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MP’s forestry think-tank in fact-finding Borderlands visit

[R]ory Stewart MP led twenty members of his forestry and woodlands think-tank on a tour of the northernmost part of his constituency – around Kershope Forest and the parish of Bewcastle – on a mobile visit designed to assess the potential of woodland and forestry to regenerate rural development in north-east Cumbria.

The tour took in stops at Roadhead, White Lyne, and Bewcastle, and involved discussions on farming; commercial woodland creation; commercial forest management and harvesting; and tree health. The visit involved representatives from, among others, the local community; the Forestry Commission; Natural England; the Border Uplands Demonstrator Initiative; commercial operators BSW and Tilhill; and the Lake District National Park. The group ended at the historic Bewcastle Church where they discussed the historical and cultural assets of the area, its unique environment, and the potential for rural regeneration more widely.

Rory said: “This has been an incredibly valuable visit, enabling me to introduce to the think-tank members an extremely special part of Cumbria. Nowadays it is characterised by small owner-occupied farms and commercial forestry interests, but was at the heart of reiving history and contains historical and cultural sites of world heritage note. The potential of this area is almost limitless – in terms of its cultural, recreational, and environmental resources, not to mention the incredible beauty of its unspoilt landscape.”

“I am extremely keen to see the region develop as part of the numerous initiatives currently underway, designed to harness the potential of this Borderlands region. That is why I am so excited about the work I am doing alongside my colleagues across county and country boundaries – such as David Mundell MP and Guy Opperman MP – and which I initiated when a Minister at DEFRA, to really invest in this region. It is exciting to take a place-based approach to the rural economy and environment, and I am pleased that my forestry think-tank has had the opportunity to feed into that process.”

Community representative Steve Pattinson said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our unique and unspoilt region to many influential people, many of whom had never set foot in, or heard of, Bewcastle. With Rory’s help we introduced them to our rich history, both visible and hidden, and enjoyed a lengthy discussion on upland farming and food production in the area.”

Keith Jones of the Forestry Commission said: “This landscape-scale ‘forgotten lands’ field visit by the Penrith and The Border Forestry Think Tank with community, farming, forestry and ‘Defra Group’ representatives was excellent; that the conversation quickly focused on ‘what can we do together to mutual advantage’ was, and has to be, far better than single sector site-based dialogues.”

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