News & Events

Shropshire Hills Voice their Future for the Uplands

The Uplands Alliance worked with the Shropshire Hills AONB to convene a workshop on, Looking Forward – what we need from Government Support for the future of the uplands in the Shropshire Hills and other areas of the English Uplands bordering Wales.

Held on 27th February there was a massive attendance with huge energy from the 82 participants. Thank you to all the partners who supported the event; Natural England, CLA, NFU, National Trust, Foundation for Common Land.

The AONB has kindly prepared both a short report setting out: a) the principles that participants concluded were required going forward and b) next steps as well as a long report providing full details of the discussions held. Please find these available to download here:

Summary Report    Shropshire Hills Uplands Forum 27 Feb 17 summary report

Full Report               Shropshire Hills Uplands Forum 27 Feb 17 full report

Speakers Slides        Uplands Forum 27 Feb 17 presentations-web


Uplands Alliance speaks at British Ecological Society Uplands Workshop

The Uplands Alliance was invited to speak at a workshop held on 17th March at Newcastle University. Academics, nature conservationists and farmers and landowners gathered from across the UK to consider the impacts on the uplands of Brexit and opportunities for change. Julia Aglionby spoke for the Uplands Alliance.

There were interesting presentations from Scotland and Wales about approaches being taken in those countries. The Welsh Government seems well advanced and more transparent about their thinking and the significant reductions in funding for agriculture post exit. Paul Brannan MEP also spoke passionately about the need for more trees in the uplands and the need to connect urban communities with the countryside. Robin Milton, one of our Deputy Chairs spoke as NFU Uplands forum Chair.

The initial summary and all the presentations can be downloaded from the British Ecological Society website BES Uplands PresentationsUplands-Compressed-Presentations

or here Uplands-Compressed-Presentations



On January 13th 2017 over 80 people gathered from across the north of England at Newton Rigg College, Penrith under the banner of the Uplands Alliance. The purpose was  to discuss building a future for the Northern Uplands post Brexit. The event was kindly financed by the Lake District, Peak District, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park Authorities.

The main outcomes of the discussions can be found below and the summaries of the workshop and the verbatim text can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

Attendees included farmers, conservation NGOs, government agencies, and representative bodies of landowners and sporting interests. We explored the benefits the uplands provide society and had speeches from Dame Helen Ghosh on the National Trust’s commitment to the farmed landscape, Defra’s Nicola Riley on the principles in the 25 year Environment and Farming Plans and Robin Milton on the NFU’s perspective on the uplands.


Output 1:    What Principles should post EU Exit public funding follow?


  • Focus public money on delivering public goods in the uplands
  • Provide government support for developing private markets for public goods where possible

Scheme Approach & Scope

  • Within a national framework allow local tailoring of schemes consider the role of National Parks and AONBs
  • Use a Landscape Scale / Catchment Approach
  • Adopt an outcomes approach rather than relying on prescriptions

Motivation and Ownership

  • Empower and Enable farmers as key agents of land management – 70% of the uplands are farmed
  • Clear, simple schemes that pay on time

Output 2: The attendees concluded that:  Looking Forward the most important actions needed for the Northern Uplands are…’

Identify Common Ground

  • Engage and work with a wider group of upland land interests
  • Capture consensus and produce a Concord
  • Create a joined up response to the two 25 year plans

Improve Communications

  • Create public support for investing in the Uplands through communication and learning – capture the imagination – hearts and minds – stories
  • Share a clear collective message from stakeholders
  • Convey a consistent message to Defra

Influence Policy

  • Respond positively on behalf of the Uplands to the 25 year plan consultations
  • Help to develop schemes that have a national framework, but are locally tailored and include new approaches identified
  • Ensure the economic and social value of the uplands is relevant to the Northern Powerhouse
  • Highlight integration of rural social, environmental and economic issues – e.g. farming, housing, broadband

Increase Knowledge and Skills

  • Improve evidence base and valuation of the benefits the Uplands provide and develop mechanisms for public and private funding
  • Pilot new schemes and new approaches e.g. outcomes based schemes
  • Enhance skills and knowledge of farmers, advisors & agencies

Please download the Workshop Summary Reports here:

2 page summary:   ua-northern-event-2-page-summary-jan-2017

8 page summary:   ua-northern-event-8-page-summary-jan-2017

Verbatim report:    looking-forward-workshop-13-jan-2017-verbatim-report-final

What next for the Uplands Alliance?

From Professor Michael Winter…

Dear All

It was very pleasing to see many of you at our launch event at the National Centre for the Uplands back in May, and the level of enthusiasm was very encouraging. We’ve since held meetings in both the South West and North West primarily looking at potential opportunities under the European Innovation Partnership’s (EIP) programme to support operational groups (see below). Many of you have signed up as members of the Uplands Alliance via the website and I would encourage you to do so if you haven’t already. I’m conscious though, that time passes and people may begin to ask – but what next for the Uplands Alliance? I’m taking this opportunity to answer that!

For more on what is next for the Uplands Alliance  please download the letter from here. MWDec2015.

