Diary

See what's been happening at Middleton North

January 2024- Tree Rescue time

At this time of year we go around all the newly planted trees . Any that have died are replaced. Any that have fallen over stood up. Any with a story to tell recorded. Like this ladybird who is currently is hibernating in the top of a cane supporting a small tree. It must feel a bit like I do in a bath that is too shallow in a cold bathroom..

25th June 2023 Dragon and Damson Fly Day

Spent a happy hour trying to get shots of dragonflies and damson flies. In order this one on the dock leaf is a Large Red Damson. Below the blue one is a Broad bodied Chaser and the one next to it is an Emperor the biggest of the species.

13th June 2023 Country Trust Kids

Another great day with Country Trust kids. Buried pants, dug up pants eaten by worms, charmed worms, talked about and got on farm machinery, played in the woods.. lovely kids and lots of  fun.

April 2023 Soil Sampling by the River. Photo Melanie Stone

Natural England are doing soil samples as part of our involvement with a Landscape scale project along the River Wansbeck. It was fun to get involved- our soil smells luverly! Which means it is healthy and full of life..

Winter Bird Count 2023

Accompanied by everything wild guru George Dodds we have completed our winter species count of fur and feather. Not a bad list and shows we are heading in the right direction. You might want to add chicken to the list!

Robin
Crow
Wood pigeon
Blue tit
Reed bunting
Kestrel
Dunnock
Buzzards
Yellow Hammers
Corby
Magpie
Stock dove
Herring gull
Blackbird
Song thrush
Coal tit
Gold crest
Sky lark
Mole
Fox
Field fare
Meadow pipit
Jack daw
Roe deer
Chaffinch
Willow tit
Great tit
Wren
Bull Finch
Badger
Grey partridge
Hare
Linnet
House sparrow
Possible  Goss hawk feeding station

November 2022 New "Shark Pen"

Shark Pens have proved invaluable for protecting young trees from Roe deer. The deer fear being restricted in them so don’t go in.. infact, just walk around them.

More economical and means we can use less plastic, because we don’t need to use tall tubes.. win win

First one for this season..new design coming soon

28th July Happy World Nature Conservation Day

Happy World Nature Conservation Day. We recently had a lovely visit from the Leadership Team at Coca Cola Europacific Partners . Working with with The Rivers Trust and The Northumberland Rivers Trust they have dug thirteen ponds planted over 6000 trees and built an amazing bird hide. It was a real pleasure to have everyone along and a huge thank you for all of the stakeholders investment and hard work on the ground. You have all made a game changing difference to our project at Middleton North which will hopefully encourage further work in sustainability by other land owners and businesses alike.

July 21st 2022 New Pond in Bells Park

We are digging out an old ox bow in a field called Bells Park. The field is full of wild flowers and being by the river it will soon be populated with a wide variety of plants and the wildlife that goes with them.

The digger driver- John- an absolute genius by the way also discovered ancient tree roots that I am going to send away for dendro analysis

July 2022 Photographer Chris Woodcock Visit

Outstanding photographer Chris Woodcock came to take some pictures of our wildlife and plants. Please click on the gallery to see the full collection.

June 25th 2022 -Mid summer stroll

Lovely June day, spotted; Sky Larks, think quite a few young ones finding their wings, Dunnock with fresh bedding material, and a Male Yellow Hammer .Lots of butterflies including; Ringlets, Meadow Browns, and a fleeting glimpse of a Painted Lady. A Damson fly also looking beautifully iridescent. Dog Roses looking magnificent.

5th May 2022 Agro Forestry Event Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission and The Organic Research Centre

Agro Forestry meeting on the farm to discuss ins outs goods and bads of planting trees on sustainable farms in today’s world!

I was delighted to welcome representatives from The Woodland Trust who have been a key partner in our work and The Forestry Commission and The Organic Research Centre

We had some really interesting chat as we walked around our new woods hedges and woodland pastures. It was a great pleasure to have those three organisations all together in one place- well organised Rachel Penn from the Woodland Trust. Joining the dots is the future of making all this work.

30th April 2022 Thomas Bewick Society Visit

Members of the Thomas Bewick Society came for a walk around the farm. The Illustrator has been a huge influence. He illustrated wildlife that was around in tthe early 1800’s. This ties into the maps I found at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle that show all the old field boundaries and names. It was a pleasure to show them round and explain how Bewick’s legacy lives on.

13th March 2022 John Muir Award Day

Great to have 15 kids doing the John Muir Award . We went on a walk around the farm, planted trees, made dams in the ponds and  built a huge dead wood hedge.Thanks kids , great work

Winter Bird Count

On a recent winter bird count we were delighted to count 300 Yellow Hammers. Possibly the population for 10 miles around. They are loving uncut meadows- planted seeds, plus weeds plus cover- heaven!

Jan 2022 Bowron's Grave Hedge Planted

After a mammoth effort by friends and family, Bowron’s Grave Hedge is in. Many thanks to all.

A “Grave” in this context means a grove, or wood, so nice to be putting some trees back where they were before.

