One chance 'to make the best of a bad job'
PROSPECTS for farming in the upper dale were at the forefront of a unique conference.
More than 150 people heard landowners and farmers air their thoughts and answer questions at Mickleton Village Hall.
Artist Ewan Allinson organised the conference as part of the three day Artists, Farmers and Philosophers Symposium, which was inspired by the work of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership.
Owner of Raby Estates, Lord Barnard, and landowner Lord Inglewood were joined by famed farming couple Tom and Kay Hutchinson, Richard Betton and botany expert Dr Margaret Bradshaw on the panel.
Offering a landowner’s perspective, Lord Barnard said the fate of agricultural support in the wake of Brexit was a “vital and urgent issue”.
“The landscape partnership is important in getting different groups together – I am happy to see permissive paths designated as public on the estate and for them to improve paths and bridges,” he said.
“It’s important these do not become talking shops – especially with busy farmers.”
After the passing of his father earlier this year, he added that the level of communication he’d had with Natural England had come as a surprise.
“While relations are not always perfect I think it’s been very positive,” he said.
“We should take a long term view of economic conversations and community interests – using sound judgement, technical knowledge and practical common sense.”
Lord Barnard added that many responsibilities rested with the landowners but revealed his own experiences with mountain bikers on pathways had been irksome.
He said: “I have been thwarted by liability issues effectively inviting them to ride on paths – we are liable to make regular checks and ensure they are safe.”
Farmer Richard Betton said many rules and regulations remained in place despite Brexit.
“The situation in farming over the last 20 years has not been one of our own choosing,” he said.
“I would like to think of the decision (Brexit) as an opportunity to make the best of a bad job.”
He added: “We have one chance to get it right – let’s not cock it up.”
Indefatigable as ever, Dr Bradshaw, 90, revealed how her decades of study in the upper dale had uncovered plant species which have disappeared.
She said: “Upper Teesdale is very special because of our rare flora and I wish it could be recognised more for that.
“We have a huge area of upper Teesdale which is a nature reserve and just two people look after it.
“I would like to see upland farmers and landowners get a little bit of extra money for having these species.”
Mr Allinson said: “Landscape policy is very much the order of the day and it does seem to be moving away from the traditional approach of consultation.
“The landscape delivers on many levels for society and our farmers are at the forefront of that.”
A talk from Conservative House of Lords member Lord Inglewood capped off the presentations before a brief question and answer session.