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" Loweswater Farmers Summer Trip 2014 "
Date & start time: Monday 9 th June 2014, 9 am start.
Location of Start : Outside Mitchell's Auctions, Cockermouth, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 113 295 )
Places visited : Carlisle Airport, Blacksmiths Arms Talkin, Tercrosset Farm & The Sun Inn.
Walked with : Twenty one other members of the group.
Weather : Heavy showers to start, clearing to a nice day and a sunny evening.
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The Loweswater Discussion Group, known locally as the "Loweswater Farmers" organises a day out each year away from their normal meeting venue.
This usually involves a bus trip, an industrial visit of some sort, a farm visit, meal out and a few beers . . . so we'll keep to the same plan.
All aboard . . . Carlisle here we come !
Our first destination was Carlisle Airport to meet with the Airport Manager, Mr Andrew Judge.
The airport is home to the Solway Aviation Museum but it was not on our itinerary today
as we were here to learn more about a rather "unsung" Cumbrian asset . . . our local commercial airport.
Arriving in between the light rain showers we parked by the Control Tower and had a quick look around the tarmac.
Carlisle Airport is located 6 miles east of Carlisle City and serves the Lake District National Park, South West Scotland and the Border regions.
It has two working runways, provides a base for the general aviation flying schools and has an aircraft maintenance facility.
It can accommodate larger planes, re-fuels mountain rescue helicopters and often has visits from other military and private aircraft.
It is owned and run by the Eddie Stobbart Group and it was to the airport's "Cafe Stobbart"
that we made our way for very welcome and may I say, very nice cup of coffee.
Andy Judge then gave us an illustrated talk on the history of the airport
from its early beginnings as a wartime military base (Crosby-on-Eden) up to the present time as a regional and local flying airport.
The key to long term viability of the airport will be the development of the infrastructure around the site. There are plans to build
a freight distribution centre for Eddie Stobbart Logistics which will utilise part of the site. The location will also enable them to expand
and to take advantage of the airfreight possibilities. They are looking forward to successful completion of the legal process which will then
set in motion the updating of the runway and hopefully the commencement of more passenger flights around the country for the likes of you and I.
After the interesting talk, which included not only the Stobbart plans for the future but also the vagaries of the UK planning system,
it was time to be heading off to our lunchtime destination.
The Blacksmith's Arms at Talkin.
Soup and sandwiches followed by tea or coffee in a classic pub atmosphere.
The worst of the thundery rain delayed our departure slightly (what a shame !)
but the next part of our planned excursion was to visit a cattle and sheep farm in the border country outside Brampton.
They own and run the farm which has approximately 1200 sheep and 50 cattle.
The subtle difference in their way of business compared to normal upland farmers, is that they develop their sheep for onward sale for breeding
rather than sell them at the end of the summer to lowland farms for fattening or through the auctions directly to the meat trade.
The older sheep shed was a dry place to make introductions and explain the itinerary for our visit.
We exchanged the plush seating of the coach for 'standing room only' in a hay trailer and started our tour of the farm.
A real team effort meant Alex drove the tractor, James drove the quad bike and herded the sheep . . .
. . . while Tom joined us to explain the way that the farm was run and how they made their living.
It is early June and this year's lambs are already well grown.
The Whitefords also raise cattle, generally speaking this time for meat sale at auction.
They have a regular herd of about fifty animals.
James points out the limits of their land, about 280 acres here plus about 80 acres away from the immediate farm . . . somewhere over there.
A big thanks to Alex for the smooth ride (well almost smooth).
Back at the farm Gillian, James's wife, had prepared very welcome refreshments.
When she and James were first married, Tom (the dad) handed over the family home at the farm and he moved to a cottage in the village.
Since then the farm has acquired a few subtle touches that reflect a definite feminine input.
Weddings seem a time of change for the family, just as when Tom brought his new bride back all those years ago.
They decided that the old farmhouse was too expensive to maintain and in the wrong place in view of the plans they had for new sheep sheds.
The old house was demolished and a new one built.
As the family has grown and expanded now the 'not-so-new' house is lived in by the next generation of Whiteford farmers.
Dug out soil from a recent barn development, instead of being cast aside, has been landscaped into a lovely lawn next to the house
so that 'Grandpa Tom' can play with the kids in a safe and clean environment (got to look after Grandpa after all).
The other spin-off from the modernisation of the house was the re-cycling of the old kitchen into the sheep shed,
giving a practical feature to help everyone involved with those long spring nights during lambing.
Discussing farming over a can of something mildly alcoholic.
During out visit we were warned to keep one eye out for farm traffic which could suddenly appear out of nowhere !
Meet Jack on his bike . . .
. . . and the twins in the electric jeep.
As they are twins they deserve a second photo.
Time for a look around the farm buildings before we go . . . the cattle byre, empty and cleaned out at this time of year.
The old slurry pit has been emptied, covered and now serves as an indoor sheep pen.
As the farm keeps their lambs for selling as breeding ewes and tups, they stay on the farm till they are 18 months old.
Consequently when you split the boys from the girls there's a 50/50 split compare to the normal farm where there are about 5 tups to 95 ewes.
The Whitefords make a point of shearing all their own lambs prior to any sale
to make sure they are in top condition and looking their best.
An unusual farm vehicle but the little JCB Bobcat is apparently brilliant at lifting and moving large bales of hay.
The rest of the heavy tasks like slurry spreading and grass cutting for silage is contracted out
to give James, Tom and and their stockman Alex Main plenty of time to concentrate on the animals.
" Come this way out of the mud " says Mum.
That pile of hardcore is ready to fill in the potholes in the yard . . . but that would spoil the fun wouldn't it !
Before we leave we'd better have a 2014 group photo.
In no particular order (but as accurately left to right as I can manage) . . . William Vickers, Tom Whiteford, Kenny Bell, James Thompson, Richard Davey,
Brian Wilson, Gordon Bland, Richard Vickers, John Hudson (in red coat), Alec Bond, John Vickers(hidden), Richard Sands, Neil Watkins(hidden),
Nick Haddiman, Chris Hunter, Jonty Benn, Brian and Chris Spencer, Chris Harris, Tim Heslop, William,
Missing from the photo, David Martin and of course myself. Twenty two plus the driver for supper it is then.
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After a short expression of appreciation to all the Whiteford family it was time to be on our way.
It was interesting to see someone else's farm in such detail and to understand properly a subtly different way of livestock farming.
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The sun is out for our return journey, passing the turning we took to the airport earlier in the day.
It is becoming a tradition with any Farmers outing that heads north for the day
to stop for a meal at The Sun Inn at Red Dial near Wigton on the return journey.
No reason today to change that tradition either as they provide good food in a friendly atmosphere.
Tuna becomes an honorary meat dish for me . . . as the farmers tuck into their dinners of beef, chicken or lamb.
The late summer sun starts to set about 9pm as we near Cockermouth at the end of an interesting day.
A big thanks to William and Kenny for organisating the day,
and to Robert, our driver from Routledge Coaches who coped with the wide roads and narrow lanes with equal skill.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with our Canon Sureshot SX220 digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . the chance to understand our world in just a little more detail.
Previous walk - 5th June 2014 - Muncaster Castle with Gareth
Next Loweswatercam walk - 14th June 2014 - Yewbarrow for Jo's 428