You may remember that, earlier this year, when Brexit still looked like a bizarre fantasy, the National Trust began an international search for a farmer to manage a 145 acre farm on the Great Orme near Llandudno in Wales. Famously, the rent offer was for just £1 a year. The Trust feared that the farm would be converted to a golf course and it is the site of several rare plants, such as Wild cotoneaster, Cotoneaster cambricus (also known as the Great Orme Berry) which they wanted to conserve; so they bought it.
The shepherd who has taken the challenge on is Dan Jones from the island of Anglesey. It is no ordinary farming job however and, in addition to trying to make a profit from his flock of 295 Lleyn and Herdwick sheep, he will be working closely with the Trust and the charity Plantlife to maintain the conservation value of the site. In addition to the 145 acres on the farm, he has access to a further 720 acres of coastal headland.
It is a special spot and is very popular with tourists. He will therefore have to watch out for dogs. Only yesterday was I walking through a field of sheep when a walker came in through the gate at the other end with his dog (without a lead). Fortunately, on this occasion, the dog didn’t do anything but you could tell that he was curious about the sheep and could quite easily have chased them. At the Great Orme, the headland is unfenced so these risks will be heightened. The other challenge Dan will face is to shift the land from what has been quite an intensive grazing regime to one that is more extensive, putting less pressure on the grass.
One might think that it will be difficult to make a profit under these conditions but with just £1 a year to pay in rent, usually a major stress factor for tenant farmers, he has a very good starting point!