Living landscapes – the role of farming

By Colin Adsley
9th May 2021

The countryside we see in Northumberland has been developed over many thousands of years. Its rich variety of landscapes, its abundant wild life and outstanding beauty are the result of an interaction between the natural world and human influence, exerted predominantly by farmers.

The very things we prize most about the Northumberland countryside – its grassy hills, its patterns of fields and boundaries, its moors, marshes, heathery heaths and woodlands – all bear witness to the clearing and organising, planting and managing done by generations of dedicated farmers.

Farming gives meaning and context to our landscapes, providing not just crops and animals but also inspiration to artists and writers and a refuge to everyone from the pressures of urban life.

The role of farmers

Farmers need us to understand and appreciate the role they play in maintaining our countryside. A good deal of their time (and considerable expense) goes into the stewardship of their land. It is a valuable part of their work with clear benefits to us all.

  • It allows for sustainable management of our natural resources.
  • It retains a higher potential for domestic food production to reduce our dependence on imports, a benefit that may become of considerable importance in the future.
  • It provides income from tourism, domestic and international.
  • It makes for thriving rural communities.
  • It improves public health and well-being.

Before Brexit, EU legislation provided various agri-environment schemes that compensated farmers for maintaining the natural aspect of the land they work. Post Brexit, Defra has promised to maintain payments for up to five years, and is looking at a long-term scheme to pay farmers for what are being seen as ‘public goods’ – the maintenance and fostering of the countryside for the many benefits we all derive from it, practical, environmental, recreational and spiritual.

Flowey gate, Wooperton

CPRE Northumberland believes that substantial support for farmers should continue to be directed towards securing and enhancing what is, after all, a prime national asset – and an irreplaceable legacy to future generations.