How do you value a slab of uninhabited mountainside which produces no income to speak of, and no prospect of any? This was the question put to Harrison & Hetherington the surveyors for Lord Lonsdale who needs to sell Blencathra, also known as Saddleback, to pay a hefty inheritance tax bill. The only paltry income is from a hydroelectric unit which brings in £1,000 a year. The mountain used to be an important mining area, but the sale excludes all mineral rights. The land comes with considerable responsibilities, as 16 local farmers have the right to graze thousands of lambs on the land, but no income derives from this. The land owner has no right to graze any sheep at all, and has no entitlement to a single farm payment. The entire mountain is a public access area under the “right to roam” legislation; many exercise that right of whom an average of two a year fall to their deaths from the notorious “saddleback” ridge. Many others keep the Mountain Rescue services busy. One of these days, no doubt, a venal solicitor will have the bright idea of suing the owner because of a perceived failure to maintain a footpath or have due regard to health and safety legislation.
On any rational basis the value of Blencathra, as it is being sold, is negligible. But Lord Lonsdale has hopes of selling the mountain to “some daft Russian” and he has put it up for sale for £1.75 million. But this may not be necessary. Two competing groups have been formed who have taken the asking price at face value and are hoping to raise enough money to place the mountain into “public ownership”. As all of the public already have the inalienable right to walk on Blencathra as they please, they will be throwing their millions into the wind and buying themselves a headache. Not only the Russians, it seems, are daft.