Blencathra is up for sale (see UKH news here), and the campaign to secure it in some form of public ownership seems to be taking off. Grassroots group Friends of Blencathra has gained around 5500 members in a week, and already received pledges of £600,000 towards the estimated £2million+ purchase price.
A source close to the current owner, Lord Lonsdale, has suggested that there's been 'a substantial amount of foreign interest' in the 2676 acre property, and last week the owner himself speculated that the mountain could be snapped up by 'some daft Russian'.
Some find the idea of the mountain being passed from one rich owner to another hard to swallow, and others may be incensed by the idea of a foreign takeover; but the Friends of Blencathra seem to be regarding the sale as an opportunity too. A regime of free public access, common grazing rights and strict planning controls already protects Blencathra from any major changes, irrespective of who owns it, but the group feels it can be best managed in the hands of a community body or trust. And common ownership of such a figurehead fell would have an obvious suymbolic value too.
Besides this, point out the group on their Facebook page: 'landowners do have an influence. They can arbitrarily close parts of Access Land for up to 28 days a year, or apply for longer closures. They can fail to maintain boundaries, watercourses, etc. We have no guarantee that the new owners will do as good a job as the Lonsdale Estates. For many people the Lake District is the most cherished land on Earth, so we think it deserves the double protection of National Park status AND a good landowner who is there for conservation and access.'
No money will be taken until a trust is set up. In the meantime anyone wanting to offer support or pledge some cash can do so through the Friends' Facebook page.
Yesterday (Sunday 11th May) an estimated 120 attended the group's first public meeting in Embleton near Cockermouth, which has been desceibed as 'really positive'.
'We have set up a steering group to talk to possible interested parties [such as the] National Trust, Lake District National Park, local parish Councilors etc and report findings back to the community' says newly elected vice chair Alan Hudson.
'Then we will make a decision to negotiate and buy, and decide how best it is managed.'
'The public generosity has been overwhelming' he told the Westmorland Gazette today.
The national and international media have also picked up on the story, with TV and newspaper coverage in the UK and further afield.
'It's amazing' said Alan Hudson. 'A Cumbrian lady who now lives in America got in touch and pledged £5000, we've had German TV stations and the French press getting in touch. It's reaching all corners of the world.'
For more info on the campaign see the Friends of Blencathra website