Nibthwaite Grange Farm is an upland farm in the Lake District National Park.
The farm is run by John Atkinson and Maria Benjamin with the help of his father Bill, his eldest son Tom, and occasionally his daughters Caitlin and Robyn and youngest son, Oliver. The Atkinson’s have farmed Nibthwaite Grange for six generations and have lived in the surrounding area since records began.
The farm specialises in conservation grazing, keeping traditional breeds of livestock including some rare breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs.
The land borders the nationally important Dodgson Wood SSSI and has several rare species of fauna and flora which we are helping to protect, such as the Netted Carpet Moth.
There are 30 Suckler Cows, which are a mix of pedigree Luings, Galloways, Highland and Blue Greys with calves kept as replacements or sold to Booths supermarket for their specialist traditional beef or direct to the consumer through our meat boxes.
We also have 350 ewes, most are Lairg type Cheviots with the addition of 24 rare breed Castlemilk Moorits. Most of the ewes are bred pure to rear replacements for ourselves and other breeders and the rest are sold for meat either direct or to local butchers.
The farm and the moorland are in the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and the cattle are also used for conservation work in the surrounding woodlands for Natural England, The National Trust and RSPB. We also graze our cattle on conservation ground for Hay Bridge Nature Reserve and for the Friends of the Lake District.
The farm is a mixture of small fields and meadowland next to the River Crake and Coniston Water with native woodland on the lower valley slopes and upland heath on the intake and fell. There are many rare and interesting plants, butterflies and moths as well as abundant bird life. The farm is home to Barn and Tawny Owls, Buzzards, Red Kites, Kestrals, Sparrowhawks and Peregrine Falcons. In the lowland areas Partridge have recently been spotted and Yellowhammers and Gold Finches have increased in number. In the woods there are green and spotted Woodpeckers, Jays, Tree creepers, Red Squirrels and the very illusive Pine Marten. There are Sand Pipers, Oystercatchers, Cormorants, Swans and occasional Osprey. On the uplands there are Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, Curlew, Snipe and Woodcock, Weasels, Roe and Red Deer.
The farm has several nationally important species including some of the most northern examples of Small Leaved Lime, several stands of Juniper, Atlantic Oak Woodland and Touch-me-not-Balsam the food plant of the red data species Netted Carpet Moth.
The name Nibthwaite is of Norse origin and means small hut or “bothy” in a clearing. Both the original old farmhouse at Nibthwaite Grange and the original walls at Park-a-Moor were built as part of the land holdings of the monks based at Furness Abbey in the Thirteenth century. The land was emparked in 1339 to form a Herdwyck or sheep pasture.
During the dissolution of the monastaries, Nibthwaite was kept on by the church as a Grange for the monastery and was eventually sold by James 1st.
The area was heavily used for smelting ore from the Coniston fells from as early as the bronze age using charcoal made from the local woods. Several very early bloomeries and charcoal pitsteads can be found in the fields. This practice flourished right through the middle ages and was at its height in the eighteenth century.
VERNACULAR BUILDINGS & FEATURES
The old farm houses at Nibthwaite and Park-a-Moor date from the 14th century. The have had several additions over the centuries, but both include inglenook fires with smoking hooks in the chimney, spice cupboards and cast iron fire grates. There is also a ruined farm at High Park-a-Moor, a field barn with a Wrostlers style slate ridge and a peat house.
There is a lot of access land around the farm which also borders several very popular green roads, bridleways and footpaths.