A MULTI-MILLION pound project is underway to help secure the future of upland commons in England, including three in the Yorkshire Dales.

The three-year, £3million project aims to preserve the country’s common land; privately owned land over which individuals, ‘commoners’, have rights – mostly to graze livestock.

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All common land has open access which means people have the right to enjoy it for recreation and learning.

In 2021, just three per cent - 400,000 hectares - of England remains as common land and the ‘Our Upland Commons’ project aims to ensure it is preserved.

Yorkshire project officer Claire Hodgson said: “I’ll be working with commoners, conservation organisations, volunteers and the public to build on the collaborative tradition of commoning to demonstrate how farming and nature can work together to produce the food, landscapes, and habitats we all know and love.”

Uplands in the North that will benefit from the project include the popular Lake District walk to Cat Bells, near Keswick and Ingleborough’s common land in the Yorkshire Dales which is frequently climbed as part of the Three Peaks challenge.

The project involves 25 partners and has been made possible by a £1.9m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It is being led by the Foundation for Common Land whose executive director Julia Aglionby said: “Commoning has given rise to the centuries old practice of shared land management.

“It’s a system that gives us many good things - including food, water, access to nature, green space and heritage.

“And it can help with many 21st century challenges from nature recovery to flood management, carbon storage and our wellbeing.

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“But there are serious threats to commons and the system of commoning.

“If not addressed we’ll lose these rare landscapes and the benefits they bring now and, in the future.

“The Our Uplands Commons project is all about helping commoners adapt and survive as well as growing the public’s enjoyment of, and respect for, commons and commoning.”

Hanna Latty of the Lake District National Park Authority said commons are ‘a unique blend of nature history and culture’ that need protecting.