High Yewdale Farm is run as a viable economic unit with excellent stockmanship and very high levels of animal welfare - so the proposed changes will not bring about any animal welfare benefits, particularly as the sheep will need to go to a more distant farm after gathering (gathering from the fells takes 3 days because of the terrain) under the proposed arrangements.

See more in this emailed letter to warmwell.com website

Letter sent by the National Trust to tenant farmers in the Coniston and Little Langdale area. It contains some worrying inaccuracies as justification for the changes.

From John Darlington

Area Manager for the Lake District

Letter sent to all National Trust farm tenants in the Coniston and Little Langdale area



January 6th 2005




You will by now be aware that our respected tenant, Mr J. Birkett, will shortly be retiring from High Yewdale Farm. Consequently, The National Trust has been giving careful consideration to various options for its future use, and we have concluded after a long period of internal consultation and discussion with our partners in the farming community, that the most appropriate way forward is to restructure our farm holdings in the Coniston area.


The main change that we wish to implement is to divide the land currently belonging to High Yewdale Farm amongst the four neighbouring farms. We will subsequently re-let High Yewdale for residential purposes and, potentially, for appropriate rural business use. The Trust will ensure the historic character and landscape setting of the farm are protected and retained.


The primary reason behind the decision to amalgamate has been to strengthen the long-term viability of our farms within the wider area at a time of great change within agriculture. CAP reforms, and in particular the move from headage payments to area payments, will have a significant impact upon agriculture. By restructuring farm holdings we anticipate benefits to the neighbouring farms that are both immediate, such as those that will occur from ESA and HFA payments, and those that will accrue over the eight year transitional period leading to a fully de-coupled Single Farm Payment. At the same time we also envisage that the changes will bring benefits to the environment, to animal welfare, for the control of pollution and for public access.


The Trust has looked long and hard at retaining High Yewdale as a farming unit. To do this would involve a substantial investment particularly in buildings needed to accommodate cattle. Such investment is difficult to justify when set against the long-term requirements for farming within the surrounding area, including our past involvement in the neighbouring farms and their current capacity, and the benefits of restructuring outlined above.


The Trust appreciates that there are concerns within the farming community, particularly with regard to the maintenance of a hefted Herdwick flock. As it stands the proposal ensures the retention of a hefted Herdwick flock in the area, it ensures the same number of shepherding farms and it will afford opportunities for younger generations interested in agriculture to be involved.


There is also concern about the loss of a Beatrix Potter farm. Beatrix Potter was a staunch supporter of the hill farms in the Lake District, but her legacy changed both during her lifetime and subsequently. Of the sixteen farms within the Coniston and Little Langdale area purchased by Beatrix Potter and the National Trust (largely from the Monk Coniston estate), now only six survive as working farms. High Yewdale Farm, like many of its neighbours, is itself a product of amalgamation and restructuring (with Low Yewdale). Importantly, all of that area is still being farmed and the ownership and boundaries remain intact. Beatrix Potter believed that the Lake District should not be fossilised and that it had to change and adapt. Our long term approach means that we are indeed maintaining the Potter legacy, and we hope very much that you, as tenants and partners, will feel positive about joining us in developing the next stage of farming in the Lake District.


Yours sincerely


John Darlington