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" Loweswater Farmers Visit - 2015 - "

Date & start time: Monday  8th June 2015, 9 am start. ( NY 114 294 )

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

Places visited : Linstock Castle Farm, Eden Golf Course, Gosling Sike Farm.

Walk details :   Two farm visits including a walk around each farm.

Highest point : The many and varied contrasts of the day.

With : A group of twenty one including our driver.

Weather : Sunshine and summer skies.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. License number PU 100034184.

 

The Loweswater Discussion Group is a mixed group of farmers and locals that live in the Loweswater area

and who meet in the Kirkstile for evening talks and discussions throughout the winter.

We include a "summer day out" in the annual calendar . . . and today we're heading for Carlisle.

Morning start - 9am at the Mitchell's Auctions car park.

Transport courtesy of Routledge Buses and our driver for today, Robert.

Heading north from Cockermouth past the Wharrels Hill (Bothel) wind farm.

Our visit today would involve renewable energy so it seemed right to include this picture here,

even though the wind turbines were stationary in the calm air and not actually generating anything !

We arrive at Linstock Castle Farm

A quick role call . . . (l to r) . . . Alistair Wannop from Linstock, William Vickers, Richard, John, Chris, Nick, Ken, Ian and Richard (in green),

then Brian, Brian and Richard behind, David, Ted, Andy, Martin, Neil, John, Jonty and William (also from Linstock Farm),

( not fogetting myself behind the camera.)

- - - o o o - - -

This is our first farm visit of the day . . . but what is your idea of a farm ?

Here they grow grass (and various other crops), they make silage, feed it to the beast in the farm yard, which produces methane and slurry.

The waste product of farm is then directed to a slurry pit and subsequently spread onto the land to encourage re-growth of the next grass crop.

Nothing new there then . . . but Linstock farm is different . . . and there is something new here.

= = = There are no animals of any kind involved in the functioning of this part of the farm = = =

- - - o o o - - -

Instead Linstock have installed an anaerobic digestion unit

which can be found underneath this large covered section of the yard.

William (from Linstock) takes us on a tour of the facility and explain how the system is organised and run.

We are standing on the bark-covered concrete roof of the digester.

Linstock cut their field crops and the resultant grass is stored in a classic silage pit.

Here are the remnants of last year's crop . . . this years silage is stored under the plastic sheeting behind the loader.

Grass silage can be supplemented with clean organic waste products like these waste onions.

The digester can also accept poorer bales of silage and certain types of food waste, but at a cost to the efficiency of production.

The silage, at 50 tons per day, is deposited in the feed hopper by the loader . . .

. . . and then fed into the base of the digester via this automated worm drive.

The silage before it enters the digester . . .
. . . where it is transformed into a green slurry.

The fuel looking like cooked spinach, or if you are Welsh, cooked laverbread.

It is then agitated and pumped round and round for approximately 80 days.

The plant food is 'digested' and gives off the valuable methane gas.

As it is a sealed system the gas can be collected and transferred to the machine-house for subsequent use.

We also checked out the slurry pit which, due to the complete digestion achieved within the pit, did not smell at all.

The tractor is agitating the slurry prior to extraction and spreading on the farm.

Improving the grassland this way leads to improved land and crops with a consequent improvement in the production of methane.

- - - o o o - - -

As this part of the farm has no animals to sell how does it make money ?

The answer . . . it sells electricity.

Suitably equipped with ear protection we check out the gas-engines that run on the methane fuel.

The generators run all day and produce 1.1 Megawatts of power per hour for the National Grid.

The control  room that runs the plant . . .
. . .  and the magic green box that connects it to the grid.

1.1 megawatts of production represents the power needed to supply a large village or small town just from this farm.

Green energy and renewable too.

Now if they can just capture and utilise the waste heat from the plant, their system would become even more efficient.

Current legislation is not yet flexible enough to make investment in heat-capture and re-use worthwhile.

- - - o o o - - -

 

After William had shown us round the plant

we adjourned for lunch, but not before Alistair

took us to see a new energy crop they are growing.

 

This new hybrid rye is a trial crop for them.

It is more like the old fashioned tall rye grasses

(the new ones only grow to this height says Alistair).

The extra stem height means more vegetable matter

and therefore more fuel for the digester.

 

- - - o o o - - -

Linstock Farm is not actually animal free, but 800 acres of the farm

is set aside for energy production.  The remaining 200 acres

supports the remaining traditional farm system

with horses, a much smaller cattle herd and sheep flock than before.

