Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme aims to unlock and reveal the hidden heritage of the Westmorland Dales, enabling more people to connect with, enjoy and benefit from this inspirational landscape. Thanks to National Lottery players it has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Fund

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At the beginning of 2020 we were preparing ourselves to launch the 'Our Common Heritage' project. However, due to global circumstances, there was no choice but to postpones this project. However, in October we (re)launched the project with the 'Our Farming and Commons Heritage' event at Orton Market Hall. This was a drop-in for the local farming community, and gave us an opportunity to meet local farming families, to tell us their stories and share their family histories. This event also brought together lots of farming heritage displays and memorabilia of the Westmorland Dales farming past, with material mainly supplied by Hilary Wilson.   

Pictured: Our Farming and Commons Heritage event, Orton Market Hall

Common land characterises much of the upland landscape of the Westmorland Dales, providing grazing for both cattle and sheep and also delivering multiple public benefits. Indeed, common land is hugely significant to Cumbria as a whole which boasts a third of England’s designated common land. These unenclosed areas of common land have been farmed for centuries by ‘commoners’, tending their livestock through traditional husbandry practices. Today, the number of active commoners is in decline. Many are elderly and have no successors and there is less manpower to effectively manage the commons in terms of gathering and grazing. 

Pictured: Little Asby Common

‘Our Common Heritage’ aims to record farming and commoning stories, collate and digitise old oral history recordings, interesting documents and memorabilia.  

Nicola Estill, community engagement officer said, 

“Many people outside the farming community don’t really understand what’s involved in upland farming and the unique heritage of our commons. We want to capture their history and cultural heritage whilst we can.”

We are currently organising oral history training for interested volunteers. This will be delivered by the Kendal Oral History Society and the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership team. In the New Year we will be conducting interviews with local commoners and farmers. This project will culminate in a celebration event.