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Future of Farming and Forestry, Nature Recovery and Climate Change

What is it?

The Lake District National Park faces the biggest change in half a century with the implementation of the Agriculture Act 2020 and the government’s ambitions as set out in its 25 Year Environment Plan. Our farming traditions, our natural environment and our climate are in crisis. Recovering from these crises drives the priorities and objectives for our Plan.

What we are trying to achieve is set out in the Partnership Plan here:
Securing the future of farming and forestry, nature recovery and climate change

Farming in Protected Landscapes

Farmers in the Lake District National Park can benefit from the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme (FiPL), part of DEFRA’s Agricultural Transition Plan, with grants available that contribute to one of four themes: Nature, People, Place and Climate.

Percentage of FiPL Projects Addressing Each Theme

In Year 1 there was an emphasis on PLACE and CLIMATE projects being submitted and supported. In our second year, NATURE and PLACE became the dominant themes for projects. Many projects in both years addressed all four themes together demonstrating how interconnected our nature and culture are to help address climate change and biodiversity loss. So far, FiPL has spent over £1.5m on projects in the Lake District.

There has been a rapid increase in farmers benefiting from the project over the last two years with over 220 in total across 105 projects; this includes targeting individual farm businesses and farmer clusters, as well as large-scale valley and fell activities.

Grants have ranged in size from £5,000 to over £350,000 depending on complexity, geographical area and value for money. We are now in Year 3 and look forward to supporting another year of innovation and ideas by our farming community in 2024-25 (Year 4).

Number of Farmers and Projects Benefiting from the Farming in Protected Landscape Programme

Our targets are for the number of farms in the National Park funded through a FiPL scheme.

Source: Lake District National Park Authority

Traditional Farm Buildings – 2022-23

Medieval ‘barn’ at Garth Row, Underbarrow

As part of the FiPL funding programme, the Lake District National Park Authority has received a large number of enquiries from farmers and landowners for support with traditional building repairs. The LDNPA has worked with owners to fund roof repairs on two barns and a replacement timber floor in a traditional bank barn.

The Authority has also secured funding from FiPL to commission feasibility reports for a further 25 barns where the scale of works needed is more complex, and condition, structural and wildlife surveys are needed. The LDNPA now has estimated costs for the repair of these 25 sites and is working to allocate capital funds for the highest priority sites.

Percentage of Land under Agri-Environment Agreements

The overall trend in the area of land dedicated to Agri-Environment schemes has increased, taking into account the expansion of the National Park boundary, with a small decrease in area in 2021. This means that we have not yet met our low target of maintaining the percentage of land in these schemes at 2020 levels. Many agreements are time extensions to existing ones given the pending roll out of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme.

Source: Natural England
The upper Duddon valley (photo c/o John Hodgson)

The DEFRA-funded Environmental Land Management (ELM) pilots for landscape recovery aim to support farmers, landowners, and land managers to take a large-scale, long-term approach to recovering nature and producing environmental and climate goods and services on their land. Landscape-scale recovery is an important element of the Partnership Plan, with the Partnership committed to supporting these pilot projects and influencing ELM policy. We are also interested to explore how such schemes can support nature recovery in a cultural landscape.

Upper Duddon Landscape Recovery project – 2022-23

The Upper Duddon Landscape Recovery project brings farmers, landowners and environmental organisations together to achieve nature recovery over 2,750 hectares of the upper Duddon Valley in the southwest of the Lake District National Park. This multi-partner project (including tenant farmers, private landowners, National Trust, Forestry England, South Cumbria Rivers Trust, Natural England, University of Leeds, and University of Cumbria) builds on existing environmental projects in the upper Duddon Valley. Local farmers will continue to work towards sustainable and environmentally friendly land management, with support from the National Trust and Natural England.

The project aims to restore a rich mosaic of native woodland, wood pasture, montane scrub, heath, bog and meadows. These habitats will allow rare native species like red squirrels to thrive. The project is being designed with local farmers, so that land management supports both farming and nature. It is hoped the project will help upland fell farms have a more sustainable and resilient future. Restoring nature will also provide new local job opportunities.

The two-year DEFRA-funded development phase is in progress to scope out ways to farm and manage the land to help nature thrive and recover. At the end of this phase, local farmers involved in the partnership will have the option to enter a long-term agreement to implement the changes on their land that they have helped design. Habitats and species in the valley are being surveyed to inform where and how to restore or create new habitats. The feasibility and suitability of the valley for reintroducing species, like the water vole, is also being explored.

