Country diary: We’re helping nature to thrive on our abandoned farm

By Andrea Meanwell
The abandoned Low Park farm in Tebay, Cumbria.
The abandoned Low Park farm in Tebay, Cumbria. Photograph: Andrea Meanwell

After being in bed with Covid for nearly two weeks, it feels good to be out and about again. I drive down to Low Park Farm – the abandoned farm we own – with my dog in the Gator, a small four-wheel-drive vehicle. Crucially this vehicle has both a roof and a heater, which has made winter work significantly more comfortable than travelling by quad bike.

I park by the derelict buildings and turn off the engine. I can hear the distant hum of the motorway that cut off the access to this farm in the 1970s, effectively closing it down after 300 years.

My family has kept the land in use, though, and right now there is a huge amount of work to do. While I have been ill, 1,800 trees have arrived from a Yorkshire nursery to be planted – mainly blackthorn, alder, rowan and larch (oaks were not part of the delivery because they attract grey squirrels and this project is to expand habitat for reds).

There are four relic hedges to restore and one kilometre of fencing to put up to remove livestock from an area of ancient woodland so that it can regenerate.

There is a new pond to dig for the snipe that have nested here for the first time this year after some field drains blocked. Instead of unblocking the drains, we will let nature take priority and make the area of wet ground a permanent feature.

Today, I load up the back of the Gator with wood that has been trimmed from the edges of the area to be fenced. This will be stored for a year and then used as firewood. It is our only means of heating and hot water in the farmhouse that we live in. Our main task tomorrow will be to stack the wood so that it can season before being burned.

I still feel exhausted, but while there is work to do I need to get outside and work as much as I can. Hibernation is not an option – there are habitats to restore and new ones to create.

Hill farming has many different facets in the 21st century. Looking after livestock is just a part of it.

As the Gator returns to the farmyard, I can hear the cows calling me for their afternoon feed.

• Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.