The Foundation for Common Land is delighted that the Lake District has been inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The recommendation from its assessors noted:
The most defining feature of the region, which has deeply shaped the cultural landscape, is a long-standing and continuing agro-pastoral tradition…..Pivotal to this agro-pastoral system are the communal grazing management of the uplands and the sheep breeds: the Herdwick, the Swaledale and the Rough Fell Sheep.
It is therefore the system of common land and commoning that lays at the heart of the Lake District being globally recognised. Common land comprises only 3% of England’s land area but in the Lake District commons are over 28% of the 229,000 ha. This juxtaposition of open commons with complex field systems has resulted in a large number of different semi natural habitats many which are already internationally recognised for their biodiversity. These have arisen from the ancient systems of management of the land by hill farming commoners and commoners work closely with Natural England and other organisations to enhance these environmental benefits.
There remain huge pressures on hill farmers and our cultural and natural heritage is at risk unless government actively supports the future of commoning systems and the environmental benefits that flow from them. The price commoners receive for their livestock does not reflect the benefits they provide society and the 17 million visitors who come to the Lake District each year. This means continued financial support is required from government.
The Foundation for Common Land celebrates the inscription of the Lake District as a World Heritage Site and will work with partners to enhance outcomes for our cultural and natural heritage. It is not either/or but both-and though we must remember that neither will happen unless we support, respect and reward the people who manage this land.