As the wind farm proposals stand at the moment, the farm that was last year singled out as ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful’ will be overshadowed by several huge turbines.
Anthony and Lucy Carroll’s Tiptoe Farm lies eight miles west of Berwick and three miles from the Scottish border. The competition, which was organised by Bayer Crop Science and Farm Life magazine, recognised not only the farm’s setting in the lovely Till Valley but the environmental measures practised by the Carrolls to encourage wildlife, flowers and birdlife – and the success of their business, Heritage Potatoes. The judges said beauty and efficiency go hand-in-hand.
Tiptoe also offers holiday cottages with fishing on the River Till which bends gently past the beautiful site.
“We sell peace and quiet,” says Anthony Carroll. “People come from all over the country for the tranquillity. If we have wind turbines on the hill they just wouldn’t come. The river bank here is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and there aren’t many of them in the country.”
Tiptoe Farm has also been awarded Linking the Environment and Farming accreditation which is the backbone of its farming practices. Some examples of this are the six-metre grass strips in the fields, where mixtures of herbs and wild flower are encouraged to attract bees and birds. Anthony has also planted indigenous tree species which are continuously controlled to form the quintessential English woodland scene.
“Everything here is managed,” he says. “We have more hedges now than we had on the 1866 map. I could make much more money farming one 500-acre field instead of four of 80 acres – which is a nightmare from an efficiency point of view. But it’s part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and people who come here like that.
“It’s high-value landscape with very little benefit and maximum sacrifice. There is no sound economic argument for wind farms. Why do it here? We created this business from nothing and it’s now our main business. If these wind farms appear, everything will go. Even if you’ve only got two turbines at 125 metres high you’re going to ruin the area.
“We don’t even know if they’re going to work or not – the doubt is that they’re inefficient. Toft Hill is just three fields away and, anyway, it’s only about 200 feet above sea level so I can’t understand what the point is. Surely somewhere high up gets regular wind patterns? It’s not a thought-out policy, it’s being driven by greed. We’re just giving it away and I can’t think of a bigger own-goal for Northumberland. It’s the poorest area in the country – next is Merthyr Tydfyl – and that’s by a long way.”
The Carrolls have appeared on a list of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s ‘food heroes’ and chefs from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant recently visited Tiptoe to experience the growing and selection methods at first-hand.
Anthony says: “Our business is providing them with soundly-produced potatoes. The chefs were blown away by it but they won’t be blown away if these things come. Our family has farmed here for the past 70 years and I want to leave it how I got it.”
by Peter Leathley
13 July 2007
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