Lowther Uplands

United Kingdom

The Lowther Estate is one of Britain’s most historic properties covering over 90,000 acres of the Lake District National Park and encompassing a range of ecosystems all managed from Lowther Castle. The estate has historically focused on high intensity agriculture but the managers made the decision within the last decade to pivot towards a new focus on rewilding and nature-centric land use. They have already achieved some impressive results from rewilding of previously farmed lowland areas, including the successful reintroduction of beavers, but a large amount of the estate is made up of uplands typical to the Lake District. Most people visit the Lake District and believe that the huge expanses of upland areas are truly wild habitat, but in fact they are heavily disrupted after centuries of sheep grazing and in reality should be dominated by dense gorse, heather and woodland.

This project presents an exciting opportunity for a number of reasons. Firstly, there has been no large-scale rewilding of upland habitats in England to date, making this a pioneering project from an ecological perspective. Secondly, the Lowther Estate includes three large areas of upland suitable for rewilding (up to 5000 hectares each), meaning the spatial scope of this project is huge (the funder can help determine the size of the project). Thirdly, there is a unique community element which to our knowledge would be the first of its kind anywhere in the UK. These areas of upland are common grazing land, an ancient land use system whereby local communities living on estate-owned land have the right to graze their livestock. The financial returns from grazing have severely diminished in recent years, significantly reducing income for the “commoners”, and so a main focus of this project would be to demonstrate how the rewilding of uplands can be used to financially compensate “commoners” in return for restricting their grazing. In other words, it would allow us to show how the ancient practice of common grazing rights can be married to the modern concept of nature restoration.

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