Your University magazine 2022-23

Page 33

RICHARD LEAFE BSc Geography 1987, MPhil Geography 1990, Hon LittD 2016 Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park I was always interested in geomorphology and how the landscape came to be the shape that it is. I studied that topic during my degree, which led to my MPhil focusing on coastal geomorphology whilst I stayed on in the University’s Department of Geography as a Research Assistant. I spent 15 years with English Nature, progressing through to the role of Regional Director for the East Midlands. I always thought running a National Park in this country would be a really interesting job; in fact, I was quite jealous when one of my friends from Natural England got a job as Chief Executive of the Peak District! The role with the Lake District came up and I’ve been here ever since. It’s been a fantastic journey of leadership, discovery and lots of challenges along the way. I oversee the National Park Authority, and it’s their job, on behalf of the government, to look after the National Park. I also keep an eye on our external relationships with people within and beyond the Park. Everybody has a view on what the National Park is for and how it’s managed and that is how it should be – because it’s

Working in the Lake District seems a perfect fit for Richard. It was there, whilst on an A-level Geography field trip, that he discovered a passion for working in the great outdoors. Richard further explored this interest during his University days, when he was also introduced to the concept of climate change. Now, as Chief Executive of one of the UK’s most picturesque national parks, Richard deals with the consequences of our changing environment on a daily basis.

their National Park. Working with our members, I help to decide which way we want to go in the future. I remember we had a talk at University from the Director-General of the Met Office at the time, Sir John Houghton, who warned that we were facing global climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. Just about everything I do these days is connected to the

consequences of our changing climate. It is important that we not only do our bit to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions but also adapt the Park to make it more resilient. We don’t do enough to educate kids on climate change outside of the classroom. Our collective ambition is that every child in this country will spend at least one night under the stars in a National Park, whether they are studying geography or not. Then we can start to talk to young people about how the climate is changing and what they can do in their own lives to work on that. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot more people visiting our National Parks because they haven’t been able to go abroad. It’s wonderful to see people rediscovering what we have on our doorstep and how beautiful it is. I’ve been blown away over the past two years at how many young people I’ve seen out exploring.

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