NORTHUMBERLAND National Park Authority has celebrated the successful conclusion of its innovative pilot, the Upland Farming Traineeship, which provided essential vocational training for eight young people last year.
It is now exploring ways of extending it.
The scheme was established following widespread concern that traditional upland livestock farming skills could soon die out in the Northumberland hills with a consequent impact on the landscape.
It involved both classroom and practical on-farm training, and received praise from Richard Benyon MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries during a visit to the National Park last summer.
Having completed 12 months of training and gained level two qualifications in livestock production, together with other practical skills such as sheep shearing and basic chainsaw, trainees gathered at a presentation and awards ceremony with farmers, funders, Northumberland College and National Park staff.
The National Park Authority attributes the success of the scheme to working in partnership with Northumberland College and the 12 host farms with whom the trainees have been placed in rotation.
The project was funded by LandSkills North East as part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which is funded by Defra and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The scheme has currently had to be ended as no further funding is available.
National Park Authority chairman John Riddle said: “This kind of training, which helps local communities to help themselves, is an ideal solution for rural regeneration and it is a great shame to have to wind up a successful scheme after just a year. However, the authority will be looking hard for alternative funding to carry at least parts of the scheme forward and I am confident that we will find a way.”