National Trust – High Peak

At last week’s conference at Newton Rigg, the Director General of the National Trust (and former top-mandarin at Defra) Dame Helen Ghosh spoke.

I know Helen just a little, having met her in her Defra role but the longest time I have ever spent in her company was when I showed her around the RSPB nature reserve at Minsmere near the beginning of her time at Defra.  I had a chat with her at the conference, before she spoke, and said that I hoped she would mention the excellent NT High Peak vision – and she said she would. And she did.

Helen set out what NT were planning to do in the context of their overall work in the uplands.  She made the point, and reiterated it in response to questions, that the NT exists to deliver its charitable objects, and not to be nice to its tenants (even though the NT obviously wouldn’t want to be nasty to its tenants).  NT exists to deliver a public benefit and it is in that context that they will deliver their High Peak Vision.

It was a polished performance.

The subject of ‘rewilding’ came up – because the NT vision for the High Peak is a nod in that direction.  I touched on this subject too, the next day, in my talk.  There is something to be said for ‘rewilding’ – certainly in contrast to the ‘dewilding’ of the uplands that goes on across grouse moors.

A more natural, less intensive land management may well have its place in the uplands of Britain.  The argument would be that a more natural landscape might well deliver more public benefit than an  intensively managed one.  Will less grazing, less drainage and less predator control deliver a landscape with more carbon sequestration, better water quality, less flooding and a more diverse wildlife community? The answer might well be ‘yes’.  It’s certainly worth investigating on a large scale in upland areas.

Landowners should expect to be paid for delivering these public benefits instead of following more traditional economic activities in the uplands – like sheep farming.  The economics of upland land use are complicated and interesting and I’ll come back to them, in a fairly simple way, tomorrow. But you can take it from me, that if you pay your taxes in the UK, you are already investing in the uplands so, to my mind, you have a say.


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8 Replies to “National Trust – High Peak”

  1. Let's hope the lake District is rewilded as well as there is too much to loose here compared to the Peak. Lakes poisoned by run off and erosion. Flooding in lowland areas like Keswick and Cockermouth. A change in how tenant farmers are picked. No point bringing in sheep farmers when the whole landscape is to be changed. Remember they own a 1/3 of the Lake District with the National park, Forestry Commission and United Utilities [public water company!!] also having a share. Then we may see Eagles, Pine Martens, Wild Cats, Wild Boar, Beaver, Chough and many more returned.

  2. I walked on NT Longstone estate in the Peaks yesterday and was struck by the dismal state of the woods tho NT were claiming they're managing them, by grazing with sheep. The woods were either oak with virtually no ground flora or birch with sweet vernal grass and no structure in either. It doesn't look like good management to me, tho the sheep were healthy enough so I guess the tenant farmers are happy, if it's possible to have a happy farmer.

  3. I suspect that it depends on what is meant by "re-wilding." In the past policies have been introduced that are not thought through and have had a detrimental effect on the environment. A change of government has brought about a change of policy to reverse the previous effect and this has in turn produced another negative effect. We are all paying for these policies, such as paying landowners to destroy hedges, woods, heath, water meadows etc. to provide more land for agriculture. Then we joined the EEC and later discovered that we were producing corn mountains, wine lakes etc. Excavating drains in upland moors caused flooding in valleys, so the drains were filled in. All being payed for by the public. Land is being destroyed by more buildings in the vain hope that this will reverse the depression. Where will our food come from when there is not enough land to grow it? Another country whose pristine forests are being destroyed so we can have palm oil? What we need is an all party conference to decide future policy that actually provides what the human and wildlife population of this country requires and not just what commercial interests pay for. Why is home grown lamb meat dearer than that which comes from New Zealand for instance? Farmers were only being paid £1/sheep but the prices in supermarkets did not reflect this. Visitors come to this country because the scenery is so varied and they do not have to travel far to see a variety of landscapes. Destruction of hedges and "prairie" farming mean that we are loosing habitats and wildlife on an unprecedented scale. It is Governments responsibility to stop the decline. Is it acceptable for people who want to leave the built environment for a short while to have to travel great distances to achieve this?

  4. Lamb prices to farmers closer to £80 each rather than £1.
    English lamb almost always in short supply as Europe wants it as well and almost always sold as fresh not frozen which N Z lamb is always sold frozen in UK.
    Would not think it is relevant to N Z lamb but most frozen food when tested seems to have water added to it to obviously add weight cheaply.

  5. There is no doubt that intensive sheep farming and game bird rearing has done a huge amount of damage to the fragile uplands. Having lived in Mid Wales for 25 yrs or so I witnessed the shocking decline in once common upland birds. However if farming activities were removed surely in a natural ecological system the end result would be woodland. Whenever I read about 'rewilding' there doesn't seem to be much wildness about it - it is all about managed habitats [many of which are the ones humans like best, although these may also be good for some other species of course]. It strikes me that there is more than a hint of the idyll in all these great ideas and not enough practicality. I totally support the concept of more wildness everywhere but this has to be something farmers and landowners can relate to and achieve.


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