A POPULAR TV programme ventured to Haweswater to discover the current changes being made to the picturesque landscape and how it is affecting the people that rely on it.

John Craven travelled to Haweswater Reservoir during Sunday night’s Countryfile, during which he spoke to Lee Schofield- an ecologist who works for RSPB Haweswater- which manages two farms on the Haweswater estate, about the changes to improve the land’s biodiversity.

The Westmorland Gazette: STUNNING: Haweswater STUNNING: Haweswater

Mr Schofield showed Craven the re-meandered Swindale Beck and spoke about the decision to remove some sheep from the tops of the fells.

“The most visible work we’ve done is re-meander the Swindale Beck,” he said.

“We’ve taken what was a straightened river and we put the historic bends back into it to allow the water to move through the valley much more smoothly.

“And that reduces the risk of flooding and improves the drinking water quality.”

The Westmorland Gazette: RE-MEANDERED: Swindale BeckRE-MEANDERED: Swindale Beck

Asked about the sheep Mr Schofield said: “Numbers of sheep have increased massively over the course of the last century and that’s done a lot of damage to nature.

“It’s impacted habitats, impacted on wildlife, we’ve changed the way the valley is grazed, reduced the number of sheep.

“Within our two farms we have a flock of about 300 breeding ewes plus their followers.

“30 years ago there were about 3,000 sheep.

“So, by reducing those numbers, giving that area a rest and putting hardy cattle up onto the hill to graze in a different way that will benefit nature, we allow habitats to recover.

“And hopefully in the longer term they might be able to become more resilient and sustainable enough for the sheep to go back up there.”

The Westmorland Gazette: SPEAKING: Ecologist Lee SchofieldSPEAKING: Ecologist Lee Schofield

The BBC presenter then spoke to David Oakley from United Utilities-who own the land- about how the environmental interventions have benefited water quality.

He then met farmer Mark Bousfield, who as a result of the changes and the current living crisis is struggling to make ends meet.

The Westmorland Gazette: STRUGGLING: Upland farmer Mark BousfieldSTRUGGLING: Upland farmer Mark Bousfield

“Sheep farmers are being told to cut back on their flocks,” said Craven.

“They are being compensated, but it may not be enough to make ends meet in such challenging times.”

Mr Bousfield said he and many farmers would not be able to make a living on the reduced number of sheep, and said he is trying to discourage his son from going into farming because of its “long hours and little pay”.

“We’ve reduced down in the past, and we were asked to reduce down again by 33 per cent and it isn’t going to work for a lot of us,” he said.

“We can’t do anything else, we just have the sheep and the cattle, we can’t plough like the lowland farmers.

“We have two farms that we rent and we’re giving up the other one next year, that’s partly due to the stocking reduction.”

Craven then met with Heather Devey, from Wild Intrigue, and was treated to breakfast and a spot of red squirrel watching.

The Westmorland Gazette: VISITOR: A red squirrel made an appearanceVISITOR: A red squirrel made an appearance