Plans afoot to bring hares back to Cartmel Fell

Hare Hill, Cartmel Fell.

Hare Hill, Cartmel Fell. - Credit: Archant

After planting thousands of trees and miles of hedgerow Julian Lambton is preparing to bring hares back to Hare Hill, as Sue Riley reports

Rigby the labrador

Rigby the labrador - Credit: Archant

Although he is responsible for thousands of acres of the North West’s most beautiful countryside there is nowhere Julian Lambton is more passionate about than Cartmel Fell. That’s where he bought his own farm seven years ago and where he has spent that time restoring wildflower meadows, planting trees and encouraging all kinds of wildlife.

With British meadows on the decrease – one report says hay meadows have declined by 97 per cent since the 1930s due to intensive farming methods – it’s a subject close to Julian’s heart. ‘We knew it was a special place and that’s why we were so keen to buy it. No one can remember the fields ever being ploughed and it’s fairly poor soil so the flowers thrive,’ he says.

Hare Hill, Cartmel Fell, with Julian and Vanda Lambton with labrador, Rigby

Hare Hill, Cartmel Fell, with Julian and Vanda Lambton with labrador, Rigby - Credit: Archant

Julian works as an agent for some of the area’s biggest landowners but he had always wanted his own land so when the 80-acre farm with its unrivalled views to Arnside, the Howgills and Lakeland fells came on the market he and wife Vanda snapped it up. At the time it was under a Natural England stewardship scheme; this spring Julian signed another 10-year Higher Level Stewardship scheme to protect and ‘cultivate’ the hay meadows in return for a small annual grant.

The 33 acres of land given over to meadow (mainly at elevations of 500 feet and higher) are full of beautiful wildflowers including yellow rattle along with orchids, pignut, lady’s bedstraw, birds foot trefoil, ox-eye daisy, orchids, and grasses. In turn, the meadows attract butterflies, skylarks and curlews which have been in steep decline for the past two decades. Looking down over other farmers’ fields the difference is clearly noticeable – they have all been intensively fertilized and grazed over the years; Julian’s meadows are cut much later for hay and haylage giving the flowers time to seed.

His next plan, aptly for a farm called Hare Hill, is to bring breeding hares back to the area. Although he shoots, the hares will be there for pure pleasure rather than sport. ‘If anyone shot a hare on this place I would be furious,’ he says.

He didn’t set out to reintroduce hares but the meadows and newly planted hedgerows provide an ideal habitat for these shy creatures. He says they have seen more hares recently but have no idea if they are breeding. ‘It’s what we have not done that is important. We have not cut the grass early, we have created areas of cover and planted hedgerows where they can find sanctuary.’ Most of the land is let to a local farmer who grazes cattle (the cows have to graze the meadows for a certain number of weeks a year under the Stewardship scheme) and Swaledale sheep. There is one field known as Bull Coppy – where years ago a bull used to graze – filled with scrub and anthills which attract badgers.

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Since they’ve moved there Julian and Vanda have planted more than 2,500 oak, ash and wild cherry trees and 3,000 hedge plants on three acres of land. Julian is keen to plant more but considering he and his wife have done it all by hand, he says: ‘My wife might have something to say about that! But I love doing it.’ The new wooded areas are named Claude – after a distant Lambton relation – and Badger after their previous dog.

Julian has spent the past 23 years managing north west estates on behalf of families such as the Le Flemings who own 15,000 acres including a large estate at Rydal, the Stanleys at Witherslack and the Reynolds at Leighton Hall.

As a chartered surveyor and partner at Carter Jonas property agents, he advises the owners on a variety of subjects from taxation to public access issues. That experience has come in handy for his own farm as many of his clients’ tenant farmers are in stewardship schemes, but he says: ‘I experiment more than I might do on my clients’ land. I am not an expert but an enthusiast.’

The couple, who have two adult children, bought the property partly with money left when Julian’s father, Major Charles, Lambton died. His mother is Lady Elizabeth Mary Petty-Fitzmaurice (her father was the 6th Marquess of Lansdowne) and his cousin is the writer Lucinda Lambton. He developed his love of the countryside from an early age when he was brought up on the family estate in Berkshire and clearly remembers a group of Scouts camping on his father’s land and leaving a heap of sprouting potato peelings. Young Julian, no older than 11, planted the peelings in his sandpit and weeks later proudly presented his family with homegrown new potatoes.

He went on to attend Eton and then worked for one of the largest private land owners in Europe before moving to the north west to work for Fisher Hoggarth which was later taken over by Carter Jonas.

Away from work and family, Julian’s Lakeland farm is his passion and he is full of ideas to improve the land including another wooded area with a pond. He recently put up a barn owl box as well.

‘It’s south facing close to where they can feed (on the voles in the newly planted wood) all the ingredients are there but no barn owl…yet’.

He lives in hope and with such enthusiasm for the area’s natural beauty and wildlife he surely deserves to be rewarded.

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