– Dominick Spracklen, University of Leeds and project lead for the Upper Duddon Landscape Recovery pilot

The Partnership’s Nature Recovery Plan for the Lake District – 2022-23

The Nature Recovery Plan sets out the Partnership’s aim to restore nature in the National Park, by improving its functioning and resilience to future climate change and providing a wonderful green destination, whilst at the same time supporting the local economy. It describes how the Partnership will contribute to restoring nature on 30% of land be 2030. The plan will be published later in 2023.

SSSI Condition 2013 to 2025

In 2021, 22.7% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSIs) were in favourable condition compared to 27.0% in 2014. Whilst there has been a decline, there has been an increase in those sites which remain stable but still in unfavourable condition.

Source: Natural England

WaterBodies Assessed as having Good Ecological Status

Continuing the classification of water bodies using the EU Water Framework Directive, the Lake District has seen an improvement of those with GOOD ecological status since 2018. Our target is 75% by 2027 into the next plan cycle.

Source: Environment Agency

Planned Peatland Restoration Projects – 2022-23

Peatland Restoration

Between 2015 and 2018 several thousand hectares of peatland were restored. While restoration has since slowed, good progress has been made on restoration planning, laying the groundwork for reaching our target of 7,000ha restored by 2025.

Source: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

The total area of peatland restored last year was 154.5ha and this equates to a saving of 15,586 tonnes CO2 equivalent over the next 50 years (Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme calculator), the equivalent of the emissions from nearly 8,000 petrol cars.

Source: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

West Lakes Community Interest Company – 2022-23

The West Lakeland Farmer-Led Nature Recovery CIC is a not-for-profit, community interest company. It was formed in 2021 by local farmers and is based in the western valleys of the Lake District National Park, encompassing an area of approximately 25,000 acres (100,000km² or 40 square miles). The area includes the upland commons of Nether Wasdale, Stockdale Moor and Kinniside, the freehold fells of upper Wasdale and upper Ennerdale and the farmland of the lower valleys.

The CIC has been set up to be led from the grassroots by those involved in the stewardship of the area. It aims to resolve complex issues faced by the farmers, by the local communities and by the natural environment. The Directors and others involved in the planned projects will do this by engaging with local individuals, agencies, businesses, groups and Non governmental Organisations (NGOs) to reinforce the fabric of local communities and the farming landscape.

The emphasis is on a farmer-led nature recovery partnership that recognises the individuality and idiosyncrasies of each valley and works with the community to maintain the uniqueness, character and beauty of each place. It is recognition that the local knowledge, pragmatism, care and dedication of farmers and local communities will create the sustainable and bio-diverse future to the benefit of all.

Local knowledge and experience of traditional pastoral farming practices on the western commons of Kinniside, Stockdale and Nether Wasdale joining the two iconic lakes of Wastwater and Ennerdale is to be collected and collated to create a plan for positive change. A landscape-scale scheme is proposed to support local farming, the local communities and to continue nature-positive farming practices, maintain animal welfare standards and produce high quality foods for UK markets and abroad.

– West Lakeland CIC
Photo c/o West Lakeland CIC

In partnership with Natural England and the Forestry Commission, and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, the Lake District National Park Authority has developed and published Woodland Creation and Tree Establishment Guidelines to promote woodland creation and support good decision making.

The intention is to get more of the right trees in the right places for the right reasons in the National Park landscape and reach the Partnership’s ambition of 17% woodland cover by 2050. The guidelines highlight the main issuesto consider in this special place and provide further sources of advice; see Woodland creation.

Tree cages being built in Gowbarrow Park, Ullswater, by one of the CIC’s local contractors. Photo c/o Maddy Teasdale.
Tree cages being built in Gowbarrow Park, Ullswater, by one of the CIC’s local contractors. Photo c/o Maddy Teasdale.

The Partnership is committed to supporting the delivery of four community-led land management initiatives to increase nature recovery, climate recovery and maintain cultural heritage.

Ullswater Catchment Management Community Interest Company – 2022-23

Ullswater Catchment Management Community Interest Company (CIC) is run by Danny and Maddy Teasdale. The company was set up by Danny following the devastating floods of Storm Desmond in 2015. These were particularly damaging to their home village of Glenridding and other communities around Ullswater. Projects were initially small scale and local but they now work throughout the whole of the Ullswater and adjacent catchments, and have delivered work throughout Cumbria. They work with farmers and landowners to improve flood resilience and the natural environment through practical projects and solutions, showing how farming and nature can exist and flourish together. They believe that by improving soil and habitat management, farming can be part of the solution to nature recovery, carbon sequestration, and flood resilience, whilst also producing sustainable healthy food.

Their projects are varied but include river restorations, wetland and pond creation, hedgerow creation and restoration, wood pasture creation, and wildflower planting. So far they have planted over 10km of hedgerows and built 300 tree cages.

