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National Trust invites students to put forward plans for iconic Lake District farm

National Trust’s Penny Hill Farm where students are putting forward their plans for this iconic Lake District hill farm. (Paul Harris)

AGRICULTURAL students from Newton Rigg College have begun work on business plans for an iconic National Trust farm, Penny Hill, in the Eskdale Valley.

Penny Hill farm was marketed by the National Trust in October to be let as a whole farm, on a 15 year Farm Business Tenancy. It generated interest from over 40 perspective tenants.

The 19 students took part in a mock farm tenancy viewing day. They toured the farm and its facilities and spoke to the outgoing tenants and Trust staff – land agents, rangers and farm advisors – to find out how the farm is currently run.

“Producing a business plan and tender is something that may only happen once or twice in a farming career” said National Trust Farming Adviser Will Cleasby.

“It can unlock grants and loans but it should answer important questions like, what are the most suitable enterprises for the farm and where are these headed? It’s an important part of preparing for a farming career” explained Will Cleasby, who farms in the Eden Valley.

“We are keen to develop closer links with Newton Rigg, part of Askham Bryan College, and support the next generation of farmers. They are critical to the future of farming. As one of the largest local landowners, our farms and land are looked after by our tenants. We depend on them to provide food in a sustainable, nature-friendly way whilst improving the natural environment and maintaining Lakeland traditions. We hope students become more aware of what the Trust does and how we differ from other landowners” added Will Cleasby.

Dan Stamper, Senior Agricultural Lecturer at Newton Rigg College said: “Students have to develop a business plan as part of their course. I wanted to make this project as real as possible, giving the students the opportunity to really understand what it takes to develop a successful business and hopefully gain a tenancy. Several local businesses are supporting us. The students have completed viewing days on a lowland farm as well as Penny Hill.  They will now investigate their planned enterprises and produce a three year cash flow, receive input on finance, BREXIT and environmental schemes. Their plans will be marked as part of their course and presented to a panel, the best work will be recognised at our Awards day next June.

India Tuer, an Assistant Rural Surveyor for the National Trust, who graduated from the Royal Agricultural College in Rural Land Management in 2014, said: “It was good to get student views on a variety of subjects from bracken control to farm diversification. I asked questions to prompt them into thinking about where they are now and what skills, resources, experience and knowledge they need to progress. I hope they find the exercise helpful. Whilst I was at university we did a farm tendering exercise which added to my experience of discussing farm business and finances with my family.”

Penny Hill is one of 90 farms owned by the National Trust in the Lake District, where their land holding is nearly 20% of the National Park. The farm is a typical Lake District fell farm. It has a fell going flock of Herdwick sheep, facilities for a small herd of suckler cows and a successful holiday cottage and bed and breakfast enterprise developed over the years by the outgoing tenants. The Trust says the re-let generated a great deal of interest from those who share their optimism for the future of farming in the Lake District.

For more information on the National Trust or its farms in the Lake District please contact Will Cleasby: [email protected] M: 07767674455

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