Friday 14th October, 2022, 7 - 8:30pm

Tickets: £8 Adults; £6 Over 60s and under 16s. Tickets available from the Rheged website.

As upland farmers face an uncertain future, and with so many competing demands on our land, what is the future for Cumbria's uplands? What will farming look like in the future? What role will rewilding play? Will farmers have to diversify further?

Join us for our annual Kirby Lecture, which this year is a debate held at the Rheged Centre on the evening of Friday 14th October.

Friends of the Lake District is thrilled to be hosting a debate on the subject of the future of the Cumbrian fells. As upland farmers face an uncertain future, and with so many competing demands on our land, this is a complex and topical issue. What will farming look like in the future? What role will rewilding play? Will farmers have to diversify further?

Join us as we invite panellists from a range of backgrounds to talk about their experiences, thoughts, and hopes for the future of the uplands. Each panellist will talk for a few minutes, then we will open it up to the audience to ask questions. We hope it will be a lively question and answer session!

Panellists include Julia Aglionby (Chair), Lee Schofield, Neil Hudson MP, Maria Benjamin and Will Rawling.

Julia Aglionby – Julia is Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land, Chair of the Uplands Alliance and an Agricultural Valuer. Julia was a Board Member of Natural England from 2014 - 2019. Julia is a Professor in Practice at the University of Cumbria’s Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas, and she lives in the Eden Valley on a beef and sheep Care Farm – Susan’s Farm Charitable Incorporated Organization – of which she is a Trustee. 

Lee Schofield – Lee is the author of Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Hill Farm, an account of a decade working for the RSPB at Haweswater in the Lake District National Park, and the personal and professional challenges involved in working at the coal-face of nature conservation in the uplands. In his day job as RSPB Site Manager, Lee is responsible for overseeing farming and conservation work across an upland mosaic of woodland, bog, mountain and meadow covering thirty square kilometres.

Neil Hudson – Dr Neil Hudson was elected MP for Penrith and The Border in 2019 and sits on the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. In this role, he has triggered major Parliamentary Inquiries on Rural Mental Health, Food Security, and the Environmental Land Management Scheme. Neil is a qualified veterinary surgeon with specialist clinical and research qualifications. He has worked in veterinary practice in the UK and Australia and in the Veterinary Higher Education sector. Neil is a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2001, Neil spent a period as a Veterinary Inspector during the Foot and Mouth Crisis. Neil is the first and only vet in the Commons since 1884 and brings extensive professional experience to help inform policy in areas such as education, rural affairs, animal welfare, science and health.

Maria Benjamin – Maria is an artist turned farmer and entrepreneur. She lives with her partner, John Atkinson, on his family farm near Ulverston. Her main role on the farm is running the diversification business. She is always thinking of ways to make the most out of what they have as she loves where they live and what they do and wants to share that passion in a tangible way. Maria makes soap from the farm’s Jersey cow’s milk, and they sell raw fleece, knitting wool, tweed and wool products from their flock of rare and native British sheep. Maria and John are advocates for environmentally sustainable, high animal welfare farming. 

Will Rawling – Will is a semi-retired beef and sheep farmer from the Ennerdale area, farming Herdwick and cross bred sheep and Aberdeen Angus-type suckler cows. The business, W. Rawling and son, is a family partnership involving Will, his wife Louise and son Sam. Around half of the land has been in the Rawling family for many generations. Most of the land is owned, with a small amount of tenanted grassland and grazing rights on Kinniside Common. The land is all in grass and in environmental stewardship schemes, including the common land. Will is currently chairman of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association, Kinniside Common Graziers Association, and a former chairman of the Farmer Network. He is a committee member of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners and has an informal role with the National Trust. Along with other farmers and community stakeholders, Will is helping to develop a Community Interest Company (a company which exists to benefit the community) to consider the future of land use in the Western Lakes.

Kirby Lecture: What future for Cumbria's uplands? Friday 14th October, 7 - 8:30pm.

Tickets available from the Rheged website.