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Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

New Article Layout: 900-acre farm for lease for €1.30 a year

Patrick Sawer

Published 19/10/2016 | 15:31

A view of Great Orme in north Wales. Photo: National Trust Images/Richard Williams/PA Wire
A view of Great Orme in north Wales. Photo: National Trust Images/Richard Williams/PA Wire

It’s got nearly 900 acres of land, 500 sheep and views to die for. And it could all be yours for just €1.30 a year.

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The drawback is the hours are long and the weather can be challenging, to say the least.

Britain's National Trust is looking for someone to take over a farm on the Great Orme, in North Wales, with the aim of restoring the landscape as a thriving habitat for wildlife.

The tenant would pay a lease of just £1 a year for 10 years to work Parc Farm, a 145 acre farm with grazing rights over a further 720, which would normally cost more than £1 million to purchase on the open market.

The National Trust will supply the sheep and any profit made by the farm’s new leaseholder would be theirs to keep.

Under the terms of the scheme, farming the Great Orme – a limestone headland jutting out into the Irish Sea - would require using traditional grazing techniques; moving the flock regularly from pasture to pasture so that the sheep keep the grass and thick vegetation in check.

A view of Great Orme in north Wales. Photo: National Trust Images/Richard Williams/PA Wire
A view of Great Orme in north Wales. Photo: National Trust Images/Richard Williams/PA Wire
A view of Great Orme in north Wales. Photo: National Trust Images/Richard Williams/PA Wire
A view of Great Orme in north Wales. Photo: National Trust Images/Richard Williams/PA Wire

It is hoped this will allow birds such as Choughs, Guillemots and Razorbills to nest, rare plants like the Spiked Seedwell, Goldilock’s Aster and Spotted Cat’s-ear to grow, and encourage invertebrates, notably the Silky Wave Moth, Horehound Plume Moth and the Helianthemapion Aciculare weevil, to thrive.

William Greenwood, the National Trust’s general manager of Great Orme, said: “To ensure a healthy and beautiful landscape we need the most agriculturally productive pastureland to be grazed less, and the least agriculturally productive grassland to be grazed more.

“At the moment the height of the tough grass is too high and that reduces the habitat for wildlife. The solution is to use more natural, traditional grazing methods. Unless we implement a very specific grazing regime we will not see these most fragile habitats recover.”

This more traditional farming method involves long hours spent shepherding on what is often difficult, rocky terrain.

The trust said it welcomed applicants from all walks of life, though some experience of farming would be an advantage. And a love of sheep would definitely help.

 “It’s a beautiful spot, wonderful for someone with a passion for working the land in a way that restores the natural habitat,” said Mr Greenwood. “We’re looking for a tenant who sees a productive farm as one which maintains healthy wildlife and encourages visitors to act for nature, as well as produce good, healthy food.

“To give him or her a head start and the best chance of success, we’re taking away the financial pressure of having to cover the rent for the farm, the grazing rights and the farmhouse each year.”

Parc Farm was bought by the National Trust after a fundraising campaign which saw thousands of members of the public contribute towards the £1m cost of buying the land, near Llandudno.

The trust acquired Great Orme as part of its Neptune Coastline Campaign, set up in 1965 to permanently protect over 100 miles of the Welsh Coast and a further 450 miles in England and Northern Ireland. The campaign has so far raised more than £65m for coastal conservation.

Wildlife on Great Orme – the Viking word for sea serpent - has declined by 60 per cent in the past half century and the trust hopes that reintroducing what it calls ‘nature first’ grazing methods will help reverse the trend.

Vanessa Griffiths, National Trust’s Assistant Director Operations, said: “We are putting the needs of the landscape and nature first, and helping the next generation of farmers to get a foothold in the industry.

“With a place as special as Parc Farm, which is of European significance in botanical, wildlife, archaeological and geological terms, it is essential that we take a long term view with conservation and farming working hand in glove.”

The National Farmers Union has welcomed the scheme. John Mercer, Director of NFU Cymru said: “This represents an exciting yet challenging opportunity for somebody to enter farming and balance farming, conservation and public engagement.”

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