News August 2017

August walk: 7pm, Tues 8th. Meet at wide verge near junction of Sook Hill and Caw Gap roads. Grid ref 726675
Just turn up, no need to book. Any queries please get in touch with Lesley Silvera, 01434 607988.
This is our last verge walk of the season.
Thanks to everyone who contacted County Councillor Glen Sanderson, environmental lead for Northumberland, he has said that a planning meeting in October will consider further verge mowing reductions in 2018.

Get Growing and any other business - STS open meeting - Mon 14th Aug, 7.30pm, Comrades Club.
Everyone welcome to attend this open meeting which will mainly review our Get Growing project of the spring and consider plans to hold a second harvest event in Haltwhistle in September.

Gilsland Show Sunday 6th Aug 2017
103rd Annual show at Triermain Farm, Gilsland.
Includes the STS bowl for most points in Industrial section fruit and veg growing classes

'Fruits Glorious Fruits', an evening with Bob Flowerdew,
hosted by Melmerby and district Gardening Club
Tues, 15th August, 8pm Melmerby Village Hall

Meet the organic gardener, author, TV and radio presenter and
longterm Gardeners' Question Time panel member.

Contact 01768 881348;

G&T at Brampton Farmers' Market, 9.00am - 1.30pm Sat 25th Aug.
At Brampton Farmers' Market in June Sustainable Brampton trialled a 'Give and Take' stall. The formula is simple, 'shoppers' simply turn up with and donate unwanted items and take away anything that is useful to them. NO money changes hands, everything is FREE. Anything left on the stall at the end of the day is given to a local charity shop. The trial was successful and there will now be a 'G&T' stall at every market - another reason to visit this vibrant market on the last Saturday of every month.

Campaign to Open Gilsland Station

Alex Carrington, Network Rail's project officer for Gilsland Station, gave a positive report at the COGS AGM in July. He said that there is now a 'can do' attitude to the project and 'optimistic' budgets on the cost of essential work have reduced the speculative £28 million figure to something between £5 and £7 million.
Hot off the press Julie Gibbon, COGS secretary, was able to report that a business case study commissioned by Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership concluded that costs of exactly these figures represented good value for money - i.e. an investment of up to £8 million would be justified by consequential growth in the local economy. However it's not quite full steam ahead, the dampener is Network Rail's time schedule. Alex was repeatedly asked to explain why the time scale proposed was a couple of years for the design stage and another couple for construction - once funding was in place and the project commissioned. The public audience, several of whom had worked in construction for local and global companies just could not comprehend why something so apparently simple as a couple of flat stretches of concrete platform would take four or five years to build. 'It's rules, regulations and procedures that have to be followed' was all Alex could assert.
Although COGS, as a local organisation, is championing the project the support of TVCRP and our MP, Guy Opperman, has been instrumental in advancing things thus far. Northumberland is the client for the project and Alan Sharp, our councillor, confirmed that the new administration would like to see a new station in Gilsland.

"Ultimately, the only wealth that can sustain any community, economy or nation is derived from the photosynthetic process-green plants growing on regenerating soil."
Allan Savory

The uncertainties surrounding Brexit are challenging for all farmers but particularly so for those of us in the hills, where subsidies (the 'Basic' area based payment scheme and payments through Environmentl Stewardship schemes) generally account for more than half of our gross farm income (and more than 100% of net profit). With this in mind I've been looking out for sustainable solutions offering the Holy Grail of cutting input costs whilst simultaneously increasing, or at least maintaining, production. Earlier this year I joined the Pasture Fed Livestock Association which encourages and promotes beef, lamb and dairy production from animals fed entirely on pasture, no cereals or imported soya. So no animal feed bills and a growing market for premium priced products. Sounds promising.

How can this be achieved? It seems that many 'Pasture For Life' farmers mob graze their lifestock - a idea familiar to followers of the Archers!

Mob Grazing was originally termed Rational Grazing by its first proponent, Andre Voisin. Voisin was born into a farming family in France in 1903 and initially trained as a scientist then worked as an engineer before returning home at the end of the Second World War to run the family farm. With a scientist's attention to cause and effect he carefully observed his cows grazing and soon realised that existing theories did not accurately explain what occured 'as cow meets pasture'. Cows wandered around and chose where to eat so some plants were repeatedly cropped whilst others were not touched. Repeated cropping with insufficient recovery time depresses grass growth. The plant needs to grow new leaves and replenish the reserves held in its roots through photosynthesis before it is cut a second time. Thus Voisin concluded that overgrazing is not primarily the result of too many animals but is frequently the result of a relatively small number of number of animals spending too long in one paddock. He adopted a system of daily moves for the cows on his farm and was able to treble cattle numbers.

Andre Voisin's work has been developed by Zimbabwean ecologist and farmer, Allan Savory and is now branded as Holistic Management and promoted worldwide by the Colorado based Savory Institute. One third of the earth's surface is grassland and 70% of that, the Institute says, is degraded. Furthermore 'loss of grasslands leads to climate change, floods, drought, famine and worldwide poverty'. The Institute is on a mission to promote large-scale restoration of the world's grasslands through Holistic Management. Last week Byron Shelton from the HQ in Boulder, Colardo was speaking in Penrith and I went to hear what he had to say.

He explained that the natural grasslands of the world evolved in conjunction with wild herds of grazing animals and that the presence of predators ensured that the herbivores stayed in a tight group but ranged over a wide area. In the absence of predators in today's farming environment mob grazing is a technique which effectively mimics the ancient ecological interaction between animal and pasture; an intensive burst of grazing with trampling and manuring to assist the breakdown of uneaten herbage and fertilisation promoting soil regeneration and sustainable plant production. It works the world over he asserted.

As farmers Byron flattered us; working with unpredictabe weather and markets and the complexity of living things, rearing livestock is harder than reductionist rocket science! We need a system to make effective decisions and to respond to changes. Holistic Management provides a tried and tested framework to do just this. He didn't spell out how much a the training course cost but my guess is it's not cheap... I spent the next couple of days mowing rushes on my set-stocked (a fixed number of animals on the ground for long periods) fell, now unhappily aware that the problem is one of undegrazed rushes on an otherwise overgrazed pasture, and wondering how I could manage things differently!

The Pasture Fed Livestock Association welcomes farming and non-farming supporters:
3LM is the Savory Institute's hub in UK and organised Byron Sheldon's talk in Penrith:
The Soil Assocsiation, the foremost organic farming organisation in the UK, is currently running a 'Save our Soils' campaign to raise awareness of and promt policy initiatives to promote soil health:

One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts
A short, uplifting film by Peter Byck featuring Will Harris describing how regenerative agriclture has transformed his farming business and the local community in Georgia, USA.

South Tyne Sustainability aims to reduce the impact of the community of Haltwhistle and surrounding villages on our environment. This will help individuals, families and our community save money and resources and ensure a more sustainable future for us all.

To join STS contact Sue Seymour, 016977 47359