by Andy Lester, A Rocha UK’s Head of Conservation
A Rocha UK, alongside one of our Partners in Action Scargill House, facilitated the ‘Re-Imagining the Uplands’ conference on 18-20 March. 35 representatives from all four UK nations met together at the Christian conference centre in North Yorkshire to build a dialogue around the future of our upland areas from a faith perspective. Delegates included farmers, senior Civil Servants, land agents and managers, a Bishop, a Rabbi and a Fransican Friar.
Thought-provoking contributions from Chris Packham (BBC Springwatch), Michael Seddon (CEO of Forestry England), Hannah Malcolm (Operation Noah) and Canon Sarah Snyder (Rose Castle Foundation) aided those attending the conference to creatively explore ways of building a more sustainable future. It brought together a wide range of perspectives to discuss and pray around the issue of land management of the uplands which has often been controversial, starting a process of deepening each other’s understanding of both the problems affecting our uplands and the possible solutions available. One delegate said, “this felt like the start of a whole new conversation and one that I would very much like to remain part of as we think through what’s next [for our uplands]”.
Uplands management remains a complex and topical issue, with many unresolved conflicts. Historically, enclosures and subsequent land clearance removed much of the upland native forests in the UK. Ongoing issues include overgrazing by sheep, damage to native flora, agroforestry plantations and grouse moor-burning which destroys soils and releases carbon. The future impacts of climate change, which will drastically affect which trees and flowering plants will grow in our uplands, must also be considered.
Insights from this creative event will feed into A Rocha UK’s work to deliver on one of our key five-year goals: to see 75,000 acres of Christian-managed land working for nature and to cut carbon by 2026.