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From the editor: Uplands are nothing without the farmers at their core

There is a feeling among several farmers in the Lake District that the large landowners, such as United Utilities and others, want tenant farmers removed from the landscape and control of the farms taken back in-hand.

Whether this is for the environmental and direct payments they can reap as a result of removing tenants, there is no doubt that tenant farmers in some parts of the uplands feel as though their way of life is coming under increasing pressure.

 

These were concerns Farmers Guardian voiced in its special investigation in to the future of the uplands last October, and the decision by UU to bring in a hired shepherd at West Head Farm, Thirlmere, in the Lakes, is clearly a huge cause for concern for many in the region.

 

Of course, UU is entitled to do what it wants with its land, but by reducing sheep numbers it is lessening the pool of available genetics for the Herdwick breed, and it is also lessening the pool of people who farm in the region and whom are integral to the communities which define that landscape.

 

So much is spoken about in terms of farmers preserving wildlife and farmland birds, but what is being done to preserve the role of farmers among the landscape? If the hills are stripped of people, as well as sheep, then the sights and sounds of a working landscape can be lost forever.


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Yes, the tourists might not immediately notice the change, but they will in the long run as our uplands shift irrevocably.

 

Farmers do not want to be park-keepers in areas which are becoming culturally sidelined. They want to be players in a vibrant landscape which, beyond the chocolate box image, has vibrant communities at its core and, crucially, remains a working environment.

 

Farming has shaped the beauty of regions such as the Lake District and is an intrinsic part of its appeal for visitors, as acknowledged in the World Heritage status. The large landlords would do well to remember that fact.

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