Famous M62 farm in fast lane to becoming a farm for the future
The famous farm in the middle of the M62 is the latest farm to join Yorkshire Water’s ‘Beyond Nature’ vision which will transform how farms in the region connect with the land, water and wildlife around them.
Stott Hall farm, owned by Yorkshire Water, dates back to 1737 when it was originally built as a shooting lodge, but rose to fame in the 1960’s when construction of the M62 motorway began.
It was originally thought the farm would have to be knocked down to make way for the motorway, but it was saved thanks to a quirk in the geology of the land – which made it impossibly steep to build all six lanes on.
The upland farm is currently managed by Paul Thorp who has worked at the farm since 1992 and lived at the farm since 2008, with his wife Jill and son John joining him soon after.
As part of the ‘Beyond Nature’ vision, the farm will not only continue to focus on traditional livestock practises that involve looking after 900 breeding ewes on nearby Moss Moor, but also widen its scope to become a more sustainable farm for the future.
This will mean restoring vitally important peatland bog on the farm which helps lock carbon dioxide in the land and reduce the risks of global warming. To do this, the moors will be re-wetted by blocking grips and gullies to help raise the water table, which will also improve natural flood management resilience. Across England, peatland stores over three billion tonnes of carbon in the ground which is more than all woodlands and forests combined.
Lisa Harrowsmith, a lead surveyor at Yorkshire Water, said: “Despite the farm sitting in the middle of a motorway, it is a classic upland farm with biodiversity interest, cultural and landscape value consisting of peat moorland and a small portion of in-bye grazing and meadows.
“Paul and his family are really behind this new vision of how farming can evolve to embrace land diversification that enables things like wildlife, peatland and meadows to thrive whilst maintaining the farm as a successful commercial enterprise.”
Despite being in the middle of the motorway, the farm is a haven for certain bird species and this habitat will be improved and conserved to enhance population of key species including merlin, snipe and twite birds.
Farmer Paul Thorp said: “Undeniably, hill farming in the Pennine’s has its challenges, such as with soil quality and inclement weather as well as our motorway location. However, we are confident that we can successfully combine a commercial livestock enterprise whilst also not only maintaining, but improving this wonderful diverse habitat for future generations as part of the Beyond Nature vision.”
There are also plans to open-up a scientific and educational hub at the farm to enable students of agriculture to carry out environmental studies, such as how best to re-introduce native moorland shrubs.
Stott Hall farm joins Humberstone Bank Farm in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and High Woodale Farm also in Nidderdale in becoming a ‘Beyond Nature’ farm.