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“It’s been a game changer!” enthuses Serena Von Der Heyde as she describes the impact of 26 newly installed solar panels on her building’s roof.


Serena is the owner of the Victorian House Hotel in Grasmere. The hotel is one of 58 Lake District businesses receiving a share of nearly £1 million worth of funding to improve energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. Serena explains that the fund is “accelerating our progress towards becoming a carbon-neutral business.”


In the heart of Grasmere, Victorian House Hotel has been welcoming visitors to this magnificent part of the country since 1872. Yet Von der Heyde notes that “sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint is one of the most important journeys our hotel will undertake.” 



Since those burgeoning days of tourism in the 19th century, the amount of people visiting the area has increased dramatically. Today, the region welcomes over 15 million visitors annually. Tourism is vital to the economy of the Lake District, but while it brings plenty of opportunities for local businesses and workers, we cannot ignore the harmful effects of mass tourism on the environment.  

Tourists travelling to the National Park cause traffic and air pollution and the increased foot traffic on Lakeland fells leads to soil damage and erosion. The hospitality industry has also been known to create unnecessary waste and high energy use. In fact, the hotel sector alone accounts for around 1% of global carbon emissions and this is set to increase.


Solar Panels on Keswick Alhambra Roof
Keswick Alhambra Building in Lake District


Back in early 2021, led by the Lake District National Park Authority and delivered by Lake District Foundation, we began to award grants to local companies keen to consider their own impact on the environment. The Low Carbon Lake District Fund ran until June 2023, supporting businesses to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, while increasing the amount of renewable energy being created in the Lake District. 

Eighty projects were delivered in under two and a half years. The fund subsidised up to 60% of the budget, with each business investing between 40% - 50% of the project costs.

Like the Victorian House Hotel, Keswick’s historic Alhambra Cinema lowered their energy costs whilst reducing carbon by installing solar panels. Working towards a fully sustainable energy solution, Fornside Farm Cottages near Keswick installed solar panels to support existing ground source heat pumps. 



It wasn’t just traditional hospitality businesses that benefitted from the grants. Rebel Gelato, a plant-based ice cream company in Kendal invested in super energy efficient freezers. Founder Fiona Quinn said, “We were keen to be as sustainable as possible and we wouldn’t have been able to make this kind of investment in energy efficient equipment without the grant.”

The fund supported small to medium-sized businesses across the Lake District and Cumbria, including village shops, hotels, community-owned pubs, cinemas, breweries, and arts venues. 

"We’re addicted to this challenge of pushing down our carbon!" exclaimed Ewan Frost-Pennington of Muncaster Castle and Gardens. The family-friendly attraction has installed ground source pumps, solar panels and energy-efficient lightbulbs. It is exciting to see how quickly small gains can add up. 


Rebel Gelato in Lake District


In total, 544.3 metric tons of CO2e will be saved every year because of the Low Carbon Fund projects. That’s roughly the equivalent of charging your smartphone 65 million times!    

The Low Carbon Lake District Fund is one of the many innovative ways that the Lake District Foundation is working to future-proof our National Park. Increasingly, businesses in the region are playing their part by looking after the planet as brilliantly as they look after tourists. If you’re one of those visitors, have you considered the impact of your trip? Will you work with us towards building a Lake District that can be enjoyed by all, for years to come?

Find out more and donate to the Lake District Foundation.


Delivered by Lake District Foundation, the Low Carbon Lake District Fund was led by the Lake District National Park Authority, with partners including the National Trust, Westmorland and Furness Council and Cumbria Tourism. The Fund was supported by the European Structural Investment Fund.


~ Char Binns, Communications & Engagement Officer at Lake District Foundation.