One of the most far-reaching explorations of Cumbrian upland sheep farming ever undertaken is set to be exhibited in a major London exhibition.
Established three years ago, following initial funding from the Lake District National Park, Land Keepers has seen widespread national exposure for a graphic picture plotting the trials and tribulations of hill farming.
Plans to display the work of project organisers, writer and photographer Harriet and Rob Fraser, at the Royal Geographical Society in November mark the culmination of acclaimed research.
Three years ago, the pair set out to look beyond Lakeland’s chocolate box image to discover the reality of life for those mostly closely connected to the world-renowned landscape.
Setting out with little knowledge, LDNP backing to the tune of £8,000 and funding from Defra, the EU and others, the intention was to document how hill farmers are faring in the early 21st century and demonstrate their place within the uplands.
Harriet said it had been a compelling and valuable exercise, throwing up information which could influence and help policy makers in the future.
She explained: “Not only have we learned a huge amount about hill farming practices and culture, we have seen a wide variety of demands on the uplands and the challenges many in the farming community are facing.
“We’ve heard widespread concern for a sustainable future for the industry and practical ways to ensure rich biodiversity in the national park.
“Speaking to a cross-section of people working in the Lake District, we discovered some underlying conflicts of interest and lack of understanding. However, we found a lot of common ground with different organisations working together for a balance that works for everyone.
“It would be good to develop the project further, perhaps to tie in with the progress of the bid for Lake District World Heritage inscription.”
Harriet and Rob paid tribute to LDNP’s support. They explained that although they did not aim to influence thinking, perceptions had been altered.
“People have told us they have learned a lot and now see Lake District land, and hill farmers, in a different way. We are delighted by the opportunity to highlight this work at the Royal Geographical Society later in the year.”
LDNP community partnership and community co-ordinator, Clive Wickham, said he was pleased initial funding had brought such a powerful project to fruition.
He added: “This work is very much in tune with our support for upland farming and we’re delighted Land Keepers is achieving such a high profile.
“I’m sure it will continue to be seen as an invaluable piece of research for many years to come. Anyone wanting to find out more should see the much praised current exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere.”