Hilary Wilson on Monbiot’s rewilding proposal

hilary wilson 3 with appleHilary and her husband John used to have around 900 sheep (Texels and Rough Fells) on their farm below the Heart-Shaped Wood in Tebay. They now have a smaller farm near Appleby. Hilary (also an apple grower) writes: 

‘The hill farm is a livestock nursery … it’s the way that we use all of our land to produce food. In Tebay we had 48 species of birds, from the sky larks and curlews on the top to the dippers in the rivers at the bottom, and the wrens in the wall, all this without any special conservation. It’s an integrated system, including moving the flock from high to low lands. If you take out one piece of the jigsaw, you’re liable to disrupt the whole thing.’

Less happily she responds to the previous post on this website:

cumbria hill farming sheepI went to hear Mr Monbiot speak to the commoners in Cumbria. He told the audience he likes lamb to eat but he did not understand he, himself, is living off the land he wants to rewild. It is where the sheep in Britain begin their lives. It is a livestock nursery – part of an integrated system which has fed us for centuries.

He believes himself to be an observer of nature and not part of it. Like many he sees big open spaces and does not understand how it works or that it grows grass and is not the ‘poor land ‘ he imagines.

Many of his audience were older farmers and had begun farming when horses were still used and all the work was done by hand. They know the huge effort it takes to produce food as they have done it. His lack of interest in the human beings and their skills and contribution, culture and history was astonishing .

I do not think he has tried to live off the land as either a hunter gatherer or as a farmer. He had no idea that politicians use subsidies to control and manipulate what does not belong to them.

He did not understand how the commoners work together to manage the land or that if the sheep went that they went too and the land would still be privately owned and would return to the Lord of the Manor or his legal descendant. He advocated the completion of the enclosures to the very people who had had the rights of common. [These were legally instituted by the Statute of Merton in 1235.]

He seemingly had not realised that agriculture is removing what nature produces in order to produce food for us or grass to feed animals which feed us – and the logical solution if one does not like it is to stop eating! Food was not in his calculations.He just missed the point that someone was working every day to feed him and everyone else.

He could not understand that what was in his head was not in other people’s and seldom have I listened to a man with such intelligence and so little insight.

cumbria commoners header


Fortunately Natural England is ‘seeing the light’.



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