FARMERS are being asked for their views on a plan for the Lake District which considers how we will achieve nature recovery and ensure the future of farming and forestry, and to reduce carbon and adapt to climate change together.

This is one part of the wider partnership plan which contains actions on the key challenges affecting the Lake District. The twenty-five organisations of the Lake District National Park Partnership, are inviting people to comment on the next five-year plan to address the major challenges for the Lake District.

LDNPA Farming Officer Andrea Meanwell said “It is important to acknowledge that farmers are key to delivering nature recovery networks and habitats in the National Park. More can be achieved when organisations, farmers and communities work together towards a common goal”.

Farming-led nature recovery is one of the main ways that actions for farming, forestry, nature recovery and climate change will be delivered. Continuing the work that environmental stewardship schemes have begun in the Lake District, farmers will be central to delivering nature recovery throughout the National Park. The new management plan has been developed through engagement with partnership organisations including those that represent the farming community, such as the NFU and the CLA, and conservation organisations including Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, land owners and other partnership members such as the Environment Agency and United Utilities.

Farmers were initially asked for their opinions about the future of farming in the Lake District in early 2020 and during January this year. The NFU, Farmer Network, Federation of Cumbria Commoners and Lake District National Park Authority talked with over 120 farmers via webinar meetings, phone calls and email, and the responses have helped to shape the plan now ready for wider consultation.

Key concerns from the engagement included the survival of businesses through the period of change, the survival of hefted flocks, producing environmentally friendly food products, support for young farmers and visitor pressures during the coronavirus pandemic. A report summarising the key messages can be found here:

One of the aims of the new plan is to support and encourage farmers to adapt their business in a way that not only makes their business resilient but also the landscape itself. Farmer led nature recovery can assist in making the landscape more resilient to serious flood events, create more joined up habitats for wildlife so that we have nature recovery networks throughout the park, and achieve net zero carbon targets. Farmers will be enabled to adapt their businesses to farm regeneratively, building soils and storing carbon. In some areas nature recovery will also continue to be led or co-created by others – including partners on the partnership, Rivers Trusts and Catchment Partnerships. A Heritage Horizons lottery bid to support the aims of the management plan has been submitted.

Wherever possible this will be achieved through collaborative area planning initiatives. A good example of an initiative like this is the Ullswater Catchment Community Interest Company that has been working to deliver farmer designed nature based natural flood management solutions and wildlife habitat creation in Patterdale and Matterdale. Farms have renaturalised rivers and created new hedgerows and shelter belts, boosting productivity on farm by building soils and improving animal welfare by adding shelter and shade to fields. Work like this can strengthen the traditional farming systems in the Lake District that produce high quality, sustainable food alongside helping nature recover.

The road ahead for farming in the Lake District is both challenging and exciting. New opportunities will be available for farmers to deliver nature recovery on their land, and build their businesses in new directions in new directions as we understand more about the Government’s Agricultural Transition Plan, new Environmental Land Management schemes, nature recovery strategies, opportunities to sell carbon credits and many other initiatives.