National Trust defends Cumbrian purchase
HE National Trust (NT) has been criticised for outbidding locals in the purchase of land and for not buying the farmhouse and buildings that would keep the property as an entire farm. It bid £950,000 for 303 acres of land at Thorneythwaite Farm in Borrowdale, Cumbria —£200,000 over the asking price —but didn’t attempt to buy the rest of the farm, which was sold in a separate lot (Agromenes, page 61).
James Rebanks, author of A Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, accuses the Trust of intentionally breaking up a historic farm by pricing out buyers who were pre-
Tpared to buy the entire holding and farm it in the traditional way. ‘The National Trust was founded to protect this pastoral, cultural landscape, but it has sadly lost its way,’ says Mr Rebanks, who is calling on the Charity Commission to investigate this use of the Trust’s money.
In a letter to The Times, broadcaster Lord Bragg describes the charity as ‘bullying’ and says they are ‘about to destroy what centuries of working men and women have created’.
An NT spokesman explains that the charity, whose current focus is on land and the environment, rather than buildings, could not afford the entire farm, which had been estimated at £1.55 million-plus, so prioritised buying the land. ‘It’s far from clear if there were any prospective buyers interested in buying both lots or what any new private owner would have done with the land and farmhouse if they had been successful. With the Trust, there is certainty. The land will be managed using local skills, it will continue to be farmed, and the beauty of the area will be cared for forever.’
The Trust is now considering its options and reports considerable local interest. Charlotte Cooper