Gloucestershire land-based charity saves Cumbria from agricultural education loss

Susie Grainger and Victoria Edwards & Meg at Low Beckside Farm resized[6]

The future of learning from the land at the last remaining agricultural college farm in Cumbria looks set to be secured, following an offer to purchase by leading Fairford-based land-based educational charity, The Ernest Cook Trust.

An established landowner in five counties, The Ernest Cook Trust has committed to maintaining Low Beckside Farm, Mungrisdale, as a crucial learning resource for the region.

The Ernest Cook Trust’s offer for the farm has been accepted by Askham Bryan College, in a sale organised by international land agency Savills.

The farm is the sole remaining centre of learning on the land in Cumbria and was part of Newton Rigg campus (run by Askham Bryan College), which is closing this month.

Low Beckside Farm aerial smaller[2]The closure of Askham Bryan College made national headlines last week and there was much local concern at the potential loss of this valuable learning resource to the children and young people of Cumbria.

Thanks to The Ernest Cook Trust, its future looks secure as an operating farm and the Trust looks forward to re-establishing it as a learning centre.

The Trust plans to get more people learning from the land by operating the farm alongside training schemes, apprenticeships, demonstrations, educational visits, workshops, seminars and open days.

The Ernest Cook Trust’s Chairman of Trustees, Andrew Christie-Miller, said: “We have been looking for a suitable place to support land-based learning in the north of England. We are really excited about the opportunities that Low Beckside will offer to so many young people.”

The Ernest Cook Trust already operates training and apprenticeship programmes for disadvantaged young people from its base in Cumbria, in collaboration with Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust.

The Trust also does much for engaging communities in the countryside from its base in Lancashire, as part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Tim Whitaker, CEO and Principal of Askham Bryan College, which took over the running of Newton Rigg in 2011, said: “We are delighted that The Ernest Cook Trust has come forward to protect this valuable local resource. Low Beckside has provided practical training opportunities to so many young people over the years and its contribution to the future of upland farming now looks set to continue.”

The Ernest Cook Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr Victoria Edwards OBE said: “We have a lifelong approach to outdoor learning that covers schools, skills and communities. Low Beckside will provide a spectacular landscape for us to nurture and grow our work in the north west.”