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“Cumbria is the third largest county in England, and largely rural. Its population of half a million is dwarfed by tens of millions of visitors each year, many of them heading to the iconic Lake District. Recently inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural landscape the area is, however, subject to intense debates about the future of upland farming and the impacts of potential policy changes on local communities, farming and non-farming.”

Josie Warden, RSA and FFC Commission local inquiries lead


Role of the locally led inquiries 

The issues covered by the Commission are wide-ranging and heavily influenced by context. From policy differences in the devolved nations, to cultural and topographical differences across the countries, it was clear from the outset of the Commission that seeking local perspectives would be critical. 

In England, the Commission sought to set up three locally led inquiries. These inquiries would create a frame for the counties of Devon, Cumbria and Lincolnshire to investigate the issues of the Commission most relevant to them, with the aim of stimulating local debate and informing the national Commission. 

Cumbria report

Read the full inquiry report: 'Advice and relationship management for Cumbrian upland farming post-Brexit'

The work in Cumbria

Amongst Cumbria’s dramatic and changing scenery there are a multitude of challenges within food, farming and countryside, from changes to upland farming to difficulties with rural transport and affordable housing. Given the specific and imminent challenges facing upland farmers we focused the work on this area of the county.

There is significant activity from government, industry and the third sector taking place in the county, particularly centred on the uplands. To understand where the Commission could best add value in this debate we spoke to local stakeholders across farming, conservation, local government and community engagement. The theme which emerged strongly in discussions was the interconnection of landscape, identity and economy within the uplands, and the need to ensure that local people are at the heart of decisions which will shape these. Also emerging from this dialogue was an emphasis on the need for us to add weight to existing initiatives rather than convene new networks

Despite the resources being deployed in the uplands there is currently no account or overview of the interaction of these initiatives. This makes it challenging for farmers, funders and support organisations to intervene in the most effective manner. As a result of this insight, we commissioned Professor Lois Mansfield at the University of Cumbria to undertake an analysis of the existing resources being deployed to support upland farming, and to make recommendations for future support.

The RSA food, Farming and Countryside Commission would like the thank the following people for giving their time and insight to developing the locally led inquiry in Cumbria: Alex Fitzgerald, Bill Kenmir, Charlie MacKeith, Lois Mansfield, Maddi Nicholson, Fran Richardson and Lorrainne Smyth.

Field Guide for the Future

Field Guide for the Future

Some of the people, businesses and organisations who contributed to Devon, Cumbria and Lincolnshire locally led inquiries are featured in the Field Guide for the Future.

Read now