Monthly Archives: September 2013


Rory has spoken out to defend the Lake District against claims by environmentalist George Monbiot that the Lake District national park is now “one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe” and that its fells have been “sheepwrecked”. In reply, Rory has called Cumrbia’s upland farms ‘one of the great treasures of Britain –  unique centres of high quality food production, places of great beauty, and one of our last, fragile links to the past.’ He calls Monbiot’s view, a ‘dangerous and willful blindness’ which will have a terrible impact on the future of upland farming.

Rory is campaiging to preserve as many upland hill farms as possible in the Lake District, and actively promotes increasing sheep stocking levels on the fellsides. He has asked the National Centre for the Uplands at Newton Rigg College to commission a study specifically focused on counting the number of farms that have been lost, and the number that are projected to be lost in the future. He has asked government agencies to ensure that their environmental assessments explicitly consider the impact of their policies on the number of farms. He has argued that sheep flocks are an essential part of the long-term financial sustainability of upland farms, and cannot be simply replaced with unsustainable environmental subsidies.

Commenting on George Monbiot’s views, Rory said:

“George’s assessment of upland sheep-farming is terrible, and depressingly narrow. He sees the Lake District landscape in terms of only value biodiversity – how do we maximise the species numbers, on a given patch of land?  The only other value he acknowledges is market efficiency.

He ignores the many other values that exist in our landscape: the history, archaeology, beauty and past perceptions of that landscape, and the continuing life and memories of its inhabitants. All these are linked to the survival of upland farms. These things are independently valuable: ends in themselves, not simply asmeans towards some larger financial or biological objective. Sheep farms are not only mechanisms to maximise profit or species, but bearers of culture; a legacy of more than a thousand years of cultivation.

It is extraordinary that George Monbiot finds our landscape ‘one of the most depressing in Europe. It is difficult not to feel that he is missing the most central aspect of it – one that was obvious to Wordsworth, and to the many millions, like us, who find this to be the most beautiful place in England  – he is missing the beauty of our human culture, contained in our upland farms.”


Caldbeck, in the borough of Allerdale, Cumbria is to trial a ‘community-led network’ that is bringing much needed Vodafone coverage to homes and businesses in the area. Working with the community and local MP Rory Stewart, Vodafone has installed ground breaking Open Sure Signal in locations across the village of Caldbeck to provide 3G coverage throughout the community, where before there was little or no coverage from any network.

The Open Sure Signal provides a Vodafone 3G signal in areas which traditional mobile coverage has been unable to reach. The units, about the size of a small carry on suitcase, use existing broadband services to deliver a 3G mobile signal. They have been placed in a number of business and residential locations across the village to give a good spread of coverage, including the Village Hall, the Oddfellows Arms, the Surgery and the Bowling Club.

Rory commented: “It is fantastic to be making real progress with Vodafone on such an innovative pilot here in Caldbeck. Alongside broadband, the importance of good mobile coverage for rural communities cannot be understated, for both businesses and residents alike. This pilot offers those rural communities in mobile “not spots” the opportunity to finally overcome the barriers of geography and distance that have, up until now, made it impossible to provide such a service affordably. Cumbrian communities are again showing that our rurality should not prevent us from access to good mobile or broadband coverage, and that by taking the lead, and working with telecommunication companies, we can solve the problem ourselves.”

Michael Bell, the Parish Hall Committee Chairman for Caldbeck, added: “We are delighted that Caldbeck was chosen to be part of this innovative scheme by Vodafone. Rural communities such as ours can suffer from being mobile black out areas. Having a signal here has made a vast difference to both locals and visitors. The whole community has already seen the benefits from both a business and personal perspective of having a strong Vodafone 3G voice and data signal.”

Paul Morris, Head of Government Affairs at Vodafone UK added: “Caldbeck has shown how partnership can provide a solution to solving the challenge of how to bring mobile coverage to rural communities. Without the direct support and engagement of the local community and MP, Rory Stewart, this project would not have been possible. It’s the latest area to benefit from our rural mobile coverage trials and we hope it will not only help keep people in touch but also boost the local economy.”

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today Programme’ – Syria

Rory on BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today Programme’, with Stephanie Hare, senior Europe analyst for Oxford Analytica and the BBC’s John Simpson, discussing the next steps for British foreign policy. You can listen to the clip here.