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New deal for nature and water at Haweswater

Last modified: 13 April 2012

Oak woodland, Haweswater

The vision for Naddle Farm is to improve biodiversity and water quality, while managing the land as a viable farm enterprise.

Image: Andy Hay

Water company United Utilities has entered an innovative new land management partnership with the RSPB at its Haweswater Estate in the Lake District, aimed at integrating hill farming with habitat restoration to create more space for nature and improve drinking water quality. Haweswater is the biggest source of drinking water in North West England – supplying approximately two million people.

The conservation organisation has taken a tenancy of Naddle Farm, an upland sheep farm comprising approximately 500 ha (1250 acres) of enclosed farmland and woodland, with substantial common grazing rights on the open fells.  

The vision for Naddle Farm is to improve biodiversity and water quality, while managing the land as a viable farm enterprise. This long-term project aims to restore a range of upland habitats including upland heath, broad leaf woodland and blanket bog. This restoration work will benefit many types of upland wildlife and reduce the risk of erosion, which can affect raw water, making it more difficult and costly to treat.

Mike Fishpool, Haweswater Development Manager for the RSPB said: “By restoring upland habitats we aim to create a ‘win win’ situation for both wildlife and water. However, the lessons we learn from this project will only be relevant to the wider farming community if we integrate it with a viable farming system. To this end we have appointed experienced sheep farmer Richard Postlethwaite, to manage the agricultural business at Naddle Farm.

“Our tenancy of Naddle Farm forms part of our wider Lakes High Fells Futurescape, a landscape-scale conservation initiative in the North and East lakes, which seeks to work with others to inspire the creation of an upland landscape rich in wildlife, while respecting the  history and traditions that have shaped the distinctive cultural heritage of the Lake District.”

Paul Phillips, United Utilities Catchment Manager for Cumbria including Haweswater and Thirlmere, commented: “Haweswater is a hugely important source of drinking water. A quarter of the water we drink in the North West comes from here. Part of what makes it so good is the surrounding land, which is a natural filter. Farming this land sustainably helps make sure the water is clearer and cleaner, so it needs less costly chemically-intensive treatment. That’s got to be good for the environment and our customers.

“We’re hoping, with the RSPB, to show how a modern working farm can be sustainable while maintaining upland traditions and making money. United Utilities has led the way in developing water-friendly farming and many other companies are now following suit. This new development is another first for the industry.”

The Naddle Farm tenancy builds on many years of successful partnership working at Haweswater between the RSPB and United Utilities. The RSPB first became active at Haweswater in the 1960s following the return of golden eagles to the reservoir and, in 1987, entered a  management agreement covering 499 ha (1233 acres) of woodland, and a wardening and monitoring agreement over the remainder of the 10,000 ha (24,700 acres) estate.    

In November, the RSPB will also take a tenancy of Swindale Farm, another United Utilities land holding in the Haweswater catchment, which will be managed with similar objectives to Naddle Farm.

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