Many of the projects are compatible with the Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) that are available to farmers and landowners. Projects are proposed and led by the farmers and landowners, and the work is completed by either themselves or local contractors. They use supplies from local businesses where possible, to help support the local economy. They also host a cluster group of farmers and landowners in the area, and organise information and knowledge sharing talks and farm visits for the group to attend.

Ullswater Catchment CIC now has a proven track record of delivering projects, and has developed excellent working partnerships with the Environment Agency, the Woodland Trust, the National Trust, Lake District National Park Authority and Natural England. They are also supported in their work by the Farmer Network and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

– Maddy Teasdale, Ullswater Catchment Management CIC

The Partnership aims to reduce the contributions that farming and land management make to greenhouse gas emissions, supporting farmers and land managers on adaption to deliver schemes to reduce their risk from climate change.

Farm Climate Adaptation – 2022-23

Tree planting at Moorside Farm (photo c/o: Caitlin Pearson)
Tree planting at Moorside Farm (photo c/o: Caitlin Pearson)

Moorside Farm in Corney, West Cumbria combines sheep and beef farming, horse stables and luxury glamping pods. Increasingly environmental works are in the mix, bringing benefits to the farm business as well as enhancing wildlife, improving water quality and providing climate resilience.

Working with West Cumbria Rivers Trust, Moorside Farm has undertaken a series of environmental improvements over the last three years, funded by the Environment Agency’s Natural Flood Management pilot. This project aimed to help reduce flood risk o the village of Bootle downstream whilst providing a range of other benefits.

The work included creating two storage ponds, restoring a floodplain meadow and installing a series of ‘leaky dams’ to slow the flow. Several watercourses were fenced off from livestock and riverside trees planted. As well as reducing runoff, this will create shade over the streams, keeping water cool for wildlife in high summer temperatures.

Most recently, the farm has received an England Woodland Creation Offer grant from the Forestry Commission for planting 1.5ha of native woodland. The incentive payment and ongoing maintenance payments, in additionto the capital grant, have provided a source of income from a bracken-dominated field that was not suitable for grazing due to the high tick load. Collectively, these projects will help also the farm become carbon neutral.

– Caitlin Pearson, Catchment Officer, West Cumbria Rivers Trust

Concentration of Hefting on Commons in the Lake District

The overall situation is that between 2017 and 2023 the Lake District has lost 27 hefts (roughly equivalent to 9%). Hefting is becoming more concentrated onto fewer commons, with fewer hefts per common. One common has been lost completely due to a change in landlord policy.

Source: World Heritage Site Technical Advisory Group
heft map 2017
heft map 2022

Between 2017 and 2022, active hefts in the Lake District have become geographically concentrated onto fewer commons, as seen by a shift to orange and red. For some commons there has been a reduction in active hefts, represented by those switching from orange to yellow, or yellow to green. At the same time, more commons no longer have hefts operating on them at all, indicated as grey. Overall, the number of hefts on Lake District commons has declined by 8.6% in the last five years.

Borrowdale gather (photo c/o Viv Lewis)

The Lake District Shepherds’ Guide

Revising the Shepherds’ Guide is a Partnership Plan action, to establish a baseline and description of fell going flocks to understand and support the viability of hefted flocks; also supporting the broader ambition of maintaining, celebrating and strengthening traditional Lake District farming systems which is a key ingredient of World Heritage Site status.

Fell and Farm, Flock and Family: Exploring the past to shape the future of farming with the updated Lakeland Shepherds’ Guide – 2022-23

Over the last two centuries hill farming in the Lake District has undergone many changes. Flock numbers have risen and fallen, and land management has adapted to social, economic, environmental and political pressures. Yet despite these changes, some elements of the farming cultural landscape have endured including the Shepherds’ Guide. It was first published in 1817 by J Walker, a shepherd from Martindale, and is updated every 20 years. The current project, managed by the Federation of Cumbria Commoners, will result in a new publication in 2025.

Alongside the hardback book, for the first time the Shepherds’ Guide will be available in digital format on a new website, with search and update facilities. This is being developed with our Kendal-based web designers A Digital. In this way we can keep the Shepherds’ Guide ‘live’ through recording changes over the next twenty years.

We will also conduct further evidence-gathering with farmers to explore the ways in which they think that fell farming has changed over the past 45 years.

As is traditional, the information on fell-going flocks in the 13 valleys is collected by Lakeland farmers. In November 2022, we invited fell farmers to get involved and over 60 came to a meeting at Mitchells Auction Mart, Cockermouth. We recruited the 35 Area Collectors needed: many were the same as 20 years ago, while some passed the job down to their sons and daughters, and some new faces emerged. Area Collectors are now gathering information from those who had an entry in the 2005 guide.