Uplands Hydrology Group Conference 19th of January

The Uplands Hydrology Group brings together those individuals and organisations that have an interest in the management of the uplands and the services that they provide.  This conference will consider in detail two of the key upland services that upland landscapes can deliver, water quality and flood risk management.   The  latest research and understanding in these areas will be analysed and the relationship with the upland economy explored.

Conference Flyer – download here Rose Bowl Conference, 19th Jan. 2016

Uplands Hydrology Group Poster – download here The Upland Hydrology Group poster

image CC – The University of Gloucestershire.

Development of EIP-Agri England Operational Groups – Uplands workshop Newton Rigg, 18th September 2015

 The RPA and Defra co-hosted a workshop with the Uplands Alliance at Newton Rigg College to discuss the funding opportunities under the EU European Innovation Partnership Agri grants scheme.

The European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-Agri) provides support to projects which show innovation in linking research with farming or forestry practices. It provides grant funding to operational groups to help projects that aim to improve productivity and sustainability.

As part of the Countryside Productivity scheme under the RDP there is £5m available to fund EIP Operational Groups. Grants of between £5000 and £150,000 are available for groups to come together to develop and test ideas to shared problems. The aim of EIP-Agri is to take research and develop it into a solution for a recognised industry problem in a new and innovative way. Its aim is not to fund primary or additional research.

Those who had submitted an uplands related notification were invited to the workshop in Penrith to provide them with an overview of the application process, more information on what’s available and to provide the opportunity to develop networks with other operational group members and develop ideas.


An Expert Panel consisting of Julia Aglionby (Foundation for Common Land), Robin Milton (NFU), and Samuel Boon (AHDB) discussed the current challenges in the uplands, the scope for innovation to help develop solutions and the benefits of working collaboratively. It was highlighted that in the uplands, it isn’t just about developing new technologies, there is a wider issue about how to take a new idea and make it happen on the ground and how to encourage people to take up new things. There were discussions around how innovation is defined and the importance the definition including the application of something we already know but in a different way/context in an innovative way.


Lord Inglewood (President of Uplands Alliance) attended the event and said a few words about why EIP operational groups were important to the Uplands Alliance and to offer our help and support. The aim of the EIP funding is very similar to the aims of the Uplands Alliance – to bring together practitioners, researchers and policy makers to work collaboratively to better understand the challenges and work together to find solutions that work for all.  These operational groups are a great opportunity to help start to develop new networks of people that want to work together to achieve a common goal. It is important that the ideas are developed in a coordinated way in order to maximise the outcomes achieved right across the country. The Uplands Alliance is keen to be involved so that we can coordinate and strengthen the work, avoid duplication and facilitate communication between groups, resulting in better applications and ultimately make a difference at farm level. The Uplands Alliance wants to help in any way we can, whether that be by bringing people together, perhaps from other parts of the country or signposting other areas of work – please let us know how we can help.


Another similar workshop is being held by the Uplands Alliance in the South West on the 28th October for anyone interested in creating or being involved in an operational group. If you would like to attend please email us at


The application window is now open until 2017. There will be 4 assessment periods, late spring 2016 (deadline 31st March), winter 2016, summer 2017 and autumn 2017.


Please see this link for details on how to apply.

For more information on how the Uplands Alliance can help – please email


NEW FIELDS – Uplands Rural Cultural Symposium, 23rd July

Seminar:  Thursday 23rd July, at the Merz Barn, Elterwater, LA22 9JB

You are cordially invited to an afternoon seminar for uplands farming groups, rural NGOs, RDPE/LEADER, the National Parks, Arts Council, Local Authorities, rural community groups, artists, and rural arts groups, etc., to discuss proposals for a possible future Uplands Rural Cultural Symposium (NEW FIELDS – rural Biennale). Which we hope will be based with hill farming and uplands rural communities across Cumbria, Northumberland and N. Yorks, throughout the summer of 2018.

A ‘FairShare’ for rural communities; new Arts Lottery funding for the uplands?

“The challenges currently facing upland places and communities are a result of the varying approach to policy development… has resulted in often conflicting and unforeseen consequences.” (CRC Uplands Report 2011)

A recent Culture Media and Sport MPs Committee report into the work of the Arts Council (5 November 2014), has highlighted the urgent need for Arts Council managed Arts Lottery funding to be re-directed for the benefit of England’s non-metropolitan regions. Given that the Arts Council have already spent several £100 millions Arts Lottery funding in support of major urban arts and culture-led urban regeneration initiatives; Liverpool, Manchester, Folkestone, Margate, Hull, etc., it is argued that some of this new ‘regional’ Arts Lottery funding could now also be made available to support equally vital culture-led rural regeneration and creative rural economy initiatives for England’s uplands and hill farming communities. Including some exciting new rural arts and cultural projects for urban artists, interested in working with our creative and culturally vibrant uplands and hill farming communities.

