Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

It came as a bit of a surprise recently to suddenly realise we have been the proud owners of our land at High Borrowdale, south of Shap for twenty years. Where has all the time gone….

We thought we would have a look back on why we bought it and what we have achieved in that time. We bought High Borrowdale, 44ha (108 acres), at auction in 2002 for £82,000. This represented the first purchase of land for many years, a deliberate move back into FLD being land owners. We bought the property for a number of reasons:-

  • There was significant potential to enhance the landscape and access to it, the walls and buildings were derelict and the land had been heavily grazed.
  • We could protect the land from threats – these quickly came when faced with wind turbines on the ridge above the land, and a new tourism venture on the adjacent land. We were also building the evidence base for the extension of the Lake District National Park so the purchase was timely.
  • More strategically, we wanted to put our policies into practice on our own land and see if they worked, and in turn learn from that experience to make our policies stronger and more relevant. This would put some of our campaigning on a firmer footing as we would gain direct experience of public grant schemes, tree planting, etc.
  • Finally we wanted to try some new land management techniques and demonstrate good practice.

We set out our long term vision: To maintain, enhance and diversify the special qualities of the landscape at High Borrowdale, increase opportunities for the public to enjoy this property, and demonstrate Friends of the Lake District is making a direct contribution to the Cumbrian landscape.

The landscape is never static, it continually changes and evolves, and our knowledge must do the same

Twenty years on it is good to look back on those original aims and the vision to see if we have realised it. Over that time we have:-

  • Restored two traditional farm buildings and stabilised another. In 2002, our Trustees visit the site of a derelict field barn at High Borrowdale. Restoration work begins and is completed in 2004, safeguarding this important example of Cumbrian cultural heritage. 

Restoration of field barn at High Borrowdale - 2004

  • Re-created 6ha of upland hay meadow, trialling two different techniques and helping pollinators.

Work begins on the creation of our first upland hay meadow in 2004 with the first cutting (pictured) in 2005

We now celebrate the stunning yearly display on two meadows on the site providing summer colour and important habitat

  • Planted around 16,000 trees to help enhance the landscape, store carbon and slow the flow.
  • Opened up and dedicated 44ha of land as permanent open access.
  • Run a research project testing three different types of material for restoring eroded slopes.

Working with the University of Cumbria assessing efficacy of different materials in stabilising eroded slopes - 2018 

  • Rebuilt every wall on the land, amounting to several miles.
  • Planted 420m of new hedge.
  • Been helped by volunteers on hundreds of days, amounting to thousands of hours of time.
  • Engaged with the public via a multitude of events and activities.

Poetry in the Meadow event at High Borrowdale - 2015

  • Had a resident Poet in the Meadow for a summer and resulting book of poems.
  • Tested out various techniques, eg hay meadow restoration, natural regeneration of trees v planting, restoration of eroded landscapes.
  • Experienced several public funding schemes and fed back experience through our responses to government consultations.
  • Successfully campaigned for the area to be included in the Lake District National Park.
  • Seen off various threats and enhanced the landscape.

In terms of meeting the vision, we have met it and will continue to do so. We have also fulfilled all the original objectives of the purchase. The land has given us a high profile new tool in our campaigning tool kit. It is known nationally the work we have done on restoring hay meadows, the attention we have drawn to two different publicly funded grant schemes which in fact acted against each other in some respects, and our work to find new ways of restoring eroded landslips.

We have an enhanced reputation as active landowners with practical knowledge that we use in our responses to consultations on land management and environmental issues

There have of course been hard decisions to make at times and some things that have not gone as we would have wished. We have been hit by storms, had landslides and struggled to get trees to grow in this extreme landscape. But, that experience can all add to the pot of learning about what works, where and why. The landscape is never static, it continually changes and evolves, and our knowledge must do the same.