- - - o o o - - -

Welcome to the Garden of Eden (Golf Club).

Local ale whetted the pallet . . .
. . . and an unhurried lunch enabled further conversations.

 A big thank you to Alistair and William for their time and their enthusiasm

and providing us with such an informative visit.

If you would like more information on the digester system Alistair and William can he contacted here.

- - - o o o - - -

Just a few miles away we assembled for our second visit of the day . . . a contrast as great as chalk and cheese !

Welcome to Gosling Sike Farm . . . " Susan's Farm "

We were greeted by Susan Aglionby who introduced us to her farm and would lead us on our walk around the fields this afternoon.

 

She has been farming in Cumbria for 25 years and built up her farm from a 19 acre small holding to over 200 acres.

Susan's passion is the production of sustainable and delicious meat from traditional breeds.

She believes in organic farming with no input of artificial fertilisers but animal welfare is uppermost in her thoughts when it comes to keeping her stock healthy and disease-free.

All the produce from the farm is sold through local Farmer's Markets or via their Susan's Farm web site.

- - - o o o - - -

She is also passionate about involving the community in the farm so that people know where their food comes from, how it is grown and how it arrives on their table.

She has a regular group of local helpers on the farm and a regular succession of school visits by local children from all over Cumbria and the Borders.

- - - o o o - - -

Today she is even entertaining a group of twenty or so

older men from Loweswater !

- - - o o o - - -

First a view of the orchard where a variety of fruit trees have been planted.

Our visit there would be delayed till later so they could collect a swarm of bees and find them a new home in an alternative hive in the orchard.

"We found Nemo" . . . a young Longhorn calf in  the first field . . .
. . . and I think Nemo has found Kenny !
   

Susan explained that with regular stock movement and appropriate cutting and seeding

the meadows can develop into wonderful pastures without the need for nitrates or fertilisers.

What is lost in the quantity of grass is more than made up in the quality.

The Longhorn cattle were selected because they produce tasty, saleable meat.

They can also over-winter out of doors here so there is no need for normal cattle sheds, which is a bonus.

However this means there is no bulk slurry residue to spread on the fields as natural fertiliser . . . it just gets spread in large heaps.

Life is never simple.

Some of the farm was already classed as wetland and Susan has set up a nature reserve with The Wildlife Trust

in order to protect the land and encourage bio diversity.  They have enhanced the wetlands and set up a proper reserve on the land.

The farm is named after the small stream that flows through the site and is a tributary of Carlisle's River Eden.

A walk back over the wheelchair-friendly public footpath system brought us back, via the orchard, to the farm.

Susan also rears chickens and of course Goslings (geese) but sorry, those photos were too poor to include here.

Over a delightful tea with rock cakes, scones and cream in the Tyler Room (her on-farm meeting room),

our conversations extended to the farm economics, the animals and the ethics of food production.

- - - o o o - - -

For the second time today we said many thanks to our hosts on what was a totally different type of farm visit from the one this morning.

If you would like more information on the Gosling Farm enterprise or would like to visit yourself, Susan can be contacted here.

- - - o o o - - -

Travelling back from Carlisle on these days out

it has become a bit of a tradition to call in

at the Sun Inn at Red Dial near Wigton.

Unfortunately we were a few minutes early

and the pub wasn't yet open.

Tap on your desk, clap your hands, (don't shout, it's rude)

do what we did, stand by the bus . . .

 

then hold your cursor over the picture

to see if they will open the door

and let you in !

On the way home, a quick picture taken through the bus window, of the Solway sunset.

- - - o o o - - -

It has been a very interesting day today with two totally different farm visits.  

One was designed to provide a sustainable way of supplying renewable energy to a power hungry world.

The other a more traditional approach, designed around using the land for food production.

Both were environmentally friendly in their own way and both raised many topics of conversation that made the day fly by.

- - - o o o - - -

A big thank you must also go to William Vickers for organising this, our 2015 summer outing.

- - - o o o - - -

 

Technical note: Pictures taken with our Canon Sureshot SX220 Digital SLR.

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

This site best viewed with . . . an inquisitive mind.

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2007 Barrow

2008 Nenthead

2009 Galloway

2012 70th Diner

2012 Air Museum

2014 Carlisle

2015 Bio Power

Previous walk - 31st May 2015 - Mellbreak Remembered

Next Loweswatercam walk - 14th June 2015 - Gavel and Blake with Jo