Alan Alderson, chairman of the Swaledale Breeders Association, who farms near Brough, Cumbria, has observed the impact of livestock removal from the hills at first hand.
He said: “There are fells in this area which now only grow moss because all the sheep have been removed. They support very little wildlife and it is hard to see how they could ever be productive again.”
Mr Alderson was also concerned about the practice of large-scale grip blocking, especially where gullies appeared to be re-vegetating naturally.
“I can see why some grips should be blocked but we are seeing moors where the ground is now so wet the waders no longer breed there and it is not safe to graze sheep.”
Mr Alderson acknowledged the important contribution which agri-environment income can make to the farm business in upland areas. For schemes to be successful, he argued, it was essential the agreement payments are directed at graziers rather than other non-farming signatories as has happened in some instances.
“There will be less money about for these schemes in the future. So it is vital the payments go to the farmers who have made the hills and valleys the way they are if these special landscapes are not to be lost forever.”
Bakewell was the venue for this year’s NSA central region winter fair and the wintry weather did not deter visitors from enjoying the varied programme on offer. Chloe Palmer reports.