Few Lakeland high fell farms are as favoured as High Yewdale Farm, Coniston
· Size –165ha in-bye land, fell rights for 1200 sheep and followers
· Quality and quantity of in-bye land (in a single block around the farm stead; the present tenant makes enough fodder to keep 40 cattle through the winter)
· Proximity to the fell (sheep can be gathered straight into the fields)
· Position next to the main Ambleside – Coniston road (it is easily accessible for large vehicles, such as delivery and haulage wagons; visible to tourists and picturesque, making it ideal for B&B)
· Derelict farmhouse could be refurbished for holiday accommodation (would attract grant aid, prospective tenants could be given the option of financing it as part of the agreement)
- There are no modern cattle buildings
- There could be a pollution danger to the nearby stream from the present livestock-handling facilities
- There are many similar farms, which do not have any cattle, but are perfectly viable. In fact all the research indicates that few beef enterprises are profitable without the old headage payment and will make a loss under the new Single Payment Scheme.
- A sheep only enterprise will solve the cattle problem and new sheep pens will have to be built if the farm is split up anyway.
- The cattle numbers could just be reduced, lessening any danger of pollution
- Diversification will generate extra income
The National Trusts intention is to split High Yewdale, the 165 hectare farm plus fell rights, amongst the four neighbouring farms in the valley. High Yewdale is the most productive farm of the five.
High Yewdale and Tilberthwaite farms run a heafed fell sheep flock.
High Arnside, YewTree & Boon Crag farms have in-bye land only.
The current proposal is to run the present High Yewdale flock with Boon Crag, and divide the valley bottom land between the remaining four farms. We argue that this split will only make any one of the four marginally more viable than at present, while sacrificing the most viable.
- Calculations can often be used to attain the end result desired. In farming, market forces and government support change so quickly that figures and predictions are often immaterial.
- The present proposals mean ‘relocation’ of High Yewdale sheep. If the Trust’s plans are put into effect the hefted flock will be deprived of nearly 75% of the valley bottom land and this land is just as important to their management as their heaf.
- The transference of management of these sheep to a farm two miles further afield brings into question animal welfare and transportation issues. When gathered from the open fell the flock has travelled far enough when they reach the pens at High Yewdale, they should not be subjected to an extra two mile journey as this could create real problems for heavily pregnant ewes, young lambs, or sheep ailing and in poor condition.
- Two of the farms have no direct boundaries to most of the ground thus meaning extra transportation of stock and materials on narrow roads, heavily used by business and tourist traffic. Tractors carrying big bale silage at the height of the tourist season are often unwelcome.
- The main problem appears to be reluctance to make major investment in new buildings, however cattle produced from the current buildings are of the highest quality. This suggests that animal welfare standards are achievable in these buildings as they stand. Only small financial investment is needed to upgrade waste disposal facilities from the cattle housing if this is felt to be necessary.
- The farmhouse occupies an iconic position in the Yewdale valley and was selected by the National Trust as the showpiece for the last visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Coniston in 1985. Working farms are living and ever changing places of great character – if High Yewdale is let for ‘residential purposes’ it will become a dead and very uninteresting place.