Ann and Hedley Lamb have spent what seems to be a lifetime developing Barmoor Country Park near Lowick in Northumberland.
Now with 100 caravan pitches, it is one of 22 such parks in Berwick borough alone, welcoming thousands of visitors virtually year-round. Bizarrely, strict planning guidelines insist that caravans should be screened from view but a clutch of proposed wind turbines barely a mile up the hill over Barmoor will be highly visible for dozens of miles around – with no such restrictions.
“We’ve planted 8,000 trees to screen the caravans,” says Ann. “It’s for the planning rules, but it’s also good for the wildlife and good for the local environment. I daren’t even think about how this will affect our business. The landscape with its historic value is the essence of the place; you’re going to kill the golden goose. We need a little bit of common sense.
“Our real opportunity for the future is to attract those customers who want an unspoilt landscape. We have to protect what we have.
“Our local community plan tells us to increase tourist numbers by 2015. The landscape around here attracts 1% of the whole of the UK’s tourism business – and that’s equivalent to £321m to the Northumberland economy. If we could increase that by a million visitors, it’s equal to 500 local jobs; it would be absolutely mega.
“We’ve got to have a huge mix of attractions if we’re going to survive and attract even more visitors, but we won’t if it’s spoilt by these turbines. There are 14 castles in this county alone, it has the highest amount of rock art in the world, there’s a wealth of wildlife, Kylo Hill is a landscape of special interest.”
Barmoor Castle, which is creeping up Hedley Lamb’s ‘restoration’ list alarmingly, was first described in 1509 as a tower that could accommodate a garrison of 30 horsemen. It was here that 26,000 English soldiers under the command of the Earl of Surrey camped before the Battle of Flodden in 1513. By 1550 the estate was reported to be “in tymes past rased and casten down by the Scottes.” A design for the present-day castle was begun in 1801 by Francis Sitwell, MP for Berwick between 1803 and 1806. This, however, was only completed in 1892 by his grandson.
The Lambs have long experienced the ripple effect of contributing to the local economy – for example, they have deliberately resisted opening a shop on site, so visitors are encouraged to buy supplies in nearby Lowick.
“And it helps keep the post office open,” says Ann. “Tourism also ensures local people get a better standard of transport service. As we’ve been developing our business we’ve been using local suppliers, such as builders, but everybody is just frozen these days. There’s no planning department at Berwick now – it’s all been taken over by consultants in Darlington – which has had a knock-on effect on local businesses.
“This area has got to be protected, but wind farms are the most expensive way of producing electricity and the most unreliable. It’s not the best solution.”
Joan and Brian Chicken from Washington, in County Durham, visit their caravan at Barmoor Country Park as often as they can. The retired couple live near the wind turbines at Nissan – and it’s one of the reasons they regularly head for the hills.
“We just love it here, it’s our Shangri-La, it’s so peaceful,” says Joan, a former teacher. “This place has peace and tranquillity, the dawn chorus is spectacular.
“When we saw what was proposed we were completely shocked; it’ll be a wall of turbines between Alnwick and the Tweed. This is a lovely, unspoilt area. My nephew came up from Harrow with his family and said he couldn’t believe there were still green fields with cows left in the country.”
by Peter Leathley
13 July 2007