The National Trust has received a number of questions relating to the purchase of land at Thorneythwaite, in the Lake District.
Below, we have provided answers to the most common queries to try and help people understand our approach.
Why did the Trust want to buy the land at Thorneythwaite?
The land at Thorneythwaite was split into two plots by the auctioneers: the farm land and a farm house. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building.
This was a once in a generation opportunity to secure this beautiful landscape for the nation.
We are passionate about conserving the beauty and uniqueness of the Lake District. We bid for this land because it offers such amazing places for wildlife including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture. It is home to a wealth of important wildlife including redstarts and pied flycatchers.
We believe we can look after this land in way which benefits nature, our visitors and the local community. Managing much of the surrounding land in Borrowdale means we can take a ‘big picture’ view of how we manage the wider landscape, and it allows us to focus on delivering healthy soil, natural water management, thriving natural habitats and continued public access.
We will also explore how we may be able to use the farm to slow the flow of the Upper River Derwent, thereby contributing to the prevention of flooding downstream in communities such as Keswick and Cockermouth.
What does the sale mean for the future of Herdwick farming and why has a working farm been broken up?
The Trust has a long history of, and is committed to the tradition of Herdwick farming. We have an existing stock of 21,000 Herdwicks and own 90 farms in the Lake District, 54 of which are fell farms.
The Trust did not break up the farm. The private owners decided to sell the land in two separate plots – thereby splitting the land and the farm. The Trust used its charitable funds to bid for the land rather than the building. We did not have the funds to buy both lots and prioritised the 300 acres of land.
There was still an opportunity for someone to purchase both parcels together after we had bid for the land.
The land will be managed by a tenant, and we have already had several expressions of interest. It will be farmed with nature in mind but it will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.
We understand some people believe we should also have bought the farm house and continued to manage the land in the same way. However, given our limited funds, we believe that this was the right approach and we’re pleased to have secured the land for the nation.
Why put in a bid of £950,000 – when the guide price was £750,000?
The guide price was £750,000 for the land. This is where the auction process gets quite complex.
The private owner decided to spilt the land and the farm into two separate lots for sale to maximise the value. The Trust had no influence over the vendor’s decision to do this i.e (the farm was split up by the vendor not the Trust).
The guide price for both was around £1.55m, although they were marketed as two individual lots: with a guide price of £750,000 for the land and £800,000 for the farm and buildings.
Despite being sold as two separate lots, the auctioneer also reserved the right to package both together at the end of process – once all the bids were in – to ensure they achieved the highest price possible (i.e. bids were not binding until this final stage where they could all be effectively gazumped).
That meant that even if the Trust was the highest bidder for the land – it would face the risk of losing it if the auctioneer decided to package the two together for a price it could not afford.
The £950,000 bid was therefore a calculation based on how much the Trust would need to offer to secure the land and minimise the risk of losing out if the two lots were sold together.
In making our bid we were also guided by the independent valuation, which was much higher than the asking price. This took into account the internationally important conservation features of the land; it offers a rich and diverse mosaic of habitats including woodland featuring veteran trees, riverside fields, open craggy fell and wood pasture; home to a wealth of important wildlife.
The Trust did not have the funds to buy both the farm and the land.
What will happen to the flock of sheep on the land?
The land acquired does not become ours until 14 October 2016. The land purchase included a flock of sheep, and they are currently still the responsibility of the Lodore Estate and their current tenant.
After the 14 October, the sheep will be owned by the National Trust. We are currently talking to a number of National Trust agricultural tenants from the Borrowdale valley, following a number of expressions of interest to help us manage the land and the flock of sheep. It will continue to support a flock of Herdwick sheep.
Where are the tenants supposed to live?
There is no existing tenant at Thorneythwaite Farm, so no-one is being displaced as part of this sale. The Trust is currently discussing management arrangements with a number of National Trust agricultural tenants from within the Borrowdale valley, following a number of expressions of interest to help us manage the land.
What would Beatrix Potter think?
The Trust believes in the upholding the cultural legacy of the pastoral landscape and share Beatrix Potter’s love and passion for the Lake District.
However, we also recognise that world has changed, and will keep on changing. The way we maintain those traditions must therefore also change and adapt with it.