Group of people on a hillside
Group of people on a hillside

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Jenny  Walking Sheep Up Street
Jenny Walking Sheep Up Street

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Beekeepers examining a frame of bees
Beekeepers examining a frame of bees

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Group of people on a hillside
Group of people on a hillside

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Our next newsletter is in draft for Summer 2022

Current and recent projects

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Our Upland Commons Project is a three-year, £3m, 25-partner project helping to secure the future of upland commons in Dartmoor, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Shropshire Hills. It’s led by the Foundation for Common Land.  Centuries old farming practices on commons are unexpectedly relevant to many 21st century challenges, they can deliver nature recovery, flood management, carbon sequestration and wellbeing. 


We aim to demonstrate the values of Commons and Commoning by celebrating traditional practices and skills. We are trialling new land management interventions and delivering training to help farmers adapt to the challenges presented not only by the Agricultural Transition, climate change and biodiversity crisis, but a sense of disconnect from these landscapes by many.
The four key themes are Collaboration, Resilience, Commons for All and Commons for Tomorrow. A series of events and activities will continue on the selected Dartmoor Commons working closely with individual Commoners. Dartmoor Hill Farm Project are supporting the project by delivering a range of activity including:

  • Resilience: Healthy Livestock Initiative

    • To evaluate the health status of commoner’s flocks and herds for issues relevant to shared grazing and the vegetation communities found on the lears. Eg.Tick born fever related to performance of hill lambs.

    • Perception of increase in tick numbers due to localised changes (milder weather, less stock or vegetation composition such as more bracken).

    • Mineral Deficiencies – investigating connections between health, soil, and vegetation sample results.

    • Investigating cattle specific issues such as Red Water and BVD

  • Collaboration: Common Boundaries

    • Focussing on boundaries – hedges & walls - that shape the edge of common land and the start of the in-bye fields which form the traditional and practical features of this landscape. It will look to engage and ‘up-skill’ farmers and members of the local community in the art of boundary restoration and maintenance.

    • To include a free training programme for beginners – a series of 2 day workshops leading to a regular club for those with more experience wishing to continue to progress their craft. Potentially with a form of accreditation to underpin the training.

    • See our events page for more info about the Walling Club or get in touch with the DHFP for details 

For more information visit the Foundation for Common Land pages; Our Upland Commons — Foundation for Common Land

Prince's Farm Resilience Programme (2021-2022)

The Farm Resilience Programme ran a series of seven workshops, focusing on different business skills to improve the family farm business. Topics included business planning, understanding accounts and budgeting, and an environmental workshop looking at such ideas as 25 year planning. Alongside these workshops, every farm completes the Business Health Check Tool to look at their strengths and weaknesses and benchmark costs against similar farms, as well as receiving one-to-one farm business support. DHFP are currently wrapping up the final reporting from this programme designed to help farms assess their overall performance and profitability.

As part of a wider evaluation and review of this national programme in 2021, some headline facts and figures revealed;

73% of the farmers participating reported improved business skills

56% reported increased profitability

Farmers saw an overall return of £3 for every £1 invested by the programme


Previous participants have found the course really beneficial, with positive feedback:

'Being able to discuss with the other farmers has been a huge benefit as the family realised they weren’t on their own with the

concerns and unknown challenges in the future'.

‘Speakers were inspiring, to encourage us to look at the farm as a business and not a way of life’.

‘Not only has this experience been mutually supportive in the community, it has given us real practical tools to help future proof our farming business’.

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Farm for the Future  Oct 2021 - Apr 2022

DHFP recently helped deliver a national programme with the Prince's Countryside Fund, as one of 11 Farm Support Groups, focussing on the major changes faced by farmers as a result of the Agricultural Transition and imminent loss of BPS payments. Over seven months DHFP developed and delivered a series of workshops and events that set out an introduction to changes, Farm Business evaluation and emerging Environmental schemes.

This was followed by three optional events designed to reflect local interest and key themes; Soil Management, Grassland Management and Understanding Carbon on Farms plus the offer for individual consultations. Overall, 60 Dartmoor Farm businesses were supported through the programme with a potential further round later in 2022.

Farmer feedback:
Since we took part, I have engaged an Agent to advise me on this very subject and they have carried out a farm visit and reported. Thanks again for your continued efforts on helping the moorland farming fraternity”

“Thank you for your email and for coming here last week to discuss our farm plans. We are finding it extremely helpful and reassuring to have the project to turn to in a time of great farming upheaval. You and your associates are either being able to answer our questions directly, finding ways of investigating on our behalf or honestly letting us know that we are not alone in some unanswered questions about DEFRA/Government policy, which is much appreciated.”

Archived articles

Chairman's Update - (December 2020)

Russell Ashford is Chairman of the Hill Farm Project Steering Group and farms at West Buckfastleigh.

As well as being a Common landowner he is also a grazier and advocate for our industry and the

pivotal role upland farming plays on Dartmoor.  

As we near the end of 2020, we have a chance to reflect on what a year it has been. Aside from the

global pandemic affecting us all, farming starts to head into a period of change , the scale of which

has not been seen for decades. This year has certainly brought home the importance of communication, in whatever form that may take. Although we may not be meeting face to face as many of us would like to, we can still stay in touch through other means. The HFP team are here for you, as are the Steering Group; we have a great team keen to make things happen so please do make good use of them and get in touch. In these times of change within farming, I would encourage you all to keep up to date with the Test and Trial project, and the need for farmers to feed into that if they have any thoughts about how they see it fitting in with their farms and commons. Details are all on the T&T page on the HFP website. 

DHFP response to the ELM Consultation (2020)

DEFRA consulted stakeholders on the design of the future Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM) due to replace the existing suite of Agri-Environment schemes, and by 2027 the Basic Payment Scheme. Given the significance of the scheme in a post-Brexit landscape, DHFP submitted a response to DEFRA which included comments and suggestions from the Steering Group, which we hope reflect the collective view of farmers on Dartmoor. You can read the response that was submitted by clicking this link to Environmental Land Management Response July 2020.

Dartmoor Food Directory

Within Dartmoor National Park we’re lucky to have a wide range of food and drink producers and retailers. This includes produce straight from the farm gate through to village shops and specialist retailers that source Dartmoor products.


DHFP produced a Local Food and Drink Map which, under the restrictions of the COVID-19 outbreak, focussed on businesses who have dedicated retail premises or were able to deliver direct to your home. Given the size of the National Park we would recommend you make contact with the provider before ordering food to ensure you are within their delivery area. Please note this is a ‘work in progress’. The list has been uploaded without prejudice and with acknowledgement that there are clear gaps. Our hope is to grow and develop the pages over the coming months.


If you are a producer or retailer and would like to be added to the evolving site then please email us with your contact details and we will get in touch.

Life as a Dartmoor Farmer - listen to Laura and Will discuss how and why they farm  

The clips below are of Laura Colwill who farms at Scoriton and Will Dracup who farms near Widecombe in the Moor. They were broadcast on local radio stations and were recorded to explain the way that they farm and what it's like to be a Dartmoor Farmer.

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Laura Colwill
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Will Dracup
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