Welcome to the website of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners.
The Federation was set up in early 2003, with the following broad aims:
- To be a representative voice to support and protect the commons
- To support better collaboration amongst commoners
- To ensure that hill farming on common land is a worthwhile and viable activity
- To promote positive management of the environment by commoners
- To improve public understanding of the commons
- To these ends, to engage with all interested parties to put forward the case of the commoners in a vigorous and constructive manner.
The specific objectives are as follows:
- The Federation is a representative voice to support and protect our natural and living heritage, which encompasses the spectacular upland environment, the unique livestock (often stretching back to monastic times), the husbandry systems and the people and communities involved.
- The Federation was born out of a recognition of the underlying threats to this heritage from various groups and movements. In particular, there is pressure to reduce stock numbers to such an extent that it would no longer be possible to run viable farms and communities. Small graziers would be gradually squeezed out until the fells became large ranching units.
- Public support should recognise that the complex systems of common farming deliver environmental and other benefits. Public intervention does not need to be driven by destocking.
- Public access, recreation and other uses of common land do not need to create problems but commoners must be strongly represented in the management of these issues.
- Commoners have ancient and inalienable rights, dating back to before freehold ownership. These rights must be better understood and should not become subservient.
- The government is currently following policies to reduce livestock. A large reduction in stock would be misguided in the long term. Further reductions in stock will soon become irreversible. Hill farming should remain central to UK livestock farming, providing the core breeding stock which ensures hardy, fertile and healthy animals. Hill farms provide the food products of the future, locally and naturally grown, and based on high animal welfare.
- Running a hill farm is a highly skilled occupation, combining traditional and modern techniques. The next generation of skilled shepherds is not coming through. Hill farming has to be a worthwhile and viable way of making a living. The status of Cumbria as a World Heritage Site, and the future of rural tourism, is dependent on hill farming. Family farms should be more effective than institutions.
- The Federation supports new legislation, which must empower commoners to police any decisions taken by the majority. The Federation will work with commoners' associations to help build their capacity. Problems created by the 1965 phase one commons legislation need to be addressed to deal with confusion over registration. Registers must be kept up to date.
- Recent rulings to allow the severance of common rights from land pose a serious threat to traditional commons management and hefting systems. The Federation supports new legislation to end severance.
- The Federation will engage with the various interested bodies and put forward the commoners' position in a vigorous, coherent and constructive way.