The National Trust is asking the local community surrounding its Gibside Estate in Tyne & Wear to help decide the future of 150 acres of farmland it has purchased adjoining the 600 acre property.
The charity has invested over half a million pounds to save the pasture and arable land from open cast mining.
The acquisition came on the back of a ground swell of opposition to the mining proposal in the local community where a mine would have been visible for miles around, created noise pollution, vibrations from explosions and high levels of dust.
A mine would also have unpredictable impacts on wildlife, the water table and drainage systems downhill in the historic Gibside landscape park.
Following hard on the heels of the launch of the charity's mass on-line public experiment in farming, MyFarm - where 10,000 people will help make all the decisions on a working 1,200 acre organic farm at Wimpole near Cambridge - the Trust, in a similar vein, wants local people to help it make choices about the land around Gibside Estate.
A community supported agriculture* scheme is already being set up on eight acres of the land after unprecedented interest from local residents. Other suggestions include new walking routes, a farm visitor attraction and various eco projects.
All ideas will be debated as the Trust enters a consultation process with the local community to see how the farm can best serve everyone's needs. An online survey at offers the chance to contribute ideas. There will also be consultation events for Gibside's 120,000 visitors, schools and community groups.
Mick Wilkes, property manager at Gibside said: "Acquiring this farmland enables us to safeguard the future beauty and tranquillity of this special corner of the Derwent Valley. The shadow of centuries of heavy industry and pollution hangs over the area and many local people don't want to return to that. More than this, we're creating an opportunity to do some exciting projects involving people on our doorstep.
"It's really important to us to have the chance to talk to local people to find out what their hopes and aspirations are, and to work out what we can achieve by working collaboratively with the community."
The National Trust's acquisition has been supported by local Member of Parliament Dave Anderson. He said: "This is great news and a triumph for the huge numbers of local people who stood firm in opposing the plan to devastate this precious piece of land. Well done to all the good folk at Gibside for their vision and commitment to our shared future."
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Notes to editors:
* Gibside has already been approached by local residents about the possibility of forming a CSA at Gibside and they have been offered about eight acres of the newly acquired farmland to test the idea.
About The National Trust:
The National Trust is one of the most important nature conservation charities in Europe. The Trust is involved in the whole food chain, with 200,000 hectares of food producing land, over 150 restaurants and tearooms, and historic kitchen gardens, orchards and mills. The charity has community growing spaces - from allotments to kitchen gardens - at over 50 locations around the country and is increasing these annually. These spaces inspire the Trust's 3.8 million members, 61,000 volunteers and visitors to think and learn about food. The National Trust is creating 1,000 new allotment plots on its land in the next three years to give local communities the space to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
The National Trust MyFarm project also has its own website, which includes more information on how people can visit MyFarm.
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