A Northern powerhouse of conservation
Country Life UK|September 29, 2021
Having returned otters to our waterways, the late Philip Wayre’s quest to improve wildlife lives on across a carefully managed tract of land in Weardale, finds Robin Page
Robin Page

WHEN drifting around the other day, just north of the A66, completely lost, I was suddenly struck by a notice informing me that I was close to the Philip Wayre Upland Trust. I was looking for a house near the High Force Waterfall in Teesdale, but my sat-nav goes through periods of utter gormlessness from time to time and my wife, Lulu, and I were way off target. Needless to say, the device’s days are numbered.

Nonetheless, the ‘Philip Wayre Upland Trust’ intrigued me—the late Mr Wayre was a fantastic naturalist and conservationist and, dare I say it, one of my heroes. I was invited to speak at his memorial in 2014 in Suffolk, which remains one of the most important privileges of my life, as he was a great man. However, now, after being responsible for the return of the otter throughout Britain courtesy of The Otter Trust, it seemed that Wayre may have set in motion a charity to try to see through the myths and mists of misinformation that currently dominate and demonise all talk of upland conservation, where the eco-fashion of ‘rewilding’ seems to have taken over from ‘sustainable management’, common sense and reality.

What exactly is the Philip Wayre Upland Trust and where is it? It’s made up of two blocks of moorland in Weardale, north of the A66 in the North Pennines. Seeing land that should have been perfect for black grouse, lapwing and curlew completely wasted due to bad management and overstocking of farm animals, Wayre set about the task of finding wrecked land that could be restored for wildlife and properly managed livestock. In 2000, he purchased Lintzgarth Fell, a block of 482 acres rising to more than 1,800ft; and, in 2012, Thornhope Moor, nearly 300 acres skirted by the Thornhope Beck. But could they both be reinvigorated by restoration and protection?

The question was answered in 2014 when, although Wayre sadly died, his daughter, Sonia Parnell, avowed to continue his upland dream. Fortuitously, she was pointed in the direction of Lindsay Waddell, a recently retired gamekeeper and former chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, now a trustee and warden of the trust. Recently, Lulu and I were lucky enough to join Mr Waddell on a trip over trust land, when the last of the curlews were hanging on before making off to the coast for the winter.

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