The Federation

By Commoners for Commoners.

Our Story

The Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 disrupted commoning in Cumbria and the north of England. Many entire hefts of sheep were culled, and sheep bloodlines were lost. Restocking was not easy. The commoners lost hardy sheep who knew to stay on their own area or “heft” of the common. As commons are unfenced replacement sheep had to be trained to stay on their heft. This took time and regular shepherding. Some commoners just didn’t have the resources to do this.

At the same time the government was offering incentives to reduce livestock numbers on the fells. Commoners with small flocks were asked to consider reducing their flock numbers to a point where it was no longer viable to keep them on the common. They were, in effect, squeezed out and hill farming lost many skilled shepherds. The commoners with larger flocks were then left struggling to maintain a farming system hollowed out by government policy.

As commoners we did not want our centuries old farming system to go by the wayside. Therefore, we decided to join together and find a collective voice to safeguard our way of life.

Aims & Objectives

Our overall aim is to maintain and improve the sustainability of hill farming and commoning. Our objectives are:


  • To be a representative voice to support and protect the commons
  • To support better collaboration amongst commoners
  • 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 and put forward the case of the commoners in a vigorous and constructive manner

‘It is not necessarily those lands which are the most fertile or most favoured in climate that seem to me the happiest, but those in which a long adaptation between man and his environment  has brought about the best qualities of both; in which the landscape has been moulded by numerous generations of one race, and in which the landscape in turn has moulded the race to its own character’

T.S. Eliot, After Strange Gods 1933