Nethergill Farm was the result of just two families' lifelong ambition to create a sustainable wildlife haven and long term conservation project. Situated in Langstrothdale at the headwaters of the Wharfe on the Dales Way, it is no ordinary farm…
Set in 400 acres between 1,200 and 1,600 feet above sea level, Nethergill nestles quietly into the hillside below the road to Hawes. With 70 acres of ‘in bye’ or grazing land around the house and the rest peaty moorland, the land is perfect for our rare breed Dalesbred ewes and White Shorthorn cattle.
The large Victorian Farmhouse and traditional farm buildings were built in 1871 and the original occupant a Mr Woodd, cousin to the famous naturalist Charles Darwin.
The beginning - The Clarks
From a college romance (Seale Hayne Agricultural college, Newton Abbot), Chris and Fiona Clark began their farming careers rearing outdoor pigs on the Loseley Park Estate near Guildford, Surrey. Their pigs enjoyed the organic pastures and chocolate ice cream ‘left overs’ from the Loseley Dairy. After 10 years of ‘hands on’ experience they successfully sold the business and retrained in Graphic Design and Marketing. The Clarks bought Nethergill in November 2005 and in 2014 finished the development of 2 self-catering haylofts, the field centre and 2 observation hides, as well as installing ‘Bertha’ our biomass boiler to provide all our heat and hot water and solar panels to provide 75% of our electricity needs.
The present - The Thomases
Dave and Helen Thomas met in 2007 in the heady pre-recession days of corporate life in London. Despite enjoying the pleasures of city life every weekend was spent escaping to the country to research land management, rewilding and conservation. Dave's parents Malcolm and Helen (yes, another Helen) shared this vision and when the opportunity to purchase Nethergill presented itself in 2019 the Thomases embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. With Willow and Ash we welcome the third generation of Thomases to Nethergill farm, alongside our faithful black labrador Frankie. In addition to their farm life Dave founded and still runs, the renowned London fitness London The Foundry, and is a founding trustee for The School of Hard Knocks and Helen is the executive assistant to one of the UK's biggest environmental philanthropists.
Looking to the future...2020 onwards we are gradually changing the way we manage the farm and taking a much more 'wilding' approach. Having sold our ewes in 2018 we are now running some of our neighbour's ewes and belted galloways across the land in small numbers to lightly graze the land and enhance the biodiversity.
We are also building a world-class fitness centre, woodworking and metalworking workshops and further wild glamping accommodation.
To further enhance the wildlife across the farm and to particularly encourage Red Squirrels, we have planted an area of 30 acres of moorland with mixed-species woodland totalling 20,000 trees in conjunction with the National Parks and Forestry Commission. The planting area runs close to Greenfield Forest which has been declared the 17th Red Squirrel reserve in Britain. This area of woodland planting has been named Ellbeck Wood after the Clark's daughters Ella and Becky. Further woodland areas have been planted with a further 8,000 trees and shrubs on the moorland and gill sides. The tree planting on the farm has had a dramatic effect on the biodiversity of the land and has enticed Black Grouse back to the area after an absence of 40 or so years!
Very free range chickens
Nethergill chickens have access to the whole farm and produce delicious eggs of all colours and sizes. Self-catering guests are welcome to purchase eggs (subject to availability in winter).
Other team members
Frankie the wonderful black lab will always be available for a lick and cuddle and Derek the drone who shoots all the fabulous footage you see on our social media can grab you truly unique holiday footage.
On-going conservation projects
Upper Wharfe River Restoration Project - We are working with the Yorkshire Dales River Trust and Wharfedale Naturalist Society to reduce river erosion along the banks of Oughtershaw Beck running across Nethergill land. Willow bundles have been laid along the banks, interspersed with trees. By reducing the erosion it will reduce the level of silt in the water which will benefit trout breeding grounds, help to reduce flooding lower down the Wharfe and enrich the habitat all along the river, encouraging Water Voles and Otters amongst others.
Grip blocking carried out in 2016 by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Peat Partnership.
Self-catering and Field Centre
We are now getting closer to our long term vision and have built two self-catering apartments (or haylofts) and a Nature Barn within our existing Shippon and barn, now ready for guests to enjoy. We aim to demonstrate how food, farming and the environment can all work together and provide a wonderful 'get away from it all' haven for visitors to enjoy. The haylofts will be as in keeping with this aim and are as eco-friendly as possible; providing luxury and comfort within a stunning environment. The Nature Barn is available for groups, courses and individuals to relax, see, observe, learn and enjoy the amazing wildlife sights on the farm.
Bertha the Biomass boiler
To reduce our carbon footprint we installed a biomass boiler in February 2012 to provide heating and hot water to all the self-catering accommodation as well as the farmhouse. The boiler sources timber from the woodland on our boundary and other forestry within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It operates using a gasification process which means that the energy conversion is very efficient. We use a firewood processor on the farm to process the timber into short lengths for firewood.
To further reduce our carbon footprint we installed solar panels on our timber storage barn making us 75% self sufficient in energy.
Two bird hides - Willow Hide and Ash Hide were built in April 2013. Guests are able to use the hides which overlook the scrape, the moss, both up and down the Oughtershaw Beck and into the woodland areas. The hides are made out of recycled plastic bags.
As a keen painter before she moved to Nethergill, Fiona was inspired by the unique atmosphere of the Dales. Mixed media including paper and wool and more recently oils are favourites of hers. As winner of the Pro-Arte competition run by Craven District Fiona has a fantastic array of artwork to purchase as limited and unlimited copies, framed and unframed, as well as A5 cards. Click here to see paintings.
Awarded GOLD by Green Tourism 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019
Nethergill has given us a unique opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, within which we can strive to enhance, develop and protect the surrounding countryside. Our long-term aim is to let nature take the lead and reduce our stocking rates, introducing a rewilding concept to the farm and thus creating a wildlife haven combined with sustainable farming practice, which can both financially support us and be enjoyed by other like-minded countryside and wildlife enthusiasts.
Nethergill Associates was set up in 2005 - a business consultancy aimed initially at helping farmers develop their businesses. Farmer advice has developed into many SMEs using our services and now in 2019 many conservation bodies and individual farmers are using us to prepare for the post Brexit environment.
Blog prepared by Chris Clark for The Green Alliance
Blog prepared by Fiona Clark for the Yorkshire Peat Partnership