Glenridding Common

Updated 15 October 2020

In July 2020 we held a consultation to consider a proposal to include a clause within the new lease of Glenridding Common to the John Muir Trust. Following feedback from the consultation and further input from Members, we will now engage further with key stakeholders before returning to Authority with next steps. We have agreed to extend the lease to John Muir Trust by one year on the existing terms, while these conversations and any further actions take place.

We recognise there are a range of people and organisations who have an interest in this part of the Lake District and will continue discussions with the commoners who graze the land, the parish council and representatives from the farming community.

Read the responses to the July 2020 consultation.

Letter to key stakeholders - 5 October 2020

Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why are you proposing to include this option to sell Glenridding Common to the John Muir Trust?

As a National Park Authority we have a duty to ensure we fully explore all options for managing the land we own, which amounts to just under four per cent of the Lake District. We must also ensure livelihoods are protected and the land is safeguarded for the future. However, as a public body with limited resources, we recognise there may be alternative organisations that could continue to improve and enhance the special qualities of the land.

In September 2014 we invited a wide range of organisations, landowners and other stakeholders to a meeting where we shared our plans to review all our property holdings in the National Park. Following this, we welcomed approaches from organisations, including the John Muir Trust, who wished to discuss specific properties.

This led to the John Muir Trust taking a three-year lease to manage Glenridding Common from June 2017 to 2020, following a three-month consultation with commoners, the community, parish council and farming groups .

As the lease is now due for renewal, we are reviewing the future management options for the common.

Through our discussions with the John Muir Trust and our relationship with them as landlord and tenant, we are confident that they could continue to care for and improve the environmental quality of Glenridding Common, and should they be given an option to purchase the land as part of their new lease. They also recognise that cultural heritage of the common, including farming practices, is unique and a key part of the Lake District’s status as a World Heritage Site.

How will this affect the commoners who graze the land?

The concentration of common land and unique farming heritage are key special qualities of the Lake District. As a registered common, neighbouring farmers have a right to graze the land. These rights are protected by law and therefore the two commoners who currently graze would continue to do so.

Would this change the environmental protections currently in place?

Glenridding Common benefits from the highest environmental designations as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in addition to being within a national park. These protections would remain in place and a change of management or ownership would not affect the status of the common.

What will you do to safeguard the future of the sheep flocks?

Upland sheep farming is part of the Lake District’s rich cultural farming heritage. The collaborative management of common land by commoners is protected by law as well as being recognised as one of the Outstanding Universal Values of the Lake District’s status as a  World Heritage Site. In addition there is a Higher Level Stewardship scheme in place which sets out management requirements for the common.

Our approach, set out in the Lake District National Park Partnership’s plan, is to secure the right balance of land use, in the right place, working with communities, farmers, land owners and managers.  For Glenridding Common, this means protecting the culture of hill farming and commons management, whilst improving the environment to deliver additional benefits such as flood risk reduction, access and recreation. Should the John Muir Trust take on the responsibility of the common, we would work with them and other stakeholders to secure this.

Why can’t the National Park continue to manage the land?

Like many public bodies the LDNPA is under considerable financial pressures and has many competing demands for resources. Over recent years we would not have been able to match the financial contribution or dedicated officer time that the John Muir Trust has put in and this is not likely to change over the coming years.

We have a duty to consider whether an alternative organisation could manage and improve Glenridding Common, whilst ensuring livelihoods are protected. Through our relationship with the John Muir Trust over the past three years, it is clear this is also their aspiration.

What’s the timescale?

Following the outcome of the consultation exercise we are aware of a wide range of strong viewpoints from a breadth of interests in the public realm. As a result of this we have therefore decided to bring forward a Paper to our Members which will present them with a variety of options which reflects the views and levels of interest which have been put forward during the consultation exercise. The object of this Paper will be to provide for a future direction of travel for the ownership of Glenridding Common. This Paper was presented to Authority on 16th September and the outcomes are currently being consulted on further with key stakeholders.

Will there be a cost saving for the Lake District National Park?

