THE keys to a £1m farm and the future of a precious landscape could be in your hands for just a pound a year, as long as you’ve a passion for nature, people, and a lot of sheep.
Last year the National Trust stepped in to protect the rare and fragile landscape of the Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales. The conservation charity is now offering the lease on that land for just a pound to ensure it can recover, thrive and give a potential shepherding star a helping hand to start out in farming.
This unique £1 tenancy follows on from the announcement of the conservation charity’s new ten year vision, aimed at reversing the alarming decline in wildlife – 60 per cent in the past 50 years – and finding long term solutions to help nurse the countryside back to health and deliver for nature.
In buying Parc Farm at the Orme’s summit and the associated grazing rights over the majority of the headland, the National Trust has taken on the means to ensure the survival of its internationally rare habitats and species; some of which exist nowhere else on earth.
Nature first farming approach
Extensive research by the charity and its conservation partners at the Orme has shown the special needs of this coastal headland require a nature-first approach which may go against the grain of some modern farming methods.
“Unless we implement a very specific grazing regime we will not see these most fragile habitats recover,” said General Manager William Greenwood
“Put simply, to ensure a healthy and beautiful landscape we need the most agriculturally productive pastureland to be grazed less, and the least agriculturally productive grassland to be grazed more.”
This unconventional farming method of regularly moving sheep means long hours shepherding on often difficult terrain, while also working around the 600,000 visitors to the Great Orme each year.
Searching for a farming hero
William added: “For the benefit of the Orme we’re looking for a tenant who sees a productive farm as one which maintains healthy wildlife and encourages visitors to act for nature, as well as produce good, healthy food.
“And to give him or her a head start and the best chance of success, we’re taking away the financial pressure of having to cover the rent for the farm, the grazing rights and the farmhouse each year.”
Not only will the 10 year Farm Business Tenancy be offered at just a £1 a year to help the new farmer – less than the cost of two second class stamps – but Conservation Charity Plantlife has also pledged to buy the new tenant the flock of sheep needed to graze the Great Orme.
Colin Cheeseman, Head of Plantlife Cymru, said: “Plantlife is delighted to be working in partnership with The National Trust and Conwy County Borough Council to provide the sheep which will help to revive the special limestone grasslands and heathlands to their former glory by grazing.”
Farm scholarships in Wales
The National Trust’s innovative approach to the Parc Farm tenancy in partnership with Plantlife, follows on from the development of the charity’s Llyndy Isaf Scholarship in partnership with Wales Young Farmers Clubs in 2012. This ground-breaking initiative gives young farmers an opportunity to run an iconic farm in the shadow of Snowdon for a year, and learn about farming for nature and visitor access as well as good food production.
Vanessa Griffiths, National Trust Assistant Director Operations, said: “Just as we have done at Llyndy Isaf, the National Trust is putting the needs of the landscape and nature first, and helping the next generation of farmers to get a foothold in the industry.
“With a place as special as Parc Farm, which is of European significance in botanical, wildlife, archaeological and geological terms it is essential that we take a long term view with conservation and farming working hand in glove.”
John Mercer, Director of National Farmers Union Cymru said: “This represents an exciting yet challenging opportunity for somebody to enter farming and balance farming, conservation and public engagement.”
Neptune Coastline Campaign
The 145 acre Parc Farm, grazing rights over an additional 720 acres and the farmhouse were acquired by the National Trust thanks to its Neptune Coastline Campaign, the charity’s most successful ever fundraising campaign.
The charity took action to buy Parc Farm in May last year not only because some of its key habitats and species were deemed at threat, but because it was being sold with the potential to develop its fragile limestone grasslands into a golf course.
Vanessa added: “As a site of such national importance we have been working very closely with the community and key conservation partners including Plantlife, Conwy County County Borough Council, RSPB, Natural Resources Wales and Mostyn Estates to put together a detailed management plan to ensure a healthy long term future for the landscape of the Great Orme.”
For more information about how to apply for the tenancy please visit our website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/find-us-a-farmer