I SPLIT my time equally between the National Trust and the Lake District National Park Partnership. It’s great to work across these two organisations, as we think about tackling challenges in the Lake District together and delivering positive outcomes for everyone.

What is your take on the current situation regarding farming in the Lake District?

I see lots of fantastic farmers doing really great things on their farms and they are critical to the local community and to maintaining traditional farming practices. There are so many successful and exciting diversification projects including tea rooms, holiday cottages and camping pods and we are seeing an increasing number of environmental schemes that are helping nature recover. However, I do know this is not always the case everywhere, which is understandable. For everyone to benefit from the landscape my view is that we should be working collectively to share learning and support farming across the Lakes. The change in farm payments is hugely significant for the farming community, and as we move through the next few years and transition from the existing CAP payments to the new system that financially rewards farmers for delivering environmental benefits, there is much uncertainty, particularly for upland farms which are such an important part of our cultural heritage. But we do have a choice. We will achieve more by working together than we will by debating our differences. Cumbria has a strong history of coming together to achieve amazing things..

What is the Future Farming Programme?

The future of farming in the Lake District is a key strategic issue for the National Trust and the Future Farming Programme was established to focus on not only how we manage the 90 tenanted farms in the region, including our substantial land holding associated with them, but also how we work with the wider farming community. A further priority is how we approach the management of the commons that we own, which may be grazed by both our tenants and by private farm owners, to the benefit of all. We want to support the growing number of new tenants taking on our farms and build a partnership approach to enable us all to realise our ambitions.

What is your vision for the Future Farming Programme?

My ultimate aim is that we are jointly proud of our farms, from the point of view of both the farming community and the National Trust. This will be achieved by working closely with the broader farming community and a range of partners to realise thriving, diverse farms that maintain the cultural heritage of the Lake District while delivering positive outcomes for people, nature, the climate and places.

What are the key elements of the Future Farming Programme?

The programme aims to deliver major infrastructure investment, support the growing number of new tenants taking on our farms, build trust and partnerships between ourselves and our tenants and enable us to deliver our ambitions for a healthy, beautiful and productive landscape. It provides opportunities for testing different approaches to the management of our farmed estate, identifying new ways of working to improve relationships with our farm tenants, encouraging innovation and helping to achieve a sustainable future for our farms.

How will the programme help to improve farming in the Lake District? How will this help the wider farming community?

With the challenges facing farming and the changing needs of society, we are clear that we have an important role to play in the farming community and with our partners to help shape the future of farming in the Lakes. It’s not a one size fits all approach, however. I firmly believe that the challenges that we all face should be a shared endeavour, jointly testing and learning how our farms can adapt and thrive in 2021 and beyond while keeping true to the people and the traditions, alongside producing multiple public benefits. The farming community is essential to our way of life in the Lakes, and we have a role to play in helping them to adapt, whether they are our tenants or not.

Will you just be working with NT tenants?

This is not just about one role in the Trust, it’s about everything we do across the work of a whole range of our people including rangers, estate managers, specialist advisors, general managers and our staff that welcome people to our properties. We are often out working with tenants and partners, but the pandemic has limited our ability to do this over the last 18 months. But we are getting back out again more regularly now, meeting with our tenants, other farmers and our partners to find out what is important to them, how we can offer our support and how we can move forward together. In recent weeks I’ve been involved in several important discussions that have a significant impact on farming in the Lake District. I am working on numerous projects such as Our Common Cause that includes a range of practical projects focussed on the benefits that our commons provide, including how we can help farmers test approaches to managing bracken and enhancing wildlife. I’ve spent time with the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association discussing concerns about the loss of flocks, the hefting system and how we might work more closely to address those concerns. I have attended a meeting with graziers, the Defra Minister and local MP to review progress on a Defra Environmental Land Management Test and Trial led by the Foundation for Common Land.