Seminar programme and venue

The seminar will take place (12.00noon – 3.30pm) on Thursday 23rd July at the Merz Barn site at Elterwater, South Lakes <;. It is open and free to all interested arts and rural stakeholders (uplands community, tourism, rural NGOs, arts, etc.) to come along and find out mote about the proposals. Provided that there is sufficient support for the idea, a working group could maybe be formed later on to take the idea further. A follow-up international level symposium is also planned for Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th October in London, which will further profile some of the exciting new rural arts and uplands rural community-led cultural projects developing internationally; in China, Australia, USA, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, and Spain), and throughout the UK. (Programme available shortly)

Invited seminar speakers and presenters include: Peter Allen, (a 17th generation Cumbrian hill farmer, with an MBE for services to hill farming, and a Lake District National Park Council member), Dr Jan Hartholt, (Dutch Government Agriculture Ministry, and EU Rural Development Network), Frances Rowe, (Newcastle University, PhD rural arts researcher), Ian Hunter (Cultural policy/creative rural economy advisor, Rural Cultural Forum), Adrian Lochead (Director of Eden Arts and the very successful C-Arts programme in Cumbria). Others to be confirmed. It will be an informal ’round table’ format and with plenty of opportunity for input and questions from other seminar attendees.

Please contact us if you would like to book a place on the seminar.

Ian Hunter Coordinator
 (Rural Cultural Forum/Littoral Arts Trust)

e. <>  t. 015394 37309

w. <>

Sustainable farm business models

Janet Dwyer introduced the workshop by explaining that it was an attempt to focus upon how to achieve robust and economically viable farm/forest businesses which also produced environmental and social benefits, in the uplands. Charles Scott from the Farm Business Survey (FBS) team at Newcastle University ran through the latest FBS findings which show the average hill farm heavily dependent upon subsidy from the CAP and agri-environment schemes, and with a low net farm income within which the value of farm output is smaller than the cost of farm inputs. Liz Genever from EBLEX, Adrian Banford from Cumbria Fells and Dales Leader and Judy Richmond from the National Trust then gave presentations exploring key factors for successful farm businesses in uplands, stimulating a heartfelt and positive discussion from participants. As a result of workshop participants’ strong support for this network topic, a small group will take away some of the messages and look at how the Uplands Alliance can really add value in respect of promoting sustainable upland farm business models.

Key points made:

  • Whilst a large proportion of net farm income is from agricultural production, single farm payment and agri-environment scheme income are together more significant, because the associated costs of agriculture outweigh the direct returns from it. What are the prospects therefore for different approaches to reduce farming costs and increase incomes, in the uplands? Maybe low input systems such as Pasture Fed Livestock could be one option – with much lower variable costs and maybe a lower volume of output, but with the opportunity to niche market or direct-sell the product and thereby gain added value.
  • There are profitable hill and upland farms – we need to understand what makes them successful and harness that information. There is no one size fits all model of success, but there are a range of options pursued successfully around the UK and others can learn from them.
  • There is scope for genetic improvement of stock beyond simply looking at hardiness; there should be greater focus on some of the less high-profile health issues which nonetheless impact on productivity; and there needs to be more attention to reducing feed costs.
  • There were some concerns over a proliferation of short term tenancies which discourage land managers from taking ‘the long view’ in their management strategies.
  • Farmers want to retire with dignity; taxation rules do not encourage succession and it can be difficult to facilitate transfer when the housing stock is limited and very expensive, and the farm won’t support more than one proper income. Maybe not many farmers have pensions. Those who have made the decision to step back and let their sons or daughters take on the farm reported that it was something that really needed to be done; holding on to the reins too long would only damage the relationship and would not be good for the farm business.
  • Grazing restrictions mean fluidity between sheep and cattle numbers is no longer possible – many farms in schemes cannot graze certain species (either sheep or cattle) at specific times of year and this may also lead some to drop one enterprise, to make the management simpler.
  • There was positive opinion on the next generation of young people coming through, keen to farm – they should be encouraged to bring their own ideas and make a go of things, it was felt.
  • Size and profitability is a complex issue – some smaller producers succeed as well as larger ones; different strategies for growth are possible and sometimes getting smaller can make good sense: it all depends upon your markets.
  • Sometimes there may be no opportunity to go off-farm for training, as farmers have to be tending to stock every day.
  • The fact that this group wanted to do something which would really help most farmers was welcomed – too often, these kinds of conference involve ‘experts’ telling farmers that they need to do more for the environment rather than being willing to listen and try to understand farmers own challenges and concerns.

There were positive views on the potential role of the Uplands Alliance:

  • Just by existing it was going to help
  • Sharing information/best practice would be valuable, between hill and upland farmers in a range of different locations around the country. A ‘rolling roadshow’ could be organised to enable the message to be spread around the main upland areas of England, examining what makes for a successful hill farm business and sharing experience between areas.
  • Such a roadshow could also provide an opportunity to think medium term – to reach consensus etc. concerning the best way to support these farms, over time.
  • There was an interest in bringing farmers closer to science so that they can become active participants in experiments designed to scope and test different approaches to sustainable and successful business management.