Our ambitions for hill farming, nature and heritage

Dame Helen Ghosh , Former Director-General Dame Helen Ghosh Former Director-General
Gathering the Welsh Mountain sheep on Watkin Path on the Hafod Y Llan farm, Snowdonia, Wales

Dame Helen Ghosh, our former Director-General outlines proposals to support the farming community and confirms the National Trust's commitment to farming, landscapes and nature.

‘The National Trust strategy has at its heart playing our part in restoring our natural environment.  

'"Promoting the preservation" of landscapes and nature was central to Octavia Hill’s vision for the Trust in 1895, so the echoes to our founding charitable purpose couldn’t be stronger’, Dame Helen Ghosh told an uplands farmers' conference.

‘But the Trust is also committed to farming which produces the high quality food the nation needs. Indeed, the future of farming is bound up with the future of nature: without a healthy natural environment the long term viability of farming is in question and farmers will often be those in the front line producing a healthy environment,’ Dame Helen continued.

'We won’t succeed in restoring nature without working in partnership with farmers. They are the essential partners in reaching our ambitions and they have the skills and understanding that we need'.

" If we work together, with a clear sense of our common goals, there is a bright future for farming, landscapes and nature. You can count on our commitment and support."
- Former Director-General, Dame Helen Ghosh

Exploring potential in the uplands 

Dame Helen went on to explain that through collaboration with farmers, who have the skills and knowledge crucial for successful farming practices, we can manage the landscapes and habitats that farms rely on. Many farmers are already delivering great results for nature and landscapes alongside producing high-quality food.

We're committed to drawing on all that experience and knowledge as well as supporting the development of a multi-skilled upland farming community. 

Successful relationships with our tenants are vital to us, so we’ll be drawing up long-term local plans for our estates across the country, which reflect these commitments and have nature, entrepreneurship and the production of quality food at their heart.

Livestock production is integral to upland farming and we want it to remain that way. However, increasing numbers of livestock could further damage natural environment through overgrazing, or restrict opportunities to restore rivers, landscapes and habitats. 

So we want to support Trust farm tenants in the maintenance of healthy, sustainable flocks, and the shepherding skills and capacity to care for them.

We strongly support selling good-quality, grass-fed livestock produced in an environmentally friendly way at a higher price. So we'll be exploring, with Lakes farming representatives, the creation of a new marketing scheme for Herdwick (a hardy breed of sheep native to the Lake District) and other local upland livestock.

Farmland is vital for the nation 

Reliance on European farming subsidies isn’t now the future, but there are opportunities for the uplands to take advantage of new income streams (alongside some core public financial support). We'll be working closely with the farming community and our tenant farmers to discuss opportunities for new income streams and funding to help secure a strong economic future for farming.

Farm-land is vital for people in so many ways; the provision of slow, clean water; hosting visitors and thereby promoting health, wellbeing and a burgeoning rural tourist economy; absorbing and storing greenhouse gasses; producing renewable energy and nature restoring species; and protecting habitats. 

It is essential we continue to highlight the positive benefits of abundant wildlife and habitats, heritage and healthy soils. 

Helen closed her talk at the uplands farmers’ conference by saying, ‘If we work together, with a clear sense of our common goals, there is a bright future for farming, landscapes and nature. You can count on our commitment and support.’

Taken from Dame Helen Ghosh’s speech to the Uplands Alliance workshop held at Newton Rigg on Friday 13 January 2017 and sponsored by the northern National Parks. The Uplands Alliance is a cross-sectoral umbrella of organisations and networks looking at systems and policies for land management of England’s uplands.