The Concept

Middleton North is a small estate in the heart of Northumberland located 9 miles West of Morpeth. It currently comprises a mixture of arable, pasture, woodland and a stretch of the river Wansbeck.

We are in a world where our wildlife is going extinct at a frightening rate,

Based on studies, the UK has lost more than 16% of all animals including fish and birds since the 1970s. Reports also indicate that more than 10% of UK’s wildlife species are in danger of becoming extinct. Meanwhile, the population of all endangered species in the UK have dropped by 65% from the 1970s to the present. The population of insects and other invertebrates have also decreased by almost 60%. Furthermore, as compared to the global average, the rate of loss of species in the UK is much faster.

We are setting up an oasis where animals, wildflowers and even ancient fungi can thrive. A place where threatened species can find the habitats they have previously lost, settle in and prosper once again.

We (Charlotte and Charlie Bennett) are passionate about our native wildlife and keen to do as much as possible to slow its decline. This will involve taking all of the arable, currently around 70% of the land back to grass, in fact what is called a herbal rich ley which is ideal for farm stock but also provides food and nectar for wild mammals and insects.


In my research into the history of Middleton North I found some amazing maps at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle. It’s a long story but for a significant period of time the Greenwich Hospital owned a good chunk of the estate. In 1716 James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater was stripped of his lands and his head for sticking to his principles and faith. Parliament passed his estates to Greenwich Hospital as a way of generating income to provide for the country’s large population of retired and injured sailors who had gallantly fought for King and Country, so I suppose some good came of the Earl’s huge loss

An interesting aside; On the day of his beheading the northern lights were said to be unusually brilliant, and have since been known as Lord Derwentwater’s Light

The Greenwich hospital were amazing managers and improvers of their estates. As part of that process they created detailed maps like the one shown of our bit of ground at Greenside.

I could wax on- check out the field names- my favourite Bowron’s Grave. Sadly, not the resting place of a favourite pig but a place where an old wood or “Grove” had stood. One last comment on those old maps –Any of the old hedgerows you see that have gone over time are going back in.


1805 and Thomas Bewick

Those maps were drawn in 1805. Which got me thinking. 1805 was probably a time when man and nature were in a pretty good balance; No chemicals, lighter farming techniques, smallish population. Things were about to change with Industrialisation and the ongoing demands of the wars with the French. However, if you stopped the clock in 1805 life for wildlife and wild plants was pretty good.

I wanted a way to illustrate this. My idea is to use the famous Northumbrian Illustrator Thomas Bewick (1753-1828)

Thomas Bewick not only had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the birds and animals of Northumberland he also beautifully illustrated them.


Our plan is to compare his knowledge of what was around then with what we have now. We already have a good idea of the species we have following the amazing surveys carried out  by the Alnwick Wildlife Group. Hopefully over time we will map how things have changed since 1805. Our goal to get back to the abundance of species around in 1805  and hopefully improve on it..

Herbal Rich Pasture

A key part of our project is turning all of our arable land back to pasture. Arable is currently 70% of the farmland. By bringing back herbal rich pastures we will allow the soil to recover and improve as our stock munches the wide variety of plants and delivers parcels of goodness back!

Those pastures will not only feed our stock but a wide variety of other wildlife from deer to butterflies.


We will also be planting an additional 40 acres of woodland that will mean that we can create a gladed landscape across the estate. This will hopefully dramatically improve and vary the habitats on the place.

Watch the Middleton North video

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River Wansbeck

We are working closely with the Northumberland Rivers Trust, The Environment Agency, Natural England and others to specifically do all we can to save our Native White Clawed Crayfish. They are as rare as Pandas and equally as important in the river eco system. We also have an extensive tree planting plan along the river to bring back shaded and more varied habitat along the banks.