Farming in the Park

Our Farming and Rural Development Team work with many farms and farmer all over the Northumberland National Park. Read through some of the case studies of the work we are involved with below.

Case Studies from the Park

GPS Cattle Project

College Valley in the north of Northumberland National Park, near Wooler, runs deep into the Cheviot Hills and the College burn runs down from The Cheviot, the county’s highest peak. The College Valley is at the centre of a number of conservation grazing methods, including introducing a native cattle herd wearing collars with a specially-designed global positioning system (GPS).

The digitally-connected herd of native breed Luing cattle and farmer Adam Waugh are taking part in a major piece of Newcastle University agricultural research to find out why cattle travel where they do and how this affects the nationally-important plants and wildlife of the Cheviot Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Understanding and managing livestock distribution is very important for conservation management, and GPS technology is a state-of-the-art tool allowing researchers to learn why animals make the choices they do on grazing or taking shelter, and consequently the impact they have on the environment.

GPS Data

The cattle will not have grazed on The Cheviot before and will initially have to explore the area to find the best grazing, water and shelter. They will also be influenced by extreme weather events that seem to be becoming more common place as a result of climate change. Tracking animals, even something as large as a cow, can be very challenging in remote locations, especially during the night or in periods of bad weather, so remote positioning is very useful.

Data from the project will be made available to schools in educational packs that have been developed which include lesson plans for subjects such as art, geography, history, English and maths all linked to the cattle grazing.

This work is being conducted as part of The Sill Project and funded by the HLF.

Netherton Burn Run-off Management Works

The Netherton Burn project has been developed in partnership with Cheviot Futures, NNPA, the farm business, Northumberland Community Flooding Partnership, the PROACTIVE team at Newcastle University and Catchment Sensitive Farming. Initial development centred around exploring potential and feasibility with the landowner, and then developing specifications and suitable features to build on experience gained by project partners on other sites.

The information within this case study relates to the practical delivery of four run-off attenuation features, implemented through Cheviot Futures. Additional money has now been allocated to this catchment through Northumberland County Council. More run-off attenuation features will be implemented, adding to the benefit of the wider catchment.

Whole farm approach to diffuse pollution

Northumberland National Park has been working on a project with local farmers, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Tyne Rivers Trust to improve water quality in the Roman Wall Loughs area.

The area is recognised on a local, national and European scale as a valuable fresh water habitat, important for aquatic plant life that is supported by Greenlee, Broomlee and Crag Loughs. It is a significant landscape and working with partners to enhance its future standard is a great opportunity.

Northumberland National Park secured nearly £20,000 of funding through the Environment Agency to complete a series of capital projects, all with the aim of slowing water flow to ensure that sediment does not reach the main water body of the Loughs.
Farmers in the area have been essential to ensuring water quality levels remain high through their high nature value farming approach and Environmental Stewardship agreements. This project has been a great opportunity to develop capital projects on the ground and work with farmers to reduce the potential of diffuse pollution impacting on water quality.

Practical measures have included fencing off water courses to stop stock drinking directly in burns, providing alternative watering to compensate this, and persuading stock to use dedicated drinking areas in strategic locations rather than natural water courses.

We have trialled a solar-powered water trailer designed through Cheviot Futures, a partnership dedicated to supporting the development of simple and practical long-term resilience measures to maintain business viability during times of change.

Sediment traps have also been installed in strategic locations. Riparian tree planting has been used to stabilise riverbanks and to slow any excess flows. Another tree planting project is planned for the next season with students from Haydon Bridge High School.

The Forestry Commission and Forest Streams project has worked with us to install some woody debris leaky dams upstream of Greenlee Lough. The dams work by acting as a filter, with the structure encouraging water to spill out in times of excess flow, leaving sediment on the flood plain area.

Work has also been completed on farm steadings, in association with the Tyne Rivers Trust, in an effort to separate clean and dirty water to reduce diffuse pollution.

Farm officer Jennifer Hewitson said: “Water quality will be a large part of the next round of agri-environment schemes, so this has been a great opportunity to work with local farmers to trial different types of capital works that will be increasingly common in years to come. The accumulative impact of all the small works on the water quality of the Roman Wall Lough catchment will be significant.”

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