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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Bonington: Sale of Blencathra could enhance area

Mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington says a campaign to buy a mountain could end up “enhancing the beauty” of Blencathra.

Sir Chris Bonington photo
Sir Chris Bonington

Sir Chris said practical measures could be taken such as working with farmers on grazing levels and growing forests at the iconic Lakeland peak, which is up for sale with a £1.75m asking price.

He was speaking as a meeting was held to discuss the movement to buy the mountain by the Friends of Blencathra group.

Lord Lonsdale has put Blencathra up for sale to pay a £9m inheritance tax bill. His decision triggered a vigorous community campaign to raise the money needed to buy it.

Bids to purchase Blencathra, also known as Saddleback, must be tabled by July 2.

The public meeting was held at Rheged, near Penrith, in front of an audience of nearly 100.

Sir Chris spoke about how people may think it might not matter who bought it because of the stringent legislation applying to Blencathra. But he added: “I think it’s much more than that.

“We can actively contribute to this wonderful bit of mountain scenery.

“There are all sorts of things we can do by working with the farmers to make sure the right grazing levels are kept.

“There are also all kinds of things we can do enhancing the beauty of the mountain by growing natural forests.

“We, the people who love the Lake District and love the mountains, can share the ownership of this very special mountain.”

Questions were posed by the public over issues such as where the land involved started and ended.

Michael Bohling, of Mungrisdale parish council, asked about the VAT process involved, which the group said would be taken up with officials. The audience was told the amount raised so far would not be made public because any purchase involved a bidding process.

Debbie Cosgrove, chairwoman of Friends of Blencathra, said paperwork had been completed and the group expected to get charity status in about a week.

“That is absolutely amazing,” she added. “People have come on board from all over this county, all over this country and all over the world.

“A lady from Germany came up to me and said they had heard about this. We want the best for the mountain.”

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