Hefted flock project on the Lake District commons and freehold fells

During the year ending March 2017 Mervyn Edwards identified and recorded the location of hefted flocks grazing on common land and freehold fells in the Lake District National Park during the year ending March 2017. This represents a ‘snapshot in time’. He  also recorded the breeds of sheep kept in the flocks and changes that have occurred over the last 25 years or so (since 1990).

Mervyn concuded that the farm visits and discussions with other graziers raised two main issues:

  • Apparent lack of succession; a number of graziers were concerned that there seemed to be few young people qualified and available to manage fell flocks, especially on the ‘harder’ sectors of the Lake District fells. In their opinion, qualification largely related to young people brought up on these farms.
  • The traditional system of hefting flocks is breaking down largely due to the substantial reductions in flock size to meet agri-environment agreements.  In many places this has resulted in flocks grazing wider areas of the fell and more sheep inclined to stray further away making gathering and the collection of strays more demanding. The successful practice of hefting on areas of ‘open’ fell relies on a threshold numbers of sheep grazing particular areas to maintain traditional boundaries.

To read the full report you can download it here.