SPEAKER: Upper dale farmer Richard Betton
SPEAKER: Upper dale farmer Richard Betton

ONE of the most significant nature recovery programmes to restore and enhance two outstanding landscapes in the English uplands has been launched.
The £8.5million Tees-Swale: naturally connected programme, predominantly funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is a five year scheme being led by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership in collaboration with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
The project was officially launched in a virtual event attended by 217 people representing farmers and landowners, community arts organisations, youth group leaders, conservation NGOs, environmental academics, and residents.
Speakers including Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Tees-Swale board, Marian Spain, chief executive of Natural England, Raby Estates’ Duncan Peake and Niki Rust, Tees-Swale programme manager at the North Pennines AONB Partnership, gave an overview of the ambitious scheme which covers upper Teesdale and upper Swaledale.
It will include work to mitigate climate change, improve wellbeing and boost biodiversity. Pre-recorded presentations from dale farmer and Utass (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services) officer Richard Betton and landowner Nicolete Blackett-Ord highlighted examples of work done during the programme’s development phase which demonstrated the commitment to put farmers and landowners at the heart of nature recovery.
More than 60 farmers and landowners are already committed to carrying out work to benefit people and wildlife in the first two years and the project aims to work with all 300 farmers in the area. Mr Betton said: “The great thing about the Tees-Swale programme is that it harnesses farmers’ knowledge and experience passed on from generation to generation, to find a way forward where we can have environmental enhancement and sustainability, as well as economic sustainability for the farming sector.”
Ms Rust added: “Covid-19 changed the way we launched Tees-Swale, but we adapted and it showed how we can still come together to engage with farmers, landowners and the wider community in important work.”
Throughout the five years of the project, an innovative mix of art, community engagement and rights of way improvements will give people the opportunity to discover, explore and enjoy the landscapes of upper Teesdale and Swaledale.
Traineeships and volunteering will also strengthen skills in farming communities and inspire a future rural workforce.
More information is available at: www.north pennines.org.uk/what_we_do/tees-swale-naturally-connected.
A recording of the launch event can be viewed at: youtu.be/ppfv93q9Gdk.