The National Trust-owned Gibside Estate at Rowlands Gill just outside of Newcastle provides the home to the squash production at Gibside Community Farm, a true community-led growing project using part of the historically significant walled garden and some fields a couple of miles from the main site.
Gibside is Georgian ‘grand design’ on a spectacular scale. The centrepiece is a Palladian chapel which is considered by many as an architectural masterpiece. It was the vision of local coal baron Sir George Bowes – part of the spectacular design for his worldly estate. Bowes was a coal proprietor and Member of Parliament. He was born on 21st August 1701 and in addition to inheriting the Bowes family’s Streatlam estate, George inherited the Gibside estate through his mother’s family. The estate included rich coal seams, and the coal trade provided great wealth for the family. Bowes used this wealth to transform the grounds at Gibside House. He died at Gibside on 17th September 1760 and was buried in Whickham parish church, but in 1812 his body was moved to a mausoleum at Gibside.
The once grand hall is now just a shell but other parts of the estate alongside the chapel are still intact with the stable block a learning and discovery centre run by the National Trust. Alongside side is the original walled garden which occupies 3 acres or so where Gibside Community farm was first established in 2013. The Trust then provided access to 4 plots plots of agricultural field which are part of the estate where the farm team have planted 43 apple trees to create a small orchard, in the process refurbishing a 60 year old Ferguson tractor! Once they work out how to use the tractor it will be applied to the further 13.5 acre field on Fellside Rd near Burnopfield. In time this is likely to become the main site of the farm with hopes and aspirations for agroforestry project with the support from the Woodland Trust.
Gibside Community farm is set up as a member co-operative Community Interest Company. The 20 or so members are is committed to growing fresh, tasty, seasonal and local produce so reducing their food miles and in so doing sharing skills and knowledge about growing fruit, veg and flowers. Organic methods are used throughout and any surplus is made available to the local community. Membership is through an annual subscription which entitles a share of the produce, and everyone is expected to participate in farm operations. All members can influence the direction of the co-op by attending our general meetings which are held monthly.
So…not just a more sustainable world through teh cativity of tehfarm mebers, but restoring privileged land into community use – brilliant stuff!
For more on the Gibside Estate, see the National Trust website. For more on the community farm, see the farm’s own website and Facebook page. There are also pictures of a previous visit I paid to Gibside here on the Feeding Body and Soul blog,
Click here to buy the book Unlikely Heroes featuring Gibside.
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC!]