What is next for the large Westcountry estates?
Cycling our way up through some of Cornwall and Devon's finest landed estates, we were reminded that their ownership has changed very little over the last 200-300 years (700-800 in some cases).
The families who own and run them still show a commitment to continue to develop their estates, which have over time become an intrinsic part of the local economy; whether it is providing employment, housing, or offering attractions which will bring tourism to specific parts of the county.
Yet the owners are also feeling the pinch of the tricky economic climate. The costs of running an estate are increasing and this has forced owners to be increasingly entrepreneurial, diversifying in new and interesting ways to generate alternative streams of revenue.
Whilst we have been lucky enough to enjoy some beautiful weather this year, it is by no means reliable and our volatile climate is mirrored in the volume of (and money spent by) tourists.
This diversification has ultimately had a positive impact on the communities in which the estates are entrenched; whether it is lending their brand to a village product to help its profile, developing former agricultural buildings to provide rented housing, or introducing new models for contract farming, these estate businesses are having to evolve.
In terms of the management of estates in the Westcountry, the approach is becoming increasingly commercial.
This new approach is embracing new technologies such as solar PV and exploiting funding streams such as the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, which encourages land owners to operate in a more sustainable way.
Despite what common perceptions might suggest, the traditional estates in the Westcountry are more dynamic than they've ever been and are continuing to play a vital role in local rural communities.