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If you've ever driven down the M62, chances are you'll have seen Stott Hall Farm. It's that farm that's weirdly smack-ang in the middle of the motorway.
No, it's not the most obvious location, is it? When staring bored out of the window on inter-city drives, the majority of farms you see tend to be 'motorway-adjacent' rather than right in the middle.
According to legend, the trans-Pennine carriageway was built around the property after the former owners refused to sell.
Credit: Richard Harvey (Creative Commons)
Now, nearly 50 years after the M62 was built, Yorkshire Water are set to make the historic farm a sustainable 'farm of the future' and wildlife haven as part of their 'Beyond Nature' initiative.
"Undeniably, hill farming in the Pennines has its challenges, such as with soil quality and inclement weather as well as our motorway location," said Stott Hall Farm's current owner Paul Thorp.
"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.
Stott Hall started life as a shooting lodge back in 1737 before making national headlines in the 1960s when the M62 was built.
Originally, there were fears that the structure, owned by Yorkshire Water, would have to be knocked down to make way for the motorway.
Despite the myth that Stott Hall was saved because the former owner refused to leave, it survived due to the land being too steep to build all six lanes of the motorway on.
The farm's current manager Paul Thorp has worked on the farm since 1992 and has lived there since 2008.
As part of Yorkshire Water's 'Beyond Nature' project, the farm will continue its usual work of looking after 900 breeding sheep while becoming more sustainable and resilient against floods.
This work will include restoring the farm's peatland bog stores, which will help to lock in carbon dioxide and reduce the farm's contribution to global warming.
Credit: Christopher Elison (Creative Commons)
There are also plans to open a scientific and educational hub at the farm for agricultural students, and to improve the habitat the farm provides for key species of birds.
Lisa Harrowsmith, a lead surveyor at Yorkshire Water, said that Stott Hall is a classic upland farm that adds value to local biodiversity, culture and landscape.
She said: "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."
Worth keeping an eye out to see how they're getting on next time you're travelling between Manchester and Leeds.
Words: Chris Ogden
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