Community farm plans for Peak District site

Local residents have been joined by people from all over the world in their bid to create a community farm in a Peak District village.

Friday, 17th June 2022, 9:57 pm

There is a new vision for part of the land owned by Stanton Estate at Cressbrook Dale after an eco community group took on the responsibility for the site.

Rachel Enlaugh from the new group is excited about the new venture.

She said: “This is the start of something wonderful.

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Some of the members after they had cleared a limestone reservoir on their new land at Cressbrook Dale

"This has been a long time coming but I’m so pleased we are about to start this adventure working on and with the land.”The idea for the eco community project dates back to January 2021 when the group had around 100 members, who all shared a love of nature and were going to buy a farm.

Over time and after missing out on the farm, Rachel says it has taken almost 18 months to get to where they are now, with a core group of 22 people who share the same vision.

Last week they signed the contract for the land in Cressbrook Dale after crowdfunding to raise the first instalment of money. The group now have a year to raise the second half to pay to the Stanton Estate.

Rachel said: “A lot of people are seeing what is happening in the world and want to be independent of the system.

Some of the members before they had cleared a limestone reservoir on the land at Cressbrook Dale

"There is too much reliance on supermarkets. But as everyone is seeing with the situation in Ukraine, where a lot of the world’s food sources come from, prices are getting higher and higher.

"People are ready to make a break from the rat race and become self-sufficient.”

The group has 22 members from all parts of the world, although Rachel lives in Bakewell, and will be working the land.

“The site is truly amazing,” she added.

"It’s not very often land in the Peak District comes up for sale and we jumped at the chance."

The site is in the next dale over from Monsal Head and has 50 acres of forest as well as 20 acres which will be used for farming.

Rachel described it as having steep parts and plateaus and said it was a very beautiful and interesting piece of land.

The land goes down from the western part of the estate to the 12 worker's cottages in Ravensdale.

Not only are the Ravensdale Springs on the land but the Cress Brook also passes through the site however as it is now mid summer the brook has run dry.

The eco-community wants to create a food forest - which will grow everything from root vegetables and fungi on the forest floor, to low growing plants, moving up to flowers, herbs and vegetables and then berry bushes.

On the top layers there will be dwarf fruit trees and then taller fruit and nut trees.

Rachel explained: "This autumn we will plant things ready for the spring but it takes years to grow fully mature trees and plants.

"Nature is showing us that from a very tiny seed it can grow into a tree and ultimately a whole forest if you have the time and patience.

"This isn’t a short term flash in the pan project, this will be something we use to feed the community and pass on to the next generation."

Rachel’s husband is a farmer in Bakewell and he will be sharing his knowledge with the group. The only change the group are thinking of making to the agricultural side of things is to switch from cows which are already on the land to sheep.

Part of the land, the 7.5 acre forest along from the Ravensdale paddock is a Site of Special Scientific Interest which means thatthe land is protected as it is home to rare flora and fauna.

Rachel said: “There’s no plan to do anything with the land apart from to continue its agricultural use and for it to continue to be a haven of peace and stillness.

“In this dystopian age we need to get back to nature and press the reset button.

"We need to find a way to connect back to our roots and I think the new site is a wonderful way to do this."

The members have already been hard at work and have cleared part of the land near Litton Frith after they were given permission. They have uncovered a beautiful limestone water reservoir which they believe may be close to 200 years old.

Rachel said: “This land is truly a gift and we are over the moon to have acquired it.

“There is free flowing water and fertile land and so many possibilities as to what we can do with the site through farming and teaching the community dry stone walling and a chance to get back to nature.”

Although the new farming community are excited about the new lease there are those in the village who have raised concerns.

Rachel added: “Groups of people will come on weekends or in the week and work the land, this isn’t about carbon offsetting or doing something to look environmentally sound, it's just about taking on some land and adopting a better lifestyle.”

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