Institute for Sustainability

Rural Sustainability

Rural Sustainability: Cockle Park and Nafferton Farms

Nafferton Farm

Nafferton Farm is a 300 hectares (ha) farm located 12 miles west of Newcastle upon Tyne, near Stocksfield in the Tyne Valley. It is rented from the Allendale Estate on a traditional AHA tenancy and constitutes the management and operational base of the Nafferton farming business, with the main farm steading located there.

At Nafferton Farm, Newcastle University researchers have developed an innovative research platform, which brings together world-class research expertise in different fields to investigate multi-functional landscape design. It is one of the UK's Sustainable Intensification Research Platforms.   

Low-input agriculture, such as organic farming, has potentially a large role to play in increasing the quality of soil, reducing dependence on agrochemicals and fertilisers, and reducing energy usage and water contamination. But what are the best ways ecological farming approaches can be employed and how can they improve agriculture more generally? Research at Nafferton Farm is addressing this question among others in developing sustainable ways to improve multiple aspects of agriculture including:

  • livestock and crop production
  • soils and environment
  • breeding and genetics
  • agro-ecology

One half of Nafferton Farm is used for conventional farming while the other half is organic, including crops and livestock. The aim is to compare methods from both to improve organic and conventional farming systems, quantifying yield and food quality differences. Studies from Nafferton have shown significant nutritional advantages of organic meat and milk, and organic fruits, vegetables and cereals over conventional products.

Cockle Park Farm

Mirroring Science Central's focus on urban sustainability, our work on the University's farm facilities is based around improving rural sustainability and developing sustainable rural infrastructures.

Cockle Park Farm is a 307 hectare mixed farm situated about 18 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne. It houses livestock in the form of cows, sheep and pigs and also grows conventional arable crops including winter wheat, winter barley and oilseed rape. The farm has been part of the facilities of the University since 1896 and offers a unique asset which enables research into energy sustainability in a commercial, rural environment.

The farm was one of the first experimental farms to be established in the country and is home to the world's oldest continuous grazing and hay cutting experiment on the Palace Leas Meadow. The original farm buildings include Cockle Park Tower which is a scheduled ancient monument.

The farm is also home to the University’s Anaerobic Digestion Plant, which generates heat, electricity and digestate - an organic fertiliser from the farm's pig and cattle manure.

Using the farm as an exemplar, our researchers are looking at ways of improving the energy efficiency of livestock farming and ways of generating additional energy from the farming processes themselves.

We have secured industrial funding to undertake a cutting-edge low carbon project as well as to optimise the anaerobic digestion facility at the Farm. Industrial partners have been engaged, including Northern Powergrid and the original supplier of the existing Anaerobic Digester Facility, Marches Biogas.

Find out more about Cockle Park Farm in a new brochure introducing multiple projects in sustainability at the farm supported by the Institute for Sustainability: ‌Facilitating rural energy for tomorrow (PDF: 1.32MB)

Anaerobic Digestion Plant demonstration project
View brochure pdf