Supporting local farming and preserving cultural heritage.

Northumberland National Park is participating in a national pilot scheme that will see historic farm buildings across the Park being restored back to their former glory, with an aim to support local farming, preserve important cultural heritage and maintain important heritage skills.

In partnership with the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England and Historic England, and delivered as part of Countryside Stewardship, over £2 million is being invested in the restoration of farm buildings built before 1940 in Northumberland National Park, to restore them to a working condition so they can be used for agricultural purposes.

A large part of the work being undertaken is to ensure the buildings are weatherproof and watertight, using traditional materials such as lime mortar which maintain the character of the buildings, and supporting traditional construction skills including masonry, joinery and ironmongery.

The scheme is already bringing significant economic benefits to the region, with the project delivered by locally based conservation architects and building contractors sourcing materials locally where possible. Early indicators suggest that for every pound invested, there is an output of between £1.65 and £2.50 for the local economy.

Chris Jones, Historic Environment Officer at Northumberland National Park, said: “We are delighted to be helping farmers breathe new life into some of the National Park’s most important, yet often least appreciated, historical assets.

“The National Park has been a living, working landscape for thousands of years with a unique character and heritage – the buildings we are restoring are an integral part of our Park and this project will ensure they will continue to play their part for many more years.”

There are 21 farms in the National Park taking part in the programme, which closed to new applicants in 2018. Some projects include restoring several buildings, such as the early 19th century planned farmstead at Ingram in the Breamish Valley.

Rebecca Wilson from Ingram Farm said: “We are delighted with the support that Northumberland National Park, the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England and Historic England are providing to help us restore the historic buildings on our farm.

“They are part of what makes Ingram a stunningly beautiful place to work in and to visit. They are part of our vision which put sustainability and a living, working landscape of high nature value at its heart.”

Each project has a wildlife consultant working with the construction team to ensure the work protects wildlife and provides space in which wildlife and nature can thrive. This includes installing bat and barn owl boxes and leaving crevices in the stonework from which wild birds can enter to nest, now they are weatherproof and watertight.

Sarah Tunnicliffe from Historic England said: “We are thrilled to be working with Northumberland National Park on the Countryside Stewardship pilot programme to help protect the diverse and interesting range of farm buildings in the region.

“As more and more farm buildings are lost to abandonment or conversion, it is our aim that these buildings here continue to serve their agricultural purpose with their unique character and integrity for future generations.”