Case Study - Tom & Karen Burn, Northumberland

10 February 2016

Name: Tom & Karen Burn

Region: Northumberland

Farm: Hunting Hall

Size: 278 acres/ 112.51ha


Hunting Hall is a mixed farm with 42.3 acres/17.12ha of grass with the remainder in arable cropping or stewardship arable options.

The arable land is now let out to a large local farmer who manages the whole operation. Letting out the arable operation made sound business sense as we were never going to have the economies of scale and it has allowed us to concentrate on other elements of the farm business.

Our focus for the business is on managing stewardship options to complement the educational access we provide. We manage a rare breed pig herd and an organic sheep flock.

All stewardship work is done by ourselves, including hedge planting,establishing wild bird seed mixtures and other stewardship options.

We now have a ‘farm resource centre’ with seating for up to 40 people as well as cooking and washing facilities to provide a high quality learning environment for educational visits.

What environmental management do you undertake on your farm?

The whole farm is in ELS and HLS. This is building on 2 previous countryside stewardship schemes,started in 2000-2001.

We have 5.8ha of wild bird seed mixtures, 5.8 ha of margins,a number of which are floristically enhanced,and 3ha of nectar flower mixtures delivered through the agreement or voluntarily.At present we have two types of wild bird seed mixes. One is Kings Winter Holding Mix with added sunflowers. This mix provides a tall area of cover with leafy kale. It looks stunning! The other mix is cereal based,using triticale, mustard, linseed and gold of pleasure to fill the ‘hungry gap’ time of year.

All grassland is farmed organically and managed to benefit wildlife. 6.09ha of permanent grassland has been minimally grazed over the past 10 years. This has created a haven for wildlife.

We have recently established a community orchard on the farm with over 100 trees,using heritage varieties and a flower rich sward underneath. This is currently in organic conversion.

What environmental work are you delivering voluntarily?

We have a programme of tree planting on the farm. We have planted approximately 200 trees outside our stewardship agreement through work with voluntary/education groups and members of the public.

We manage two small woodlands which we planted in poor areas of arable fields; beating up,removing material where necessary and creating wildlife habitats (bug hotels etc.). Youth groups have helped with some of this work. We also maintain two wildlife ponds, created to manage wet areas of agricultural land.

To feed wild birds during the hungry gap we have bird feeding stations in arable and grassland fields using garden feeders and pheasant feeders. We feed standard wild bird seed and nuts and also use waste grain donated from Frontier Agriculture at Lowick.

Organic conversion of our grassland and orchard has been carried out without stewardship payments or financial support.

What measures are you taking towards the Voluntary Initiative & Nutrient Management?

All arable land is let out, therefore we contribute by ensuring all watercourses are buffered and stewardship options are located to minimize the risk of spray drift and run off.

On the land we manage in hand we are organic somake best use of manures on to organic grassland. The non-organic pig manure is pitted during the year and then spread onto an appropriate field,depending on the following crop and the p and k nutrient status. All the fields have been soil mapped by tenant W L Douglas and son,ensuring N P or K is only applied where required there by reducing the chance of nutrient leaching.

What other measures might you be looking at in the future to improve both your Commercial farm business and contribution to the environment?

We will continue to plant new hedgerows and trees, as there are very few mature trees on the farm. This work will be incorporated into our educational programme, enhancing the visits of school children, John Muir Award participants or volunteer groups.

Selling our organic lamb to a North East butcher has proved successful this year, therefore we hope to increase ewe numbers and lamb percentages. We also hope to make use of organic wool and are currently researching the market fora locally produced organic spun yarn.

We are purchasing registered rare-breed saddleback gilts to replace older non-registered sows. This will enable usto sell registered breeding stock,widen our market and help protect an endangered farm breed.

What are the benefits of taking part in CFE?

The Campaign for the Farmed Environment offers the opportunity to gain support and advice from a number of environmental organisations. We have been offered a great deal of invaluable guidance from our local RSPB representative, who introduced us to CFE. We also find it helpful to meet other farmers carrying out similar environmental work, to discuss measures suitable for our location and learn from past successes (or failures). It’s important that CFE recognises and celebrates the efforts of farmers on behalf of the environment and helps the public perceive the voluntary measures many farmers have in place for wildlife.

For more information about Hunting Hall farm visit

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