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Date & Time: Thursday 2st May 2009. 8.30 am start. ( NY 115 295 )

Location of Start : Mitchell's Auction Mart Cockermouth. Cumbria, Uk.

Places visited : Dumfries & Galloway Waste Disposal Site and Askerton Castle Estate Farm.

Walked with : Myself plus eighteen other members of the Loweswater Discussion Group.

Weather : Sunny and dry, slightly overcast later to start.

The signboard at the entrance to the Mitchell's Auction Centre

 

In Loweswater there are regular meetings during the winter months of the Loweswater Discussion Group, known locally as the Farmers Discussion Group.

The organisation is one of the oldest established Cumbrian village groups of it's type as it started over fifty years ago.They chat over a beer or two on alternate Monday evenings at the Kirkstile, and invite speakers on a wide range of subjects to talk at their various meetings. Once a year they organise a day out which usually involves a farm visit, a bus trip, a meal out and no doubt a few more beers!!

This year the trip included a tour of a Waste Recycling Factory and a visit to an Organic Farm at Brampton near Carlisle.

Though some of us were not farmers, we were welcomed along and had a great day out.

The rather impressive Herdwick Sheep sculpture adjacent to the A66 roundabout where we all met and joined the coach.

The location is the Lakeland Agricultural Estate which includes the Mitchell's Auction Mart, hence the relevance of the large statue.

We're heading north . . . as you may gather.

Destination is Dumfries across the border in Scotland . . . drive to Gretna Green and turn left !

Our first port of call is the Dumfries and Galloway Council / Shanks Waste Recycling Plant.

At this time when we are all trying to divide out and recycle more and more of our waste, it was interesting to see how technology is dealing with the residual rubbish that we all throw away in the black bin liners or wheelie bins. The visit was all the more relevant as our Cumbria County Council is planning to build two of these 'factories' to deal with its own unsorted municipal waste as soon as possible.

Our Group, suitable dressed and protected, is seen here at the start of our tour.

Step One: first receive in the waste material.
Step 2: Pick up, and mince everything into small pieces.

The Dumfries plant deals with 240 tons of municipal waste a day, all of which is shredded in this way. The rubbish includes plastics, paper, organic and kitchen waste, unsorted bottles, cans and all the other forms of unmentionable rubbish that we throw away in our bins.

Note . . . this is where it gets a bit technical . . .

Once shredded it is dropped into one of approximately 20 hoppers by the computerised grab crane, where it is effectively spends the next 15 or so days in aerobic fermentation (or basically rotting down). During this time extractor fans draw air through the hoppers to control the temperature, and thereby control the process, of reducing the unpleasant, smelly waste into a more palatable and workable residue.

The moist hot air, emerging via the large pipes at up to 55 degrees centigrade, is passed through an organic filter bed of wood chippings and is released to the atmosphere at the back of the plant as fresh, clean air. It certainly smelt that way to us ! The spin off of this air control system is that it creates a reduced air pressure within the factory and all the odour, the dust and loose rubbish is therefore drawn into the building and is not blown away across the site, making the whole operation virtually 'smell-free'.

Since this photo was taken there has been a gradual increase in surface vegetation (weeds to you and me) and the site is so successful it has become home to several nesting birds, including a family of Oyster Catches that we saw flying around !

( This photo and several of the professional photos above, courtesy of Shanks Waste Management)

At the opposite (right hand) end of the plant is the secondary separating and sorting section of the operation.

The now decomposed waste is passed through a series of secondary shredders, sieves, blowers, magnets and assorted pieces of equipment, emerging as separate piles of Solid Recoverable Fuel ( clean dry burnable waste) (48 %), scrap metal (3 %), glass and stone (8.5 %), organic residue (9 %) and non-ferrous waste (0.5 %). The missing 25 % has disappeared into the atmosphere in the form of water or CO2 during the time in the hoppers.

In all, the waste sent to landfill is reduced by about 75 %. The burnable waste is sent to a cement factory as a substitute for traditional fossil fuels, scrap metal is recycled and the glass and stone chippings can go to road or similar building projects as hardcore.

Not bad for rubbish that was previously just thrown away !

We continued our visit by walking over to the fresh water ponds near the weigh bridge. On the other side of the fence is the old municipal rubbish tip, now grassed over and landscaped. Any new one will need only be a quarter of the size in future.

On the top of old tip, the bi-products of uncontrolled fermentation of the old waste, methane gas, is still being drawn off and burnt.

