26 September 1997

Tenant left out in cold over fell grazing rights

A DISPUTE over fell grazing has erupted between a Cumbria farmer and his landlord, Forest Enterprise.

John Hinde, whose family has tenanted 607ha (1500 acres) of fell land at Ennerdale, near Egremont, for 55 years, discovered that the landlord had re-let the fell grazings, although he was never informed officially. Then, last weekend, Forest Enterprise wrote to Mr Hindes solicitor to say that he could not remove his 620 ewes from the fell until the new tenant was present.

But, acting on advice from his own land agent, Mr Hinde went ahead on Monday and gathered his sheep. This latest problem is just one in a long-running saga over the fell grazings.

Mr Hindes father was the tenant until his death two years ago. The landlord, although initially extending the tenancy agreement, issued a notice to quit in March which was then extended further to the end of September.

Not informed

Mr Hinde applied for the tenancy. "Others who applied and were unsuccessful were informed. I have never been informed about anything. The first I knew that the land had been re-let was when the new tenant walked into my yard and told me he was taking over on Sept 26.

"I have still not had any notification from the landlord that my application was unsuccessful or that a new tenant had been chosen," he said. The only communication from the landlord was a letter sent to his agent six days after the new tenant had visited.

The new tenants announcement gave Mr Hinde less than two weeks to gather the flock off the fell and find alternative grazing for his own 620 ewes.

Grazing crisis

"We were facing a panic to find some grazing. We might have to cut the flock by about 500 ewes to get over this crisis." Half the farms 50-cow suckler herd is being taken to market today (Fri).

"That situation was bad enough but then last weekend I was told I couldnt even take my own sheep off the fell. And I still havent officially been notified that there is a new tenant."

Although 280 Herdwick ewes are stock sheep which will automatically be taken over by the incoming tenant, the remaining 620 Swaledale ewes belong to Mr Hinde.

The letter sent from Forest Enterprise to Mr Hindes solicitor included an order that Mr Hinde must also sell 100 of his own ewe lambs and 100 gimmers to the incoming tenant. And it ordered Mr Hinde not to become involved in any "adverse publicity" over the tenancy agreement. No one from Forest Enterprise was available to comment. &#42

Looking to the fell where his family have grazed sheep for 55 years, John Hinde now faces an uncertain future.