A THREE-YEAR £3m project is underway to help secure the future of upland commons in England including Bampton, Derwent and Kinniside in the Lake District.

At risk of quietly vanishing is a system of iconic people looking after legendary landscapes that benefit society says Mike Innerdale north of England regional director for the National Trust, one of 25 partners backing the project.

In 2021 just 3% (400,000 hectares) of England remains as common land; land privately owned over which individuals, commoners, have rights – mostly to graze livestock.

All common land has open access too which means people have the right to enjoy them for recreation and learning. In the Lake District that includes the popular walk to Cat Bells, near Keswick, which crosses Derwent common.

‘Our Upland Commons’, made possible by a major £1.9 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is led by the Foundation for Common Land. Its executive director Julia Aglionby, who lives in the Eden Valley, says: “Commoning has given rise to the centuries old practice of shared land management. It’s a system that gives us many good things - including food, water, access to nature, green space and heritage. And it can help with many 21st century challenges from nature recovery to flood management, carbon storage and our wellbeing.

“But there are serious threats to commons and the system of commoning. If not addressed we’ll lose these rare landscapes and the benefits they bring now and, in the future,” explains Julia Aglionby.

“The Our Uplands Commons project is all about helping commoners adapt and survive as well as growing the public’s enjoyment of, and respect for, commons and commoning,” she adds.

“Over three years we’ve lots planned, says Alan Robinson, the Lake District project officer: “Experts will be working with commoners on Kinniside common to create a carbon foot-printing tool for commons and ‘in-bye’ land. It’ll help commoners to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and unlock the full carbon absorption potential of their common.

“We’re also funding a project, led by the Lake District National Park Authority, getting volunteers investigating the remains of a Roman road on Bampton common.

“And there’s help for farmers in managing bracken, with a remote controlled bracken cutter, making common land better for wildlife and sustainable grazing” adds Alan.

“Commons are a unique blend of nature, history and culture,” says Hanna Latty head of strategy and rangers at the Lake District National Park Authority, another of the 25 partners.

“Across England you are seven times more likely to find common land has a special nature designation, four times more likely to find an ancient monument and about half (39%) of free access land is on common land.

“It’s vital that we recognise and protect our upland commons. And now - thanks to National Lottery players, grants from Esmée Fairbairn, Garfield Weston Foundations and the Lake District National Park, amongst others - action is being taken to help secure their future,” concludes Hanna.

Anyone interested in finding out more can email project officer Alan at alan@foundationforcommonland.org.uk or visit foundationforcommonland.org.uk