Ghost farm scoops a very real award

All is not as it seems down on the farm - and that was enough to win an award yesterday.

All is not as it seems down on the farm - and that was enough to win an award yesterday.

A new sewage treatment plant on the Northumberland coast was built by Northumbrian Water to look like a local farmstead.

The £14.5m project saw the four buildings of the plant disguised with sandstone walls and slate roofs, and much of the structure was built underground so that it merges in with the sensitive landscape in the coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

And yesterday the plant won the building design accolade in the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership's first ever awards for excellence event held at the Hindmarsh Hall in Alnmouth.

The plant, which treats waste from Seahouses, Bamburgh and Beadnell, is sited just north of Seahouses Golf Club and was commissioned in December last year.

"We are delighted to have won the award for a lot of thought and planning which went into this plant in the sensitive landscape of the AONB which is of international significance," a company spokeswoman said.

The project is similar to Northumbrian Water's water treatment plant at Wearhead in County Durham, which was also built to resemble a farmstead and has won a clutch of awards.

Farming and land management awards went to Link House Farm near Low Newton and Borewell Farm at Scremerston near Berwick. At Link House, farmer Victor Thompson has been working with the National Trust to turn a 30-acres coastal field near Newton-by-the-Sea into a hay meadow.

Patience has been the order of the day - the trust's head coastal warden, Michael Freeman, has watched over the field for the last 23 years as it gradually reverted to meadowland, featuring a rich variety of grass species and flowers such as cowslip, yellow rattle and northern marsh orchid.

"It has been a natural process as the plants have found their own way into the meadow," he said.

"Seeing it develop has been really rewarding and now its is home to nesting birds like skylark, meadow pipit and grey partridge."

At Borewell farm John and Christine Whiteford run their Pot a Doodle venture, which includes a restaurant, children's arts centre and nature walks.

The 650-acre arable farm also includes a wooden wigwam village which accommodates farm visitors, and a grazing regime has been introduced on a three-mile stretch of coastal land on and behind dunes, which encourages wildflowers to flourish.

The visitor/community facilities award went to Springhill Farm near Seahouses for a scheme which converted redundant buildings into visitor accommodation.

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