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.”

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