This project will focus on common land, commoners and commoning in the project area. It will record the unique history of this type of land and farming, and culminate in a celebration to celebrate the area’s common land and commoners.

Project lead: Friends of the Lake District

Common land is hugely significant to Cumbria (we have a third of England’s common land), but also to the project area. Unenclosed common land characterises much of the upland landscape of the Westmorland Dales, providing rough pasture grazing for both cattle and sheep and also delivering multiple public benefits. These unenclosed areas of land are of a beautiful, wild appearance yet have been farmed for over 450 years by hill farmers, tending their livestock through traditional husbandry practices. The project area itself has around 30 individually registered pieces of common land which are under threat. This project will focus on the following commons: Asby, Cotemoor, Hardendale, Crosby Ravensworth, Ravenstonedale, Tebay, Bank Moor and Birkett.  

The number of active commoners is declining, and many of them are elderly and have no successors. There is less manpower to effectively manage the commons in terms of gathering and grazing. Time may be running out for some commons and it is important to capture their history and cultural heritage whilst we can. Many people outside the farming community don’t really understand what’s involved in upland farming and the unique heritage of commons- this project will improve understanding. 

The significance of commons

  • Livestock production - the commons provide the home for native breeds of sheep including mainly Rough Fell in the Westmorland Dales.
  • Environmental assets – reservoir of rich biodiversity, landscape beauty, much of it designated as SSSI improving connectivity for wildlife with enclosed land.
  • Culture and heritage - links to rich history and traditions, communal grazing
  • Aesthetics and sense of place – Visually distinctive appearance.
  • Health and quality of life - common land is open access and tranquil.
  • Social cohesion and community activity- communal grazing and traditional forms of management

Purpose

  • To raise awareness and understanding amongst the general public about the unique commoning heritage in the Westmorland Dales
  • To celebrate the unique commoning heritage in the Westmorland Dales
  • To capture and record the history of commoners and store in public archives.
  • To bring commoners together and reinforce their common interest.