Powerful case for electrified fences
Getting sheep settled back on to the
fells following foot-and-mouth is likely
to be difficult, but a scheme now
beginning on some of the most
remote areas of the Lake District
offers hope. Jeremy Hunt reports
MORE than 16 miles of electric fencing is being erected across Lake District fell land as the first step in re-establishing hefted hill sheep flocks lost through F&M.
A stretch of three-strand fence, which is costing £15,500 to enclose land on four National Trust farms, is being taken up the steep and rocky slope of Little Stand fell which rises to 750m (2500ft).
"Its a mammoth task, but its the only way we can restock these open fells with sheep," says producer Tony Temple. He is about to start erecting six miles of fencing on his 970ha (2400 acre) Black Hall Farm, Cockley Beck, in the Duddon Valley.
Mr Temple lost his hefted flock of 2000 Herdwick and Swaledale ewes on Mar 25. There had been a hefted flock on these fells for over 1000 years. The farms 300 away-wintered ewe hoggs were saved, along with stock rams.
The National Trust has instigated the scheme as the only practical method of restocking. Mr Temples entire 810ha (2000 acres) of fell land at Black Hall Farm is the first to be fenced.
"It would be impossible to use shepherds and dogs as the only means of trying to re-establish sheep as hefted flocks on these fells.
"Since our fells were emptied in March, sheep from other valleys have started coming over the tops for fresh grass. Fencing is the only way we can get our sheep back. Even then I reckon it will take at least 10 years to re-instate the hefted instinct," says Mr Temple.
New stock sheep will be bought-in when they become available and turned into the enclosed area: "Breeding-up from our 300 ewe hoggs at a lambing percentage of 70% would be a long job."
The fencing system, with posts every five yards, has been tested on his away-wintered ewe hoggs. "They seem to respect it, so I dont think there will be a problem containing them on the fell."
Although ground is thin and rocky, and the run up the steep slope of fell is covered in scree, Mr Temple is determined that electric fence posts – plus additional heavier posts – can be made secure. The power supply will be run from the farm which is half a mile from the start of the fence.
"I have walked a line from the bottom of the valley to the top of the highest fell. I have lived here all my life and Im convinced we can find a way. We have to," says Mr Temple. *
• Supported by National Trust.
• Allows sheep to return.
• Gives time to rebuild hefting instinct.