20th December 2021 Bowron's Grave Hedge Planting

Harry and Finn Baker- Cresswell helped Family Bennett plant a new 300m hedge, that will bring back an old boundary and give us two old field names, Bowron’s Grave and Long Pasture. A Grave was a Grove – so it was a wood, year’s ago.

The hedge has swallowed up 1400 hedge plants and will take a few more to finish

Great job so far, thanks everyone.

21st December 2021 Woodland Pasture Cages

We have had 21 12’x12′ cages put in across the fields at Greenside. These are being planted up with canopy trees plus scrub plants like crab apple, hawthorn, rowan, and dog rose.

Very exciting as they will create new habitats, connectivity to existing woods and hedges and provide 360 degree shelter for stock.

10th November 2021 Natural England Nature Recovery Workshop

A joy to host Natural England for a Nature Recovery Workshop

Lovely group of stakeholders and farmers getting together to discuss how we can improve habitats alongside farming in Northumberland

Sept 2021 Chris Woodcock Photographer

I am delighted that Chris Woodcock has started photographing the farm.. more of her pics in the gallery

Sept 2021 Late Summer Pollinators

I love this time of year, misty mornings and a last chance for insects to gather pollen and nectar. The hoverflies are having a feast on the fennel, such a joy to watch

August 2021 Wild Flower Field

What was 38 acres of mono crop is now wild flowers. Some intended, some not! It is alive with butterflies and bees and a treat to see.

Kids Visit

Fantastic day when 26 kids from Meadowhall Kids club came out from Newcastle. They planted trees, charmed worms, came on a nature walk and helped developed habitat in the ponds. Generally though they had a great time. It was a pleasure to have them and I look forward to welcoming more inner city kids onto the farm.

Quarry Pond

The Quarry pond is looking amazing and is full of bird life

Trees Disappear!

All newly planted trees in Charlie's Wood have disappeared under a Sea of Brome. Actually a blessing as grass cover has created a micro climate and protected trees from 12 weeks of drought. Plus too thick for deer to find tasty new trees shoots- win win..

Find out more

Pond Looking Great

As ever John worked his magic and we have a wonderful new wetland habitat in the old quarry.

Pond Number 12 day

Today John the genius digger driver set to work digging pond number 12 in the old quarry .I was worried he would sink and all we would have was something for the archaeologists to scratch their heads about in the future

Visitors in Lock Down!

I’m delighted to see we have visitors in lock down. This lovely black beaked blackbird has made it all the way from Scandanavia.

Willow Dams

As the ponds fill up we have noticed that we need some dams to hold water levels. We have started creating these willow dams with saplings cut locally. Hopefully they will thicken up, create a dam and filter out sediment.

Spotted

We have set up a black board in the shed for everyone to add what they see as they plant trees, dig ponds , or just wander about

Not the clearest pic so here is what it says;

Hedge Sparrows

Weasel

Robin

Brambling

Yellow Hammer

Roe Deer

Pheasant

Corby

Partridges

Field Fares

Hooper Swans

Lots of Fez

Bull Finch Magpies

Ponds Get Planted Up

A huge thanks to our volunteers from The Northumberland Rivers Trust and Coca Cola for planting up the ponds

10th August 2020 Wild Flower, Bird and Insect Walk

I lead a walk for the newly founded Middleton Wildlife Group up our old bit of railway – The Wannie Line and into our old meadows.These habitats are perfect for wild flowers, we spotted; Great Burnet, Harebells, Yarrow , Stitch Wort, Silver Grass, various vetches, Rose Bay Willow Herb, Comfrey, Knap weed plus many more

These were all attracting a wide array of insects- Carder , Red tailed and regular yellow black and white bumble bees were all seen in good numbers. Having checked my book at home there were males and females.

Butterflies were also about – particularly Peacocks, but we also saw various Whites,Small Tortoiseshells, a Small Copper  and a number of day flying moths.

We were also fortunate to find a large number of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars on a clump of nettles.

The highlight was a Scorpion Hoverfly. All mouth an no trousers as not able to sting!

Great start for our Group as I think I learned as much from my fellow walkers as I told them- a great fund of knowledge and a really enjoyable foray.

13th June 2020 Bumble Bee Survey

Started surveying Bumble Bees- wow this is difficult- definitely need some help

Amazing variety which has to be a good sign?

11th June 2020 New Wild Flower Habitat

When the last tenant left the farm they left a disused farm yard around our old buildings.
It is proving to be a really exciting new habitat for wild flowers.

It is made up of old stones and rubble.The farm was an arable farm steading so no muck in the yard for 20 years. An ideal nutrient poor habitat for wild flowers.
A wildflower expert did a survey this week and found 59 species of plant growing wild.
We will be adding to that mix at the end of the summer, plus planting trees and shrubs to extend the range of habitats in the area. We will also be putting some paths in for people to enjoy the plants and insects they attract.

April 23rd 2020 -Greenside goes back to grass at last..

