Diary - January 2009
The future of hill farming in England and Wales is set for a
radical shake-up in the next decade as we move to an era where
farming water, wildlife, carbon and landscapes in the hills could
become the norm.
This prediction from the National Trust comes on the tenth
anniversary of the trust’s acquisition of Hafod y Llan,
a 4,000-acre hill farm in Snowdonia, and featured in our November
Iwan Huws, the trust’s director for Wales, says: “Ten
years ago any notion that hill farmers would farm for water or
for carbon would have been dismissed as fantasy. But with the
pressures of a changing climate, the future of hill farming will
focus on a mixture of food production and providing wider environmental
benefits for society.”
The trust manages 660,000 acres of land in England, Wales and
Northern Ireland, and the majority of this land is in the uplands.
There are 2,000 tenant farmers, including more than 700 whole
At present, hill farms like Hafod y Llan rely
on direct public subsidy to keep going. The rising costs of production
and the global recession threaten to cut returns from food sales,
making the economics of hill farming very challenging.
The trust forecasts that, in the future, new income sources,
from both the public and private sector, will link any payments
to how the natural resources on these farms are managed for the
wider benefit of society.
Every year the hills attract millions of people who want to
enjoy the great outdoors and they provide vital services such
as supplying drinking water, holding back floodwater
and storing carbon, as well as producing food. Hill farms like
Hafod y Llan also provide large areas of habitat, which is particularly
important for wildlife as it tries to adapt to a changing climate.
The trust adds that by 2018 hill farms will have to focus on
using fewer resources, such as energy to produce food, and any
financial support will focus on their role in managing water
and carbon storage. Farms such as Hafod y Llan will continue
to produce high-quality food, create space for wildlife to flourish
and provide good-quality public access to the hills.
Iwan continues: “The uplands are particularly rich in
natural resources and much loved by the public. But the role
of hill farms in managing these assets is largely unrecognised.
With the right investment, these farms could be rewarded for
their important contribution to our wildlife as well as the management
of the finite resources such as water and soil, which will benefit
The trust suggests this investment could come from redirecting
flood management funds, or water company investment in land management
which reduces pollution at source.
Make way for the dormouse
Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT), one of forty-seven local wildlife
trusts across the country, is celebrating a milestone in landscape
conservation. More than 100 schemes are helping combat climate
change, and together these ‘Living Landscape’ schemes
now cover more than 2.5 million acres.
Dr Tony Whitbread, chief executive of SWT, says: “We have
always safeguarded our wildlife havens but now we must think
beyond these boundaries and create a ‘Living Landscape’ with
landowners, farmers and local communities. These larger schemes
not only help wildlife, they alleviate floods, control pollution
and help us cope with extremes of temperature. What is good for
wildlife is good for people too.”
The West Weald Landscape Project is one of SWT’s schemes,
covering nearly 60,000 acres. At the heart of this diverse ancient
landscape of woodland, glades and wetlands is the trust’s
nature reserve at Ebernoe Common.
SWT has been able to buy some of the farmland and parcels of
woodland surrounding Ebernoe Common, known as Butcherlands. It
is now creating areas of wood pasture, including a mixture of
woods, pastures, meadows, hedges and rews (thin strips of woodland
linking larger blocks). Such an interconnected landscape is essential
to allow creatures, such as dormice and butterflies, to move
from one section to another.
Tony adds: “Bats and dormice are good indicators of a
well-connected landscape for wildlife. A great deal of our wildlife
needs a landscape that is well connected so they can move about,
colonising and re-colonising areas in response to a changing
natural world. Working with others and continuing to expand and
create more natural landscapes is the future of conservation.”
The winners of our Robert Fuller Wildlife Print competition
were: David Lloyd Rees, Swansea; Frank Harper, Bath; Mrs J Robinson,
Knighton; Diana Gill, Hove; Anne Orbell, Groombridge; Paul Durham,
Aylesbury; Mr J Gulliver, Preston Bissett; Kevin Jenkins, London;
Mrs Z Burcher, Leighton Buzzard; Mrs C Perkins, Bromsgrove. Thank
you to all those who entered.
Attack of the gremlins
The gremlins crept in to mess up our page 7 last month. It meant
the punchline was missing from our last story. Here it is in
A village church in my part of the Dales is very old, with traditional
box pews. On attending the Christmas service for the first time,
one little girl asked: “When you go to church, Mummy, which
cupboard do you go in?”
In October’s magazine, in the article headed A
Crooked Man, it was stated the stickmaker Ralph Drewitt won Best Stick
in Show at Chatsworth and was a judge at Chatsworth in 2004.
Ralph actually won Best Novice Stick and was a judge at Penistone
Show. The author apologises for the errors.
As from this month the price of The Countryman in shops will
increase to £3.25. A year’s subscription will be £33
(£2.75 per copy) — but please see page 105 for special
offers and multi-year deals. Existing subscribers will not pay
any extra until their current deal expires.