[ I understand that this generates a small amount of power ]

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So ended a very interesting visit to a plant that is leading the way in the treatment of our municipal waste.

Our thanks to the staff of Shanks Waste Solutions for their valuable time, their hospitality and their patience in answering our many questions.

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We adjourn for lunch at a local hostelry . . .
. . . where the conversation ranged far and wide !

After lunch we drove over to Askerton Castle to visit their Organic Farm operation . . . it is a Farmer's group after all !

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Askerton Castle is a classic fortified manor house, a Grade 1 Listed building and has been in the hands of the same family for around eight hundred years.

After the previous farming gentleman retired in 2001 (at the time of the Foot and Mouth outbreak) Jane Eden and her partner Chris Evans moved into the Castle.

Chris, was a businessman from the Home Counties and Jane, though being in the family, had no previous experience of farming whatsoever. Chris then explained how they started the business again by re-stocking after Foot and Mouth.

The decision eight years ago was to go organic as the farm, located on the slightly higher moorland behind Carlisle, was virtually that already.

Jane (seen here dropping her head as I clicked the shutter) then embarked on a year long course in farming at Newton Rigg College

and the business was up and running.

They also decided to sell direct to the public, as well as local businesses, and now use their refrigerated vehicle to attend Farmer's Markets,

Agricultural Shows and also to do personal deliveries as far afield as Newcastle on the east coast to Rydal Water in the South Lakes.

Click here for the Askerton Castle web site.

Time for a walk around and look at their farm.

Organic accreditation means that only natural fertilisers can be used on the land, basically the slurry and waste from the existing animals.

Their farm extends from here most of the way to the ridge in the distance and is farmed under the Land Stewardship Scheme. This promotes the natural aspects of the environment, for the plants, wildlife and the farm stock alike.

Free range chicken and a surprise . . . Alpacas

Chris and Jane are breeding these to sell on, rather than for meat or their fleece.

They are part of a movement to establish a commercial sized National Herd of these wonderful looking animals in various locations around the country.

A new born Alpaca, protected against the rain and cold by a 'plastic vest' similar to the ones used for newborn lambs.

Don't panic . . . it has got four legs !

Free range Ducks in the paddock too.

We moved on to the farm courtyard where we discussed the operation of the farm, the restrictions of being 'organic', the Lockerbie Abattoir for slaughtering stock, the "on-farm" butchery facility, staffing levels, in fact you think of it and it was probably discussed somewhere amongst the many conversations.

The history of the building was mentioned, including the fortifications . . .
. . . which were presumably added at the time of the Border Reivers.

Off round the rest of the farm . . .

Four geese patrol the back yard next to the pig sties.

For the second time in the day we have come across wood chip being used as a bio-filter.

Chris and Jane needed somewhere to house their cattle over the winter, as leaving them out in the fields was just churning up and destroying the ground. They couldn't get permission to add a covered cattle barn so close to the Castle so they opted for what is known as a corral system.

A large square pit was bulldozed and backfilled with about a metre deep of wood chip. This gave the cattle a flat, dry and slightly warmer area on which to over winter. They were fed on the front apron which caught all the manure and this was cleared daily so as to protect the integrity of the wood chip. The Belted Galloway Cattle were a hardy enough breed not to need a roof anyway !

Two young bulls temporarily housed in one of the barns.

This Black Cattle female was in for repair.
Passing the Tamworth Pig enclosure again.

They are a cheerful lot . . . as happy as a pig in muck.

A large, or should I say very large, Gloucester Old Spot.

A relatively new arrival at the farm.
Chris and Jane's daughter feeding them pond weed from the old trough.

All in all, a good day to lean over the farm wall and discuss the world.

Time to be off now as we return to the bus . . .
stopping for a nice meal on the way home at the Sun Inn near Wigton.

Many thanks to Routledge and their driver for the transport,

To Tim and Ken for organising the day

and to Chris, Jane and the folk from Shanks for their hospitality.

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Technical note: Pictures taken with with my Cannon G7 Digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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Previous walk - 9th May 2009 Rannerdale Bluebells

A previous time with the group - 22th May 2008 Loweswater Farmers Day Out - 2008

The next Loweswater Farmer's event - 5th March 2012 Loweswater Farmers 70th Anniversary

Next walk - B.Hol Mon 25th May 2009 Keswick & Smithy Beck