CUMBRIA’S Newton Rigg College is spreading its reach into Northumberland, with courses starting at Hexham Mart in the new year.
The college is offering more opportunities to study land-based subjects by bringing day release and part-time courses in agriculture to the mart.
They will include courses for apprentices as part of their work-based learning, as well as higher education degrees covering subjects from livestock production to business skills and countryside management.
Alastair Philip, the college’s director of agriculture, said: “This is an exciting initiative which has been driven by the response of the farming community in the North of England.
“We already have around 70 students who travel from County Durham and Northumberland to our campuses, so it makes sense to cut down on those travel costs and provide something locally.
“Robert Addison and his team at the mart have made us very welcome and we’re looking forward to getting cracking.”
Mr Addison, the mart’s managing director, said he was “delighted” to link up with the college.
“It will be a huge benefit to the farming community and particularly young people as they can study closer to home and the mart is already a busy central hub for agriculture ... it makes perfect sense,” he said.
The courses in Hexham will be led by Mike Wilson, a senior lecturer in agriculture at Newton Rigg.
Students who sign up will also have access to the Newton Rigg farm in Cumbria and Askham Bryan College’s farm near York.
Askham Bryan runs the Cumbrian college and in addition to Newton Rigg, it also has centres in Scarborough, Bradford, Thirsk, Wakefield, Harrogate and Guisborough. The ambitious parent group is investing £9m into its sites after successfully bidding for cash for improvements.
Chief executive Liz Philip said: “We received news that our bid to the Skills Funding Agency for capital funding has been wholly successful.
“We will receive £3m from the SFA which will be matched by a further £6m from our funds. This is hugely significant, not only for the college, but for the education of tomorrow’s young people, for the economy across the North of England, and for the positive impact it will have on agriculture.”
She expects the investment at the two colleges will lead to the creation of around 75 jobs in addition to the 520 people working across the two sites.
Newton Rigg’s share of the money will go towards a number of capital works including a state-of-the-art dairy unit and improvements to the college’s original sandstone buildings, plus new classrooms and reception area, creation of green areas at the heart of the campus and removal of underused and dilapidated buildings on the main site. The college’s equine centre will be relocated closer to the centre of the campus.
Newton Rigg principal , Wes Johnson, said: “We have some wonderful original sandstone buildings, the library and of course the original Newton Rigg farmhouse.
“We want open up the campus with green areas to enhance the whole feel of the college and make the most of these buildings.
“At present they are hidden amongst a real mish- mash of buildings, several of which are in disrepair and need to be replaced.”
Coun Eddie Martin, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “I’m delighted to see Askham Bryan College’s commitment to improving and investing in Newton Rigg College is bearing fruit with this significant inward investment into the county.
“The Skills Funding Agency has clearly recognised the important part Newton Rigg plays in Cumbria’s rural economy. The new dairy unit and campus upgrade is the start of a new positive chapter in the history of the college and underlines Askham Bryan College’s commitment to the facility.”
Newton Rigg is also set to be the UK’s first National Centre for the Uplands, which will be headquartered at its hill farm, Low Beckside.
Some of the recently-won cash will be used to create the centre, including constructing a new building and replacing some of those currently in a poor condition.
The Fresh Start Uplands Academy is being funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and will spearhead the concept which is set to be rolled out at another three centres in the new year.
The centre will work with land-based businesses in the uplands looking to build their enterprises from farming to forestry and contracting. There will be around 20 places available on the first course when it starts in February.
In addition to hill farming, the college operates a state-of-the-art dairy unit at Sewborwens Farm and a dairy unit and mixed lowland arable enterprise at York’s Westfield Farm.
It has also recently acquired land at Askham Richard, York, and the National Beef Training Centre.
Lord Inglewood, a former Newton Rigg student and renowned Cumbrian landowner and agriculturalist said: “Newton Rigg is now alive again and is making progress towards once more becoming the great Cumbrian institution and rural education centre it used to be.”
For further details on the courses available, contact Newton Rigg on 01768 893400.