If the existing lease is renewed there will be both a cost and labour saving to the Lake District National Park by not managing the land. Savings would be invested elsewhere within the National Park, including park management resources which would be used to support flood recovery work. In addition should a sale transaction be undertaken there would be further funds available from a capital receipt which would be invested in the Lake District National Park.

What is the size of the area in question?

Glenridding Common is on the western side of Ullswater in the east of the Lake District National Park. The LDNP has owned and managed Glenridding Common since 1977.

The area in question is in two parts.

  1. approximately 800 hectares purchased in 1977 for the purposes of maintaining nature conservation interests and providing access land
  2. approximately 200 hectares of land, also purchased in 1977, for the same purposes but in joint and indivisible ownership with the National Trust.

The property includes the summit of Helvellyn along with Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, however it does not include the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Greenside Mine which will continue to be managed by the National Park.

What consultation have you undertaken?

Consultation with stakeholders has been ongoing throughout July 2020. We have engaged with the graziers on the common, Parish Council and representatives from the farming community, as well as national organisations. Read their responses.

The findings from the consultation will be taken back to Authority and shared with Members in order to inform their decision.

Are there other organisations interested in caring for the land?

We invited a wide range of organisations, landowners and other stakeholders to a meeting in September 2014 where we shared our plans to review our property holdings in the National Park. Following this, we welcomed approaches from organisations, including the John Muir Trust, who wished to discuss specific properties.

The existing lease arrangements with the John Muir Trust arose out of these initial discussions.

During the course of the 2020 consultation exercise other parties have now come forward and expressed interest in purchasing Glenridding Common. These approaches will now be considered in the wider context of the possible sale of Glenridding Common, along with the proposal that is being put forward as part of the new lease to the John Muir Trust.

Who is the John Muir Trust?

The John Muir Trust is a registered charity, based in Scotland with UK-wide membership and activities. It owns and manages major upland properties in Scotland, including Ben Nevis and parts of the Cuillin ranges on Skye. The Lake District National Park has successfully supported and run the John Muir Award, an environmental engagement initiative, for the past nine years, increasing awareness about wild places and the importance to conserve them.

Find out about the John Muir Trust

What does the John Muir Trust plan to do with Glenridding Common?

The John Muir Trust recognises the unique cultural heritage of Glenridding Common and has indicated a long-term aspiration for caring for the land.

During the Trust’s current three year lease period at Glenridding Common it has:

  • invested significantly in the area to: create two jobs, one of which has provided career development, mentoring and training for a local young person
  • employ local footpath contractors to maintain paths on the fell
  • host its national AGM in the village
  • increase populations of rare arctic alpine plants with the involvement of local volunteers
  • install a temperature sensor on Helvellyn crag to better inform on winter climbing conditions
  • provide cash support to two community projects - one on the history of Greenside mine and a second in the development of a wildflower meadow
  • continue its long term educational and engagement work with local schools and other groups using the John Muir Award.

John Muir Trust has outlined future priorities as:

  • Consulting stakeholders, in particular local interests, to develop future plans
  • Maintaining and encouraging public access to Helvellyn
  • Using the property as base for volunteering activity where local people, including school pupils and other learners, can gain valuable conservation experience
  • Gradually working towards a richer and more diverse landscape, where wildlife can thrive alongside trees, whilst respecting the needs of graziers

Find out about the John Muir Trust

Does the John Muir Trust have a land management plan for Glenridding Common?

A land management plan in currently in place as part of the existing lease, this is reviewed with the LDNPA on a regular basis. If the option to purchase the land is included in a new lease, then the management of this land will fall to the John Muir Trust.

Does this mean the John Muir Trust will want to rewild Glenridding Common?

We understand the John Muir Trust recognises rewilding to incorporate a wide spectrum of approaches and is often misinterpreted and taken to mean the reintroduction of large carnivores, which would not be appropriate here. They do however believe there may be some opportunities to build on existing initiatives to include limited woodland replanting but would want to take full input on this from interested parties before doing so and would be aiming to do it by agreement. Their management plan for the site will expand on these ideas.

Further information on John Muir Trust’s land management.

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