A zero carbon tour made a stop at a Northumberland farm this weekend to commend it for its sustainability efforts.

The all-electric Planet Mark coach stopped in Northumberland National Park on its tour around the UK on the way to the COP26 conference in Glasgow, which begins on October 31.

After spending Friday morning at the Helix in Newcastle, it headed for a much quieter destination for the afternoon.

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Ingram Valley Farm, in Northumberland National Park, hosted the coach after becoming the first farm in the world to obtain Planet Mark’s sustainability certification two years ago.

In that time, the farm has made changes both big and small to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 per cent, such as switching their diesel vehicles for electric and reducing the amount of machinery, to using more sustainable paper and reducing its digital footprint.

Rebecca Wilson, of Ingram Valley Farm, said: “My son is a mini David Attenborough and he said to me, ‘Mummy, by 2050 there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish so you’ve got to do something!’”

Rebecca Wilson of Ingram Valley Farm
Rebecca Wilson of Ingram Valley Farm

Shortening supply chains and keeping food miles low is something that Rebecca feels is extremely important to combat climate change, and as such the farm champions local producers.

Rebecca said: “We want to educate people about how special this part of the world is. We need to protect agriculture.

“The pandemic has shown us how fragile our supply chain is. Instead of looking towards export deals with New Zealand and Australia, why not focus on being self-sufficient and living for the seasons like our ancestors did millennia ago?

"If you can buy and help your local farmer as opposed to 10,000 miles away, you’re helping the land and supporting local, seasonal food.

“Cattle have a bad name for climate change, but they have been in this valley for longer than humans (around 12,000 years).

“Now, we have them roaming free range on the hillside. Their dung feeds the soil and makes it healthier and helps to sequester more carbon.

“I feel the Northumberland Uplands are part of the solution to climate change.”

Cows in the Ingram Valley
Cows in the Ingram Valley

Not only is the farm working to reduce its own carbon footprint, but it is also attempting to bring more sustainable tourism to the Ingram Valley, which can see up to 600 cars a day during the summer. Last year, visitors were criticised for leaving behind BBQs and litter in the picturesque valley.

Run by Patrick Norris, founder and guide of Footsteps in Northumberland, the Ingram Valley Safari is a 3-hour long ride in a ‘traxter’ which shows off the landscapes, livestock and Bronze age archaeology present in the valley.

Patrick, who drives the ‘traxter’ and initially came up with a safari idea 30 years ago in Dartmoor, said: “Tourism is a key part of the rural economy.

“We started the Ingram Valley Safari in June and so far, people have been blown away!

“The highlight of the tour is red deer. Usually you might see them in the distance, but when we’re in the deer park, we get very close to them in the Traxter.

Red deer in Ingram Valley
Red deer in Ingram Valley

“We want to run the safari all year. I’m looking forward to doing it in the snow - it’s not so much about the wildlife in winter, the interesting thing will be the shift in the scenery and the snow.”

“It’s a unique experience. As far as we know, nobody else in the UK is doing what we’re doing.”

Since starting the tours, around 90 people have taking to the hills above Ingram Valley in the Traxter.

Patrick Norris with the Ingram Valley Safari Traxter
Patrick Norris with the Ingram Valley Safari Traxter

Rebecca said: “What’s been really humbling about the tours is that they can help people with their mental health. The pandemic showed wellbeing and nature are interlinked and even 15 minutes in nature can give you a boost. Feedback has been incredible, we’ve even had people crying happy tears!”

Of course, not all visitors to the Valley come for the safari tours. Many come for bracing walks, with beauty spots like Linhope Spout Waterfall and the Cheviots within easy reach.

Jennifer Shaw, Conservation Manager at Northumberland National Park, said: “Since the pandemic, we’ve had a lot more visitors coming up to the Ingram and Breamish Valleys so we’ve been working closely with the community to make sure we can manage that Ingram experience and help the farmers and the local community deal with a massive increase in visitors here.

“Tourism here is very important, it’s a chance to showcase what good work farmers do, and the landscape here is incredible!

“Getting people out into the countryside and experience the fresh air and the views is a great chance to help visitors and the general public experience everything that we love in the valley and beyond in the national park.”

During the Planet Mark bus’s stop at Ingram Valley Farm, the first oak tree was planted as a ‘treephy’ - an award given to businesses at the CIPD North East of England HR&D Awards, which were given out instead of trophies at this year’s awards ceremony.

Elouise and Charlotte of CIPD NE planting a 'treephy' at Ingram Valley Farm
Elouise and Charlotte of CIPD NE planting a 'treephy' at Ingram Valley Farm

Elouise Leonard Cross from CIPD NE said: Seeing the tree in this setting takes the concept of ‘treephy’ to a whole other level. It felt like the right thing to do and in this environment and seeing the passion of Rebecca and the team here, it’s amazing.”

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