Farming in Protected Landscapes Case Studies

Alnham Meadows Enhancement (NNP001)

Alnham Farm in Upper Coquetdale in Northumberland National Park has received funding through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme to enhance the sward by adding locally harvested seed to increase species diversity and value of the habitat as a pollinator resource. The Alnham haymeadow restoration plan identified the potential to enhance the upland haymeadow habitat, increasing species diversity and abundance, increasing species rich Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitat. The fields provide links between hill ground and lowland fields, managed for the benefit of upland birds, upland habitats and pollinators.

The ground was prepared by taking a hay crop in August 2021 followed by harrowing to create bare ground to allow open areas suitable for the establishment of wildflower seedlings. Locally harvested haymeadow seed was then spread at a minimum rate of 10kg/ha with target species including yellow rattle, Yellow rattle, Birds foot trefoil, Knapweed, Pignut, Oxeye daisy, Lady’s mantles, Hawkbit species, Eyebrights, Selfheal, Lady’s bedstraw, Meadow vetchling, Ribwort plantain, Red clover, Meadow buttercup, Sweet vernal grass, Crested dogs tail and Fescue species.

A view of Alnham Hazeltonrigg haymeadows

The project puts the farm business in a good place to take forward the Countryside Stewardship High Tier management and Environmental Land Management (ELM) beyond that. The farm is part of the AHDB Monitor Farm programme and the meadow project will be promoted as part of this through on-farm events and contributing to industry-interest workshops and seminars elsewhere.

With the links to the AHDB monitoring and peer to peer promotion, the project delivers on all four of the Farming in Protected Landscapes criteria (Climate, Nature, People and Place) and Aim 2 – A Distinctive Place and Aim 3 – A Living, Working Landscape for Now and the Future from the National Park Management Plan.

High Carrick CSV (NNP005)

The Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) project on a traditional hill farm above Elsdon on the MOD’s Otterburn Training Area in the Northumberland National Park addresses a diffuse pollution issue in the sheep pens at the farm. It is a joint project with funding from Northumberland National Park FiPL, the MOD and the farm tenant. In 2019 a historic spring started running again. The slope of the yard meant the clean water from the spring ran down the slope through the unsurfaced pens and into the adjoining field and ultimately the Elsdon Burn.

The continuous flow of water through the pens has made them wet and muddy, so when in use the muck is easily mixed with the wet sloppy mud and washed into the field. This project has diverted the spring water under the yard, into a soak away, levelling the pens so any run-off does not drain towards the burn. The burn has been identified as having potential for expanding the range of the Rede’s Fresh Water Pearl Mussel. These are very sensitive to sediment, so the works will contribute to the wider improvement proposals further downstream.

Brown Trout are also present in the upper reaches of the Elsdon Burn. The yard has a footpath through the pens, the walking conditions and the immediate view from the path will be improved. Surfacing high traffic areas allows muck to be easily scraped up. In addition, an area outside the cattle shed will be surfaced and the feed passage covered to minimise clean and dirty water mixing and reduce sediment entering the yard surface water drains.

The project meets the following Farming in Protected Areas criteria by:

  • Existing habitat is better managed.
  • There is an increase in biodiversity.
  • The quality and character of the landscape is reinforced or enhanced.
  • There is an increase in the resilience of nature friendly sustainable farm businesses.

All the yard and shed works are due to be finished by January 2022 and the sections of dry-stone walling around the yard will be done in year two of the project.

Upper Coquetdale Bracken Control (NNP012)

This FiPL project helped fund the purchase of a remote-controlled bracken cutter which will be used by five bordering farms in the Upper Coquet Valley, north and west of Alwinton village in Northumberland.

The machine can travel on areas of hillside and land that is not accessible with current tractor and cutting equipment, this will bring safety benefits to the operators and result in a larger area being cut. This equipment will be shared equally between 5 farms (3 owners) and will benefit biodiversity as well as improving grazing, access for visitors and visibility of natural and cultural heritage.

Bracken beds are not easily accessible for sheep which reduces the amount of ground they can graze. It also reduces the free movement of sheep, stopping them moving to other grazing areas. This results in over-grazing in some parts of the farm and under-grazing in other parts. Controlling bracken means the farmers can better utilise the natural value of the holdings by allowing more efficient grazing. Controlling bracken also means improved forage by encouraging more and diverse growth of flora.

Controlling the bracken will improve the accessibility for the public to the Open Access land and visibility of various natural and cultural heritage sites, including archaeological sites of significant value, for example medieval villages and agricultural terraces. Visitors to the National Park would be able to explore more of the unique landscape.

The project delivers well on the Nature and Place outcomes and specifically meets the following Farming in Protected Areas criteria by:

  • Existing habitat is better managed.
  • There is an increase in biodiversity.
  • There are more opportunities for people to explore, enjoy and understand the landscape.
  • The quality and character of the landscape is reinforced or enhanced.
  • Historic structures and features are conserved, enhanced or interpreted more effectively.
  • There is an increase in the resilience of nature friendly sustainable farm businesses.

The bracken cutter will be used for the first time in 2022 and areas of bracken will be cut every summer in years to follow.

Redshaw and Ravenscleugh Walling (NNP013)

The Farming in Protected Landscapes helped fund the restoration of a very old drystone wall that is a historic boundary between Redshaw and Ravenscleugh farms near Elsdon in Northumberland National Park.

The wall runs over high ground know as Castle Hill where a Public Bridleway follows the same line to the south of the wall. From here there are spectacular views across the village of Elsdon to the Pele Tower and the Cheviot Hills beyond. With shared ownership of the boundary, the two farms have struggled for funding for restoration in the past. FiPL has supported an application from a lead applicant with a cost sharing agreement between the two farms.

This project primarily meets the Place criteria by restoring a traditional feature, additionally the control of stock will also allow better habitat management. Aim Two of the National Park Management Plan objectives are delivered by conserving a distinctive cultural feature. Evaluation of the project is the same as the requirements under Countryside Stewardship for the restoration of drystone walls. The restoration of the wall will take place over two years and once complete will see an important landscape feature safeguarded for years to come.

Scottish Agri College (SAC) Carbon & Biodiversity Audits (NNP015)

The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme has funded an audit of natural capital, biodiversity and carbon on three farms across Northumberland National Park.

The project provides detailed data for three farms in selected locations across the National Park and will be useful to informing decision making about interventions and management to increase public goods in preparation for Environmental Land Management (ELM). It aims to link biodiversity information with carbon use making the carbon calculators more relevant for extensively grazed hill farms.

The methodology will be tested and developed for farms that have peaty soils and are typical of our upland farms, with hill sheep and beef cattle. The study will identify how data can be integrated into existing Agrecalc carbon foot-printing tool. Previously the three farms had been part of the CURLEW Test and Trials looking at Management Plans for ELM, data from this would be built on. Part of the funding includes dissemination of the findings to others including other farms through engagement and knowledge sharing.

Informed decisions about how the farmland is managed based on the findings of the audits will deliver outcomes under the Climate, Nature and Place criteria of the FiPL programme. Various National Park Management Plan objectives listed in Aim 3: A Living, Working Landscape for Now and the Future will be strongly delivered.