Common land - a working landscape

Published: 6th August 2019

Glenridding Common Property Manager Pete Barron writes about the importance of relationships on traditional commons

Herdwick on Red Tarn Crags

As the name suggests, the land above Glenridding village, on the lower slopes of Helvellyn, is a registered common. There is a misconception that common land means we can all do as we please on that land, but that’s not the case. A common has an owner and then right holders (sometimes called ‘commoners’) with the rights on this particular common for grazing sheep.

 There are two graziers on the common who have a legal right to graze a set number of sheep. This right goes with the farm or as part of a legal agreement with the right holder to exercise their rights. 

The sheep grazed here are mostly northern Cheviot and Swaledales – hardy upland breeds that can thrive in what is often a hostile environment up on the fell. The management of these sheep runs on an annual cycle, from the release of hogs (year-old sheep) in spring, followed by breeding ewes and their lambs. 

Gathering for clipping, dosing and other stock management takes place throughout the summer and autumn until the sheep are removed from the fell for the winter around November. The gathering of the sheep sees a communal effort by the families, whose farms are in the valley below, using trained sheep dogs and, of course, the farmers themselves. It is skilled work by all.

Farming on the uplands and particularly in a busy area like Helvellyn presents many challenges. While farmers welcome visitors to the area, and indeed provide various forms of accommodation for holiday makers, they do need walkers to act responsibly when out camping or walking with their dogs. 

Sheep worrying by dogs in a remote area is a major concern and a growing problem, so we ask that dogs are kept on leads when near sheep (and all the time if there is any doubt about keeping a dog under control). And if wild camping, please just stay for one night, move on and leave no trace. 

Common Ground cover image July 2019

  • This article features in Common Ground (July 2019), which covers the latest on what's happening on the land we manage in the Lake District.
  • Read more about our work at Glenridding Common