Northumberland National Park is known to cover at least a quarter of Northumberland, and the land has a variety of uses. The landscape that is seen in the park today is the result of thousands of years of farming. Around three quarters of the national park is used for farming purposes. This, considering the fact that the park covers a quarter of Northumberland, is a huge area for farming. The characteristics of the farms in the national park are characterised by fertile fields giving way to moorlands and open rough grazing. Since the Northumberland national park is located towards the west of the county, the primary farming done in the national park is cattle and beef farming.
The national park contains around 220 farms. The average size of the farms in the park is around 560 hectares. The farms in the park are well known to be relatively larger than the farms present in England. This is due to the variations in the terrain. For example, the average farm size in the Cheviot Hills is around 1200 hectares, whereas the average farm size around the Hadrians wall is known to be around 300 hectares. Of all the land that is used for farming, nearly half of the total land is owned by four large land owners, namely, the Northumberland Estates, the Ministry of Defence, Lilburn Estates and the College Valley Estates. This is the primary reason why the workers of the farm in this region are usually tenants, rather than the owners themselves. The farms worked by tenants in this region are known to have been passed down to the same family of tenants for generations as well.
Type of Farming
The type of farming that is done in the Northumberland National Park is livestock farming involving sheep and cattle. Majority of the sheep that is seen in the national park are the black face sheep. Certain proportions of the ewes in the region are put to lowland rams, for example, the Blue-faced Leicester, Texel and Suffolk, often used to produce cross-bred and/or mule lambs. Lowland rams in the region are known as tups, and the pure bred versions of the tups are also produced by the farmers for sale. The lambs produced by crossing the ewes with the lowland rams are sold by the farmers for either meat, or as a breeding stock for various lowland farms in the region.
When it comes to cattle farming, sucker cows are used to produce calves, which are later sold in the beef markets. There is no domination of breeds in the region. The farmers in the region are known to produce various cross cattle such as the Aberdeen Angus, Blue-Grey cattle as well as the Galloway. The fattening of calves however, is done elsewhere as it is common to sell the calves to various stores for this very purpose.
A large scale, low input system of livestock rearing with respect to the environment is the primary approach when it comes to the farming methods used in the national park. Prior to the wars, the agricultural policy of the region was to maximise the productivity. This was reflected by the subsidy payments made to farmers, which encouraged them in increasing the population of sheep and cattle that they had with them. It was due to these very reasons that led to the fall in the income of the farms. Over production, along with the loss in overseas exports due to the wars, were the primary reasons for the loss in income. The present day however, is not as bad as the past. This is because many farmers are now entering various government schemes such as environmental stewardships, allowing the farmers to receive subsidies and push them into farming in an environmentally friendly way. The change in government policies is slowly reversing the trend of increased stock numbers, and this is having a positive impact on the farms.