– Viv Lewis, Federation of Cumbria Commoners

Progress update: Lakeland Shepherds’ Guide – 2022-23

The Lakeland Shepherds’ Guide covers information on fell-going flocks and flock marks for the 13 Lake District valleys. Over the last year, thirty eight volunteer Area Collectors, for the most part Lakeland farmers, have collected this information at parish level. They have checked and updated the 800 or so entries in the previous Lakeland Shepherds’ Guide published in 2005. New to the 2025 edition is compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018. This has created an extra task for the Area Collector as they had to obtain signed consent from each farmer agreeing to their contact details appearing in the Shepherds’ Guide. This work is nearly complete, but not will not be finished until the book goes to print next year. Our aim is to include any changes between now and when the book goes to print.

For the first time all the data collected has been entered into a database. This makes it easier to keep track of changes and the Guide becomes a living document, rather than a static picture of the situation at the time of collection. We have also added the 2005 entries to the database and we plan to interrogate the data to highlight changes over the last 20 years. On first inspection the number of flocks has changed, increasing in some parishes and decreasing in others. This will need further examination. We do know that in 2005, farmers had to pay to a modest sum to have an entry in the Shepherds’ Guide. This time, thanks to FiPL funding it is free to all. That may have encouraged more farmers to have an entry in the new Guide.

We are working with our web designers to create a digital version of the Guide available through a new website. In addition to the website hosting the Shepherds’ Guide, the site will also be used as a vehicle to reach the public and highlight some of the issues and challenges facing farmers, and their role in the importance of safeguarding the landscape and environment

– Viv Lewis, Federation of Cumbria Commoners

Registered Common Land in the Lake District National Park

2018

66,252ha

of common land

2023

66,218.65ha

of common land

2024

66,219.00ha

of common land

Since 2018 34.39ha of common land has been removed from the Register. This is represented by small parcels of land spread across 17 commons (which may include land that was incorrectly registered). 1.04ha of land at Eskdale Common has been added.

Source: Commons Registration Service, Westmorland and Furness Council.

Common Land in Countryside Stewardship Schemes

For the first time in 2024-24 we have been able to demonstrate the percentage of common land in the Lake District that is in environmental schemes, with percentage of the Lake District land holdings on the vertical axis and the no. of hectares for each scheme and the cumulative total in each coloured block.

Love Windermere – 2022-23

The Love Windermere Partnership is a collaboration of ten partners and a range of stakeholders. Chaired by the Environment Agency, the partnership is working towards a long-term Vision which aims to ensure the Lake Windermere and its catchment is healthy, more resilient to climate change and nutrient levels are reduced; where the community are its custodians and contribute to a healthy lake and local economy.

In order to achieve the Vision a partnership approach has been embraced to facilitate positive collaborative action with stakeholders that have influence over the water environment. Key drivers for the partnership include understanding the human and climatic pressures on water and how collectively partners can collaborate on themes including: the Public Sewage Network, Non-Mains Drainage; Land Management; Sustainable Finance; Data; Science and Evidence, and Communication & Engagement. The partnership is aiming to demonstrate within Cumbria and nationally how the health of the natural capital of the lake and surrounding catchment affects the quality of the ecosystem services it provides (e.g. water quality, flood management, biodiversity, climate resilience, recreation, social and economic services.)

Early work includes:

-Delivering four Windermere citizen science water quality surveys with 100 sample areas and hundreds of hours of volunteer time to allow local communities to be part of the planning of future interventions.

-Sharing science, projects, key messages and providing opportunities to get involved through the creation of the Love Windermere website.

-Delivering a septic tank campaign with partners, encouraging best practice and supporting this through community emptying scheme grants.

-Developing an action plan.

Lake Windermere

Love Windermere – 2023-24

The Love Windermere Partnership continues towards delivering it’s vision; Ensuring Lake Windermere, and its catchment, is healthy, more resilient to climate change and nutrient levels are reduced; where the community are its custodians and contribute to a healthy lake and local economy.

The partnership has secured ~£900K of funding in the last two years to support delivering the interim action plan. This has funded citizen science activities, community engagement, e-DNA research, integrated science plan and state of the lake report. All of this work is building our knowledge of the catchment and enabling the development of the longer-term plan.

Actions include:

-REVERE Project– financing nature based solutions to improve water quality

-Developing a farmer facilitation network, exploring options for Environment Land Management Schemes and holding farmer engagement workshops

-Announcement for £41m of United Utilities investment to reduce spill activations from overflows in the catchment

-Grants to support community septic tank emptying schemes and training and guidance for septic tank maintenance

-Innovative trials to remove Phosphorus from non-mains systems

The partnership is in the process of making improvements to enhance its effectiveness, including widening membership to include a representative from Town and Parish Councils. The partnership also is developing its longer-term plan for Windermere. Plan production will continue this coming year.

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