A THREE-YEAR, £3m project is underway to help secure the future of upland commons in England, including on Grassington Moor and Ingleborough.

“This is pivotal time for commons as agriculture and land management undergo seismic change, “ said Adrian Shepherd, head of land management at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, one of 25 partners backing the project.

“At risk of disappearing is the tradition of commoning which brings many benefits for people; the project will work to secure and enhance those benefits for the good of all,” he added.

Just three per cent (400,000 hectares) of land in England is common land over which individuals, commoners, have rights – including to graze livestock - a feature of many upland farms adjoining common land. Commons are owned by a local council, privately or by organisations.

‘Our Upland Commons’, made possible by a major £1.9 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is led by the Foundation for Common Land.

Claire Hodgson, the project’s Yorkshire Dales officer, explained what will be happening over the next three years:

She 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. Commons are brimming with nature, history and culture.

“You are seven times more likely to find common land has a special nature designation, four times more likely to find an ancient monument and about half of free access land in England is on common land. And 28 per cent of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is common land.

“It’s vital that we recognise and protect our upland commons. And now - thanks to National Lottery players and grants from Esmée Fairbairn and Garfield Weston Foundations and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust amongst others - action is being taken to help secure their future.”