Regenerative Farming on the Lowther Estate

by Charlotte Fairbairn

All images courtesy of Lowther Castle and Gardens, and Tony Rumsey MBE

Staying ahead of the times

Eight hundred and fifty years ago, the earliest known member of the Lowther family established himself in the corner of Cumbria that is now known as the Lowther Estate.

While over the intervening centuries the Estate has grown and fluctuated, Lowther has been guided by an abiding will to stay ahead of the times. The benefits of forestry were foreseen during the reign of Edward I. Vegetarianism was embraced by Viscount Lonsdale in the late 17th century. Lowther Castle may have been partly demolished in the 1950s but in the long-term, the removal of its roof ensured the future security of the Estate at large.

Logging at Lowther
Farming at Lowther

Embracing regenerative agriculture

Looking forward, Lowther continues to be ambitious and in the past few years, a regenerative agricultural strategy has been embraced. While access across the Estate is being opened up for walkers and cyclists within the North Park, other areas of the estate remain private to allow natural processes to return and the wildlife to flourish without being disturbed. The medieval Deer Park may still be as it was hundreds of years ago but its management, along with the husbandry of much of the park, has been substantially de-intensified. Fences are coming down. Small graziers (sheep) are being replaced by large ones (longhorn cattle, among others). Stock is being managed in an entirely different, more sustainable way.


Promoting biodiversity

The introduction of beavers, the planting of wildflower meadows, the keeping and fostering of over 500 bee-hives, the planting of huge numbers of trees – at the last count, 220,000 were placed in the ground in the past couple of years – the reconnecting of the river Lowther and its tributaries to the natural floodplain: all these projects have been embarked upon in order to improve the health of the estate, to promote a more natural environment where biodiversity and species richness increase, to promote natural regeneration and create a more diverse range of habitats.

Decanalising the River Lowther
Reinstating water meadows
Wildflower meadow planting

An important journey

To date, the results have been more than encouraging. The river Lowther is finding its old ways with great numbers of waterfowl returning to the floodplain. The beavers are slowing the flow of the river. The woodland pasture is now not only being enjoyed by the free-ranging livestock but being shared by more and more species of flora and fauna. Measures of carbon capture have improved considerably.

The road towards creating a productive and healthy estate through regenerative agriculture is a long one. Lowther Estate is proud to have embarked on this thoroughly worthwhile and important journey.

Beavers' wood chipping © Heather Devey
Wetland scrape installed prior to beaver release
Beaver enclosure © Heather Devey

by Charlotte Fairbairn

Lowther Castle & Gardens

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