HILL FARMING IN THE CUMBRIA FELLS AND DALES

Hill farming can be defined as a farming system which primarily uses grazing animals (sheep and cattle) on land classified as Less Favoured Area. LFA land is divided into Severely Disadvantaged Areas (these areas are often variously described as fells, hills, or moors) and Disadvantaged Areas (generally upland rather than hill areas). The disadvantages referred to are climate, topography, remoteness and to a large extent altitude. In the Cumbria Fells and Dales farming activity is primarily beef and sheep production and there is now very little dairying.

The Lake District is an internationally valued landscape of open fells, craggy mountains, remote valleys, rivers, lakes and a pastoral rolling landscape of farmland, sheltered valleys and broadleaved woodland.  Farming has been carried out within the area for many centuries and has influenced the development of its different landscape elements.  The valley bottoms are characterized by a patchwork of small inbye fields enclosed by stonewalls and hedgerows. The valley sides are typically semi-improved rough grazing and woodland within larger walled areas known locally as ‘intakes’.  At the top of the slopes, the fell wall marks the transition to the unimproved moorland and rough grazing land of the open fells.  Many Lakeland hill farms typically run a small suckler beef herd and a flock hill breeding ewes, although in recent years there has been a move towards sheep-only farming.

The South Cumbria low fells are part of the Lake District National Park but are less rugged with isolated semi-improved small fields in river valleys – principally the river Lune and Kent and their tributaries.  This is an area of dairy as well as beef and sheep production.    

The North Pennines is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is predominantly an upland landscape with a mixture of moorland habitat and rough grazing including grouse moor and extensive upland sheep production.  The Orton fells near Tebay to the east of are an area of limestone upland with limestone pavements and flower rich meadows.  Further south and also to the East of the M6, the Howgill fells are a triangular shaped area situated between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.  This is an area of traditional upland sheep rearing with fewer cattle now than in the past.  The hills are steep sided but with rounded tops, less rugged than the Lake District, and dissected by rivers and streams.  The habitat consists of upland with moors and rough grazing with some areas of flower rich grassland on northern slopes and blanket bog on the upper fells.