Further information about our Multiple Capitals research
Read / Download our Research Summary Document: RESEARCH SUMMARY (pdf)

Little Asby Common, located in the heart of the Westmorland Dales, east of Orton, is a 464ha upland common. It is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with a range of habitats including heather moorland, limestone grassland and limestone pavement. It boasts 200 archaeological sites, including long houses and co-axial field systems, evidencing human activity for the last 12,000 years. 

Landscape charity, Friends of the Lake District, purchased the common in 2003, managing the site which is also used by seven active commoners, grazing cattle and sheep in a Higher Level Scheme agri-environment agreement.

Current funding in the environmental and land management sector for protected landscapes has an emphasis on habitat and natural capital but the charity believes that the future funding of our protected landscapes should be based on the wider benefits that they offer. 

It has published groundbreaking research incorporating a major public consultation to establish the common’s ‘true’ value. Working with Prof. Lois Mansfield, and supported financially by Natural England, it has produced the first report of its kind to calculate every benefit of the site, incorporating natural, human, social, cultural and financial elements, valuing the common at up to £61.2m.  

Jan Darrall, Land Manager at Friends of the Lake District said: 

“We became frustrated that methodologies employed for assessing the value of land ignored many elements of the cultural landscape, the skills and time of those who maintained such landscapes or of their contribution to the communities and economies in which they lived. 

“Currently, beyond habitats, walls and barns, there is little ‘public goods’ financial support for all capitals through the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) or the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), but what about the other elements which are equally important such as the skills of the commoners, the access to wide open spaces and tranquillity or the contribution of the common to the local economy?” 

Among the elements valued most highly in the research were dry stone walls, a cultural asset valued at £4 million and opportunities for exercise and recreation valued at £12 million. The financial benefit of visitors using local shops was assessed at £0.5 million and opportunities provided for education and learning on the site at just over £0.75 million pounds. 

Jan Darrall, said: 

“We have always been against the quantification and monetarisation of landscapes as so much depends on a person’s emotional reaction to them. However, the Government wants to bring in more private money to the environmental and land management sector, which will involve valuing the landscape benefits and deliverables and putting a monetary value on them to demonstrate their true worth. 

“Our research has shown that we must represent and value more than Natural Capital in a landscape if we are to fully recognise, fund and manage the range of benefits it offers to society.” 

The research makes the case that future funding of land management via schemes such as ELMS and SFI must incorporate funding for human, social and cultural elements if we are to address contemporary agendas such as biodiversity loss and climate resilience and create landscapes fit for the future.

Read / Download our Research Summary Document DOWNLOAD (pdf)