Click here for a selection of images from the U30 Northumberland Farm Walk.
The Under 30s Northumberland farm walk started on a Friday night with a three-course dinner in the center of the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, writes U30 member Georgina Knock, chief operating officer at RecommedMe Ltd, and Mary Bell, U30 Chairman.
On Saturday morning we had an early start by U30s standards to reach Alnwick Gardens for 9.30am where Steve Stubbings of Northumberland Estates had arranged a fascinating tour, accompanied by the Castle’s head tour guide.
Percy Farms is the in-hand farming business of the 12th Duke of Northumberland in partnership with Percy Farming Company. This is managed by Andercourt Farming and consists of 15 arable farms, mostly within a six-miles radius, on soils ranging from lighter sandy loams to heavier clay loams.
Rotations differ for the partridge and non-partridge specific areas, with no one field next to another containing the same crop. Looking out from the base at Ratcheugh Farm we heard that grey partridge is the number one priority, accounting for 1000ha of the total land area, due to the current Duke’s passion for wild birds.
Our second stop was Hulne Park where we were given a guided tour around Hulne Priory, which was built in 1138 and featured as Maid Marion’s house in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Park Farm is the livestock unit for Percy Farms, which has Romney ewes and suckler cows, and is cutting labour costs, such that this is effectively a one-man system.
The third stop was Brizlee Tower, overlooking the entire estate. Sadly we were unable to see through the low cloud, but were assured the views were spectacular, across Capability Brown’s landscaped creation. The beacon at the top was lit by Steve Stubbings during the 2012 Olympic Torch relay.
Our final stop was the Percy Hunt Kennels. The spectacular Old English Fox Hounds owned by his Grace are a good old-fashioned pack, hunting three days a week.
The delights of Alnwick Castle completed our visit, with an ‘on location tour’ revealing the filming secrets for films such as Harry Potter and Downton Abbey.
On Saturday evening we were privileged to have the private dining room at the Northern Counties Club. It felt like home from home, and almost everyone was welcomed as a cardinal. The whole experience was wonderful and I would recommend any Farmers Club members to visit when they are next in Newcastle.
The weekend ended with an insightful visit to Newcastle University’s NU-Food Research unit. Karl Christensen, the industry development manager at the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, showed us the various facilities, including clinical facilities to conduct nutritional testing, and individual booths for taste-testing (equipped with ‘black light’ to remove the effect colour has on our taste!)
We ended the tour in the large room for kitchen demonstrations, with wonderful views over the city, reflecting on how technology is set to become more interwoven with our food choices. For example, nutritional contents will be captured with a photograph taken on one’s phone. A fascinating finish to a wonderful weekend in the North of England.