Thursday, December 23, 2010

Urban Farm

If you're visiting Newcastle and cross the Ouseburn (a tributory ot the River Tyne) using this little humpback bridge and then walk under Byker Bridge, you reach ....

.. Ouseburn Farm, which is the subject of today's Guardian Country Diary.

Behind these beautifully designed steel entrance gates lies...


.. a neat little greenhouse made from discarded plastic drinks bottles, a polythene tunnel, raised beds for vegetable growing and on the left here, a fine environmental education centre.
This is a view of the farm from across the Ouseburn, which is in the foreground. These days the water level in the Ouseburn is controlled by a lock gate at its confluence with the Tyne but on the day that this photo was taken the lock was open to let snow meltwater flow into the river at low tide. There are some more photos of the Ouseburn and its wildlife here. The buildings in the background are (on the left) Victorian warehouses that now house artists' studios and Seven Stories (the National Centre for Children's Books) and (on the right) The Cluny, an excellent pub and one of the most popular live music venues in Newcastle. From the mid 19th. century until the mid 1960s this was one of the most heavily industrialised parts of the city. The farm sits on the location of an old white lead works and a flax mill that, along with other industries, discharged into the Ouseburn. After decades of clean-up operations, it now hosts the occasional kingfisher and, on the day that this photo was taken, redshanks that had ventured inland from the coast. 

 
The environmental education centre is a favourite destination for school parties and caters in particular for those with learning difficulties and disabilities. The farm has a flock of sheep (that were away being tupped when we visited) and visiting animals like these alpaca.

Next to the pig pens are these two stone mountings for the beam engine that once powered the flax mill, where linen sails were woven for sailing ships on the Tyne, the remained standing on the lead works site. 

The visiting alpaca are a long way from their Andean peaks in Peru but seem at home under Byker Bridge and approach visitors with cautious curiosity....

... sporting fetching haircuts.....


... and very thick fur that's perfect insulation for the kind of bitterly cold weather we've been having lately.


All the farm animals, including chickens...

... goats...


... and these ginger Tamworth pigs are accustomed to frequent visitors and the farm has created an educational resource and agricultural oasis in what was once a site of intensive industry. While we watched a sparrowhawk came hunting over the farm and just a few yards further along the Ouseburn, in an overhanging bush weighed down by the snow, we found..


... the remains of this goldfinch nest, exquisitely woven from sheep wool that can only have come from the Ouseburn Farm flock..... another landmark in the environmental regeneration of the Ousburn.

20 comments:

  1. Good to see you back Phil, you all have a good Christmas.

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  2. Looks a great place for children to visit.
    Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year Phil.

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  3. Good place to take school children to. Merry Christmas!

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  4. Great post Phil, the alpaca look as though they've had their hair done especially for a night out on the Bigg Market. Linda

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  5. Welcome back, Phil. Ouseburn Farm is a super place and thanks for sharing it here and reminding me. I do love Alpacas - there is a very large flock at Sharpeton, in the Coquet valley, which I like to watch when I'm over that way. Merry Christmas.

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  6. Looks like a fun place. Gotta love those goofy, toothy critter smiles, too!

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  7. That looks a great place to visit Phil.

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  8. Thanks Adrian - and I hope you have a great Christmas amongst all that spectacular scenery over in the Lakes.

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  9. ... and best wishes to you for Christmas and 2010 John.

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  10. Merry Christmas lotusleaf -it's going to be a very pretty one with all the snow, but mighty cold!

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  11. Hi Linda, badger hair cuts were popular for a while, so why not alpaca - it could catch on amongst local hairdesssers!

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  12. Merry Christmas Emma. It was the first time I'd ever had a really close look at alpacas and I have to say I'm very taken with them. I gather that their wool fetches a high price, so I can understand why they're becoming popular.

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  13. Hi Valerianna, they do seem to be very amiable animals, although I've been told that they have a tendency to spit at each other. Still, nobody's perfect....

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  14. Hi Keith, it's interesting that farming in the countryside tends to reduce wildlife but an urban farm attracts it. There's a host of birds attracted by the animal feed here - a nice little urban agricultural ecosystem developing.

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  15. Urban farms are wonderful resources for city people of all ages and I'm so pleased to see them springing up. Alpaca yarn is wonderful to knit with, so smooth and wonderfully warm to ear.

    Have a wonderful Christmastide Phil and stay warm and dry.

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  16. .... and a merry Christmas to you too Toffeeapple, and all the best for 2011. I'm sort of hoping that those alpacas will stay, because a nest made of alpaca wool would be the ultimate warm abode for a goldfinch to raise a family...

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  17. I love the greenhouse made with plastic bottles - that's a great idea! The alpacas are so cute and they're really setting a trend there with those funky hairstyles! :O)

    Happy Christmas Phil. :)

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  18. Happy Christmas to you too Lesley. That plastic bottle greenhouse has survived the snow better than mine, where the weight of snow cracked some of the glass...

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  19. Just love those Alpacas.:-)

    I was brought up in the east end of Newcastle so know the area well, but confess that I have yet to visit Byker Farm. It seems to be going great guns. As a volunteer I gave talks for the Local RSPB group and have wondered about offering to give a talk for the youngsters who attend the farm. All the best. Brian.

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  20. Hi Brian, Great, aren't they - it's a shame they're only on loan from their owner. Every time we go past the farm there seems to be some new progress but when we were talking to the lady who looks after the animals she was saying that they were worrried about future funding, with all the spending cuts. Have a great Christmas and all the best for 2011. Phil

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