Anna Ward is being forced out of her farm next to Derwent Reservoir after her London-based landlords decided they would not renew a tenancy agreement following her husband’s death.
Mrs Ward has lived on the farm for 59 years, running a popular cafe on the 113-acre site. Her husband Ivor ran the farm with son Martin before they diversified into other areas.
Before Mr Ward’s death in 2008, the family first sought to secure the tenancy with a succession lease, though the landlords were reluctant to see another lifetime tenancy agreed.
The Wards thought they had secured an agreement in place for a 10-year lease renewal to diversify further on the farm, but after the father’s death, it emerged this was not agreed, and the lengthy eviction process eventually began.
That legal battle would see the Wards taken to court by Clive and Caroline Cookson as the landlord couple sought repossession. After a series of court cases, Mrs Ward is now due to be kicked out of her family home. She is in talks with Northumberland County Council as she seeks a council house for the first time.
Mrs Ward said: “They have refused to speak to me and now we’re getting thrown out. After all our life here and then just told to get out like this, it’s horrible.”
The Wards have done more than just farm the land in their six decades in Northumberland. Mr Ward helped with the creation of the dam that became Derwent Reservoir, re-shaping the landscape for decades to come.
Mrs Ward came to the region after an earlier eviction, this time in Eastern Europe, where the US army had Mrs Ward and others relocated out of what was then Czechoslovakia when the Second World War came to an end and borders in Europe were redrawn.
Last night, Martin, 52, said: “At least when my mother was kicked out then, she had somewhere to go. The Americans found her a home.
“To be evicted again now is one thing, but for the landlords to not even come up here and discuss it with us is terrible. It brings back thoughts of Victorian-type evictions, with all your goods just being put on to a cart by the landlord and that’s it, you’re out. We had plans to grow the business here, to improve the little cafe my mother runs and to open a farm shop.
“This tenancy hung over their heads a bit I guess, they didn’t want this to continue in succession. We have to leave from August 22. I’ve been in touch with the council, my mother obviously is eligible for help. I’m young enough to get on with it, to get a job, but I still have to find a place to live. The agents on behalf of the landlords offered my mother a house at ï¿½500 a month rent. Her pension wouldn’t cover that. It’s no way to end our time on the farm. All my mother’s memories are here.”
The Cookson family are considerable land owners in the area and have chosen to end other tenancy agreements on nearby land. They are represented in this case by Corbridge-based firm SmithsGore.
A spokesman for the rural property consultancy said they had discussed the matter with the Ward family.
“They have been in occupation in a fixed-term tenancy which has come to an end. The due notice was served more than a year ahead of the termination of the tenancy. They declined to move when this expired and the landlord went to court to enforce the notice
“We have spoken to Martin Ward about regarding the termination of the tenancy. He may or may not think the explanation is satisfactory, but we have had these discussions with him.
“We had hoped that he understood the reasons.”