COMING TO A FARM NEAR YOU. . .

417

Disquiet, no more than that so far, afflicts a quiet retirement village in the heart of rural Northumberland where tanks might replace tractors. . .

 

A PLAN TO TURN A TILLSIDE FARM into an ‘adventure’ site offering rides around surrounding fields in Army tanks and armoured vehicles has been unveiled to surprised villagers at an ‘open day’ gathering.

Bruce and Helen Henderson are the latest tenants of what they describe as Ford and Etal Estate’s “derelict farm steading” at Sandyford, Crookham, and military vehicle enthusiast Bruce is establishing a live display of military and other vehicles which will be demonstrated to the public on selected weekends.

The plan was vaguely outlined by Bruce and by Richard Wilson of TurboVenture – his partner in this and previous military ventures – when a dozen or so Crookham villagers ventured down to Sandyford to take up the open day invitation.

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“Come for a tour and PARTICIPATE!” urged the notice pushed through letterboxes in one of the area’s friendliest and close-knit villages. “And bring an artefact that could be of interest to your neighbours (you know, the ones to whom you nod and maybe speak to at Christmas),” a joke which fell a little flat for some of those who made the trip and turned up later at the village hall’s regular Saturday coffee morning. (Home)

“The only people none of us knew, even to nod to, were the new people at Sandyford whom we’ve never seen in the village,” grumbled one. Another pointed out that, ironically, the village’s Christmas party was taking place at the hall later that evening!

In their letterbox invitation, the Hendersons had introduced themselves as a couple who had returned to the UK after emigrating to Canada.

“We have shifted tons of chicken, pig and sheep manure (sorry, you’re too late, it’s all gone!) and done much work to make the house habitable,” they wrote. Bruce    and Helen have been living in a Greyhound bus during the renovations.

But a distinct feeling of unease was apparent among their new neighbours in the discussion that followed.

Engine noise, exhaust fume pollution and the sight of grassland churned up by tank tracks were the most obvious fears, along with a suggestion from one of the  business partners that planning permission – particularly for a change of the farm’s use – was felt to be unnecessary.

While the village hall management committee’s chairman Michael Keating said he felt that the idea of opposing the scheme fell outside its remit, there was talk of forming a residents’ association and of getting Ford parish council involved at an early stage.

An email inquiring of Lord Joicey what Ford and Etal Estate understood to be the proposal from its Sandyford tenant was referred to the estate manager, Guy Sampson of Savills, who said:

“Bruce has proposed the concept of adventurous driving using military vehicles on Estate land, including possible use of land at Sandyford. As part of the process of considering this, we gave Bruce permission to bring a vehicle to Sandyford for a trial run, to see what it might look like in practice.

“It was rightly thought that Bruce should involve his neighbours from Crookham in this trial run at an early stage, hence the invitation.”

Richard Wilson’s TurboVenture, located at Matfen in  Newcastle upon Tyne, offers “outdoor pursuits in and around leafy Northumberland, with a host of adrenaline-pumping activities ranging from military-style paintballing and target shooting to quad biking and tank driving”.

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