The geographical context and hydroclimatology of the English Lake District means that the region is an important monitor of changes to nationally significant environmental assets. Using monthly rainfall series for sites in and around the central Lake District, a continuous similar to200-year precipitation index was constructed for a representative station close to Grasmere. The bridged series shows a significant decline in summer rainfall since the 1960s, offset by increases in winter and spring that are strongly linked to North Atlantic forcing. Over longer time periods, the index exhibits several notable dry (1850s, 1880s, 1890s, 1930s, 1970s) and wet (1820s, 1870s, 1920s, 1940s, 1990s) decades. These patterns are strongly reflected by reservoir inflow series and by indicators of the biological status of the region's freshwater lakes. It is argued that long-term climate indices will become increasingly important as managers seek to evaluate recent and project environmental changes within the context of long-term natural variability.