One of England’s most influential uplands and common ground specialists, with close links to the Prince of Wales, is embarking on a pioneering role at University of Cumbria (UoC).
Dr Julia Aglionby said she was thrilled to become a Professor of Practice at a time of great challenge and opportunity, explaining the appointment signaled a sea change for the national organisations she spearheads - and an exciting collaborative future.
Passionate about her Cumbrian home county and ‘deep rooted in its landscape’, Dr Aglionby said the Foundation for Common Land and the Uplands Alliance would be based with her at the Ambleside campus.
She added: “This will create a hub of interest, activity and energy. We need to pool our knowledge and experience to seek place-based solutions to the many seemingly interactable challenges of the uplands.
“I will be working at Ambleside one day a week, where we will offer shared learning between farmers, conservationists, policy makers and researchers.
“We will host public lectures and events. Students will be better equipped in their future careers thanks to exposure to the reality of land management and the issues faced by those at the coalface.
“UoC will benefit from taking better advantage of its unique position in England’s most famous national park and World Heritage Site (WHS).
“However, location isn’t enough. We need Cumbria to create a draw that brings in interested groups to learn from and explore key issues facing land management and rural communities.
“We have to work towards resilience in the face of climate emergency and loss of biodiversity.”
As executive director of the Foundation for Common Land, Dr Aglionby introduced Prince Charles to her organisation. He is now its patron.
“HRH understands the complexities and is deeply concerned how our hill farmers can have viable futures that respect their cultural heritage and deliver better outcomes for nature.
“He was the inspiration for our Heritage Lottery Fund project, Our Common Cause: Our Uplands Commons and attended a meeting at the Ambleside campus earlier this year.”
Key national and local players explored how ‘co-operation not conflict’ could create and culture a nature rich WHS, an ethos advocated by the Prince of Wales.
Dr Aglionby’s extensive experience spans 25-years and draws on qualifications in natural sciences, environmental economics and land law.
She said: “I act as the bridge between farmers and others, whether environmental organisations, landowners, water companies or government to allow a two-way traffic of ideas and information. The aim is to deliver better outcomes to all sectors.”
As part of her professorship, Dr Aglionby wants to explore how communities in protected landscapes can have viable livelihoods, while, with others, enhance the special qualities of where they live.
“Crucially, I want UoC to be at the heart of applied research and policy development in national parks and protected areas. I chair the Uplands Alliance, a network of people and organisations committed to enhancing the uplands, including farmers, environmentalists and policy makers.
“We are currently working on a Prince’s Countryside Trust funded project called ‘Creating a Brighter Future’ to help the transition to an agricultural policy based on public payments for public benefits.”
UoC’s vice chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell, said she was absolutely delighted by Dr Aglionby’s appointment.
She added: “Her knowledge, skills and passion for our landscapes, along with the livelihoods they support, will be invaluable in developing the relevance and impact of our Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas, as well as extending the reach and provision of the Ambleside campus.”