning lords tried to sell one of their mountains to help them pay a tax bill. You have to admire the chutzpah of someone who tries to raise the money he needs for a tax-bill by selling off the least useful asset that they own; “darling shall we sell the family silver, the horses or perhaps that hill that we can’t even see from here, you know the one?”.

What happened next was quite amazing, and just a little disturbing. Rather than laughing the lord out the room a group of well-meaning people quickly rallied round to raise the money to buy the mountain, perhaps in-part because the local lord had allegedly spread a rumour that someone from outside the area might acquire this precious local asset and that would of course be a tragedy. How could local people let something so iconic fall into someone else’s hands…at this point you’re probably asking yourself who’s hands they didn’t want it to fall into and the answer is I don’t know and I don’t think they knew, but it all made a cracking story. Nonetheless, our intrepid locals quickly raised over a million pounds and secured the attention of major sponsors.

According to Google (and who am I to question) a mountain the size of the one in question weighs well in excess of a billion tons; so even if some evil villain with a personal vendetta against mountains had bought it from our impoverished local lord, it wasn’t going to be moved anywhere quickly. The mountain is also protected because it is in the Lake District National Park, so it could not be built upon or altered in any way, shape or form. The paths across the mountain are protected rights of way, so access onto it could not be interfered with either. In summary, it doesn’t matter who owns the mountain…visitors to it would not see any difference and local residents (many of whom don’t know who owns it now) would not notice any difference either.

Last week I attended the annual general meeting of a small charity, at which I was able to hear first-hand about how the local Food Bank has been struggling to keep up with demand. More people need the services of their local Food Bank than ever before and the Food Banks are under increasing pressure; in short they need more money and more help.

What has happened to us, how did we reach a point when people will mobilise and rally round to raise a million pounds to buy a mountain whilst their neighbours are going short of food; I know which of these issues I think is worth addressing…

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