NOT a lot has changed landscape-wise over the centuries around one of Northumberland’s most remote farms.
An indication is that on the farm at Blindburn at the head of the Coquet Valley, run by Matt Ridley and his mother Judith, is the Chew Green complex of Roman earthwork marching camp and fortlet.
But now change is on the way, and on a sizeable scale.
The Forestry Commission has pledged grants worth £900,000 over the next 30 years to plant 200,000 trees and for nine kilometres of protective wooden fencing.
The native woodland project on 500 acres of moorland on the farm is one of the biggest supported under the English Woodland Grant Scheme in recent years.
It is also one of the biggest habitat creation schemes of its kind in England.
The Ridleys’ tenanted 4,395-acre hill farm, which supports 2,000 ewes, is on the Army’s Otterburn Training Range and is owned by Defence Estates.
The Forestry Commission has linked up with Natural England, Defence Estates, Northumberland National Park and the Ridleys to deliver the major project.
Richard Pow, from the Forestry Commission’s North East region, said: “Less than 1% of the Northumberland National Park is native woodland, so there is major work to be done in expanding this incredibly valuable habitat.
“This scheme will lock up carbon as trees grow, helping meet the challenges of climate change, and provide a mosaic of habitats, including moorland and wet woodland.”
Matt Ridley said: “This is a sound option for the land in economic and environmental terms. We are one of the few farms in the area that could accommodate a scheme of this size and still remain a viable farming unit.
“This scheme wasn’t entered into lightly and it was a difficult decision to take so much land out of agricultural production.
“But it is an exciting project, and with the farm being in a remote area it will provide opportunities for various kinds of birds and especially black grouse.”
Andy McNaught, lead adviser land management with Natural England, said: “The planting of a major new native woodland at Blindburn Farm will create exciting new habitats for wildlife in Northumberland and looks set to provide a lifeline in the region for a whole range of wildlife.”
Blindburn is within the buffer zone of the Kidland Forest Red Squirrel Reserve so tree species to be planted have been carefully selected.
Trees producing small seed offer relatively better havens for reds than greys so Scots pine, birch, rowan, alder, willow, hazel, hawthorn and ash have been chosen.