Land-based educational charity secures one of Newton Rigg College's sites

A land-based educational charity has secured the future of one of Newton Rigg College's sites. The Ernest Cook Trust will continue to operate Low Beckside Farm, Mungrisdale, as a crucial learning resource for the region.

Speaking of its plans, Dr Victoria Edwards, the Chief Executive of Ernest Cook Trust said: "My understanding is we need to think about how we best use this farm, hill-farming is new to us, the area is new to us – the first this we will do is do a scoping study so see how best we can use this farm to further learning on hill-farming, land-management, forestry, conservation-management in Cumbria.”

"In the meantime, there will be young people starting their studies in September who will need a resource, so we will do everything we can to make sure the farm is a good safe learning environment for them, and we will try to get as many young people there in September as we can using it for practical courses.”

Dr Edwards believes that Low Beckside Farm can be a viable commercial farm. She added: "There is a lot of retirement going on, we got Brexit, we got climate change, and I think this farm can act as a great demonstration of how you can have a viable farming industry that moves through those changes.

"People will be able to see what we do, criticise us, join in, advise. We have the advantage of it being a training farm, we will have a young enthusiastic fit labour force hopefully who will be learning how to plant trees and hedges, but yes the farm has to be viable as it’s important because a demonstration farm that can’t pay its way is no good to anybody."The 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."

Credit: PA Images/ITV

Tim Whitaker, CEO and Principal of Askham Bryan College, which took over the running of the Penrith farm in 2011, said: “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 also plans to run training schemes, apprenticeships, demonstrations, educational visits, workshops, seminars and open days at the site.

Susie Grainger and Victoria Edwards from the Ernest Cook Trust at Low Beckside Farm Credit: The Ernest Cook Trust

Dr Victoria Edwards 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.”

The educational charity already holds training and apprenticeship programmes for disadvantaged young people in Cumbria, which works alongside Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust.

Last year it was confirmed that Newton Rigg College in Penrith would close in July 2021, unless a new buyer was found.

This put the future of the farming school uncertain.