Really exciting day. Having been arable non stop for the last 21 years Greenside is being ploughed and prepped for the seeding of a herbal rich ley. Once seeded it will be great for stock and nectar loving insects alike. Hedges to go back next..

8th March Ancient Trees

My son Milo and I went to record our eldest trees. I think this Ash is the winnner at 298 years old.

Amazing to think that something alive today was a sapling in 1722

Our oldest oak is 236- the one on the front page of the web site

 

1st March Honey Bees Coming to Middleton North

On Sunday we had a very knowledgeable local bee keeper come to Middleton North. She liked what she saw and will be bringing two hives of bees to forage across the estate and beyond.

I am so excited to have these new additions and can’t wait to try the honey..

28th March Kestrel Box and Volunteer Day

Kestrel Boxes

Phil Charleton and I set about putting up three Kestrel boxes.
Kestrels are a declining species of raptor. This is mainly due to loss of habitat. Fortunately we have some good hunting grounds on our old railway line and various other well established rough grasslands. These abound in; voles,  insects and small birds.

We were fortunate enough to see a Kestrel hunting close to the box sites. So I hope the new boxes will provide homes for our existing Kestrels and maybe attract some new pairs to take up residence.

I’ll keep you posted when we check them later in the breeding season.

Volunteers

I was delighted to show our first volunteers around Middleton North.
It was blowing a hooley, snowing and sleeting so not the best day to see the delights of the place!

However despite the inclement weather they loved what they saw and will shortly be  helping me clear up our old plastic tree guards. Where possible we will be reusing them as recycling them is very difficult.

22nd January Murmuration of Starlings

This is something I have been wanting to see all my life

This huge flock of starlings moved like smoke before diving for their roost- mesmerising

New Barn Owl Boxes

8th November 2019

Today we put up two new Barn Owl Boxes. One in a lovely old Hemmel that just reeks of Barn Owl Des Res. The other in a nice old oak tree. Don’t think health and safety would have been dead chuffed with the shenanigans to get the box in the tree, but we walked away unscathed. Knights of the Owl Box don’t mind a wobbly ladder..

Autumn Wander Day

October 21st 2019

Autumn Ramble

Most amazing evening wandering around the old Beech woods. Mushrooms popping up everywhere. Blue Tits charging around catching a late hatch of flies. Rooks making a heck of row calling each other into roost.

Magical light and corn blue sky.

Hay Making Day

21st September 2019

An unexpected period of late summer sunshine gave us the opportunity to make some hay on an old rig and furrow paddock.

With the help of a 50 year old baler the field was transformed with a covering of over 90 small bales- a rarity these days where most bales are the size of  a garden shed.

The farmer’s family and our family helped stack the bales, and we finished off with a few cleansing ales afterwards. It was like a trip back to the 1970’s!

 

Owl Box Day

August 21st 2019

Charlie and Owl expert Phil Charleton surveyed our existing barn owl boxes. Two out of the three were in a bad state and been home to generations of Jack Daws.

These busy home makers had filled them to the brim with twigs and sheep’s wool

Precariously positioned in the trees Phil hoyed out any amount of  kindling that would have any garage forecourt owner wanting to bag it up and sell it for a fiver.

They then fettled the roofs and Charlie will keep an eye out for new occupants

Their final visit was to a pristine box, but sadly no occupants. Phil put in some fresh sawdust, and hopefully we will see a quick return of barn owls as this one has been a favourite in the past.

Foraging Day

22nd August 2019

Charlie met up with Award winning restauranter, Max Gott https://www.bistrofortysix.co.uk/ to go hunting for mushrooms in the woods. Not a huge haul, but some cracking Ceps from the old beech wood that went into the Scotch Eggs for the good policemen and women of Gosforth.

 

Moth Night

3rd August 2019

Charlie and his son met up with the Alnwick Wildlife Group for a moth survey on the old railway line.It was seriously exciting with 760 moths counted , representing 80 species. Those Victorian lepidopterists were amazing at coining names; These were some of the ones that turned up that night;

Antler Moth
Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix
Barred Rivulet
Beautiful China-mark
Bird-cherry Ermine
Brimstone Moth
Brown China-mark
Buff Footman
Burnished Brass
Chinese Character
Clay
Common Carpet
Common Rustic
Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix
Dark Marbled Carpet
Diamond-back Moth
Dotted Clay
Double Lobed
Double Square-spot
Dun-bar
Ear Moth
Elephant Hawk-moth
Flame Carpet
Green Carpet
Honeysuckle Moth
July Highflier
Lempke’s Gold Spot
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Lesser Yellow Underwing
Marbled Beauty
Marbled Clover
Marbled Orchard Tortrix
Mother of Pearl
Plain Golden Y
Purple Thorn
Red-barred Tortrix
Riband Wave
Rosy Minor
Ruby Tiger
Scalloped Oak
Shaded Broad-bar
Six-striped Rustic
Small Fan-footed Wave
Small Phoenix
Small Rivulet
Snout
Straw Dot
Swallow Prominent
Swallow-tailed Moth
Twin-spot Carpet
Underwing
White Plume
Yellow Shell