CUMBRIAN industry leaders have welcomed the takeover by an education trust of the only remaining hill farm in educational use in England.

An offer for Low Beckside at Mungrisdale, one of two farms run as part of the Newton Rigg College Campus, was accepted this week from The Ernest Cook Trust.

Agent Savills was marketing the farm at £1,725,000 and although the offer has not been disclosed, completion of the sale will see the unit remain central to land-based learning in Cumbria.

It is understood the parties hope to complete by the end of July, with the trust expected to take over by September in time to get students on to the farm and learning for the autumn term.

Dr Julia Aglionby, executive director of Foundation For Common Land and an Armathwaite farmer, said they were liaising closely with Ernest Cook and were delighted with their plans to offer training opportunities for students as well as existing farm businesses and the land based sector including forestry.

“Cumbria land-based students have been badly let down by the Department for Education, Defra and Cumbria County Council. It is really exciting that amongst the gloom we have a really bright light shining through to help the farming sector journey through the next decade — which is forecast to be one of the most challenging and uncertain since the Second World War.”

MP for Penrith and The Border, Dr Neil Hudson met with Victoria Edwards, chief executive of The Ernest Cook Trust to discuss the future of Low Beckside Farm. He said: “This development is another lifeline in saving land-based education in Eden and Cumbria, but it must be stressed, this is not the end, it is only the beginning. We still have a long way to go to regain what has been lost because of the closure by Askham Bryan of Newton Rigg.”

Ms Edwards said: “There was local concern at the potential loss of this valuable learning resource to the children and young people of Cumbria. Thanks to our intervention, its future looks secure as an operating farm and we look forward to re-establishing it as a learning centre.”

Cumbrian MP Tim Farron has welcomed the news that a land-based educational charity has secured the future of one of Newton Rigg College’s sites. “The continuation of land-based education is so important to the future of farming and also tourism in our county.”

Newton Rigg College campus, currently owned by Askham Bryan College at York, is set to close later this month. Tim Whitaker, chief executive and principal, 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 college has also received interest in Sewborwens Farm, valued at £5,500,000, as well as the Newton Rigg Campus, and said it will provide more information in due course.