Twenty three per cent of Northumberland National Park is owned by the Ministry of Defence and used as a military training area. Otterburn Training Area (OTA) is the largest live firing range in the country and has been used for military training since 1911. It consists of over 60,000 acres of land and stretches from the Scottish border to Harwood Forest. Some 30,000 soldiers use the area each year, the wide variety of terrain provides a realistic environment for British and NATO soldiers to train with the latest infantry weapons, artillery and helicopters. There are two main live firing range areas at Otterburn for artillery, demolitions, all infantry weapons and restricted armoured vehicle firing. Fighter aircraft and helicopters also practice ground attack firing, and there are parachute dropping zones. Around its perimeter, red flags fly in warning to a curious public who may inadvertently stray into the live firing zone. But when the flags are lowered, like now during lambing time, much of the range opens up to public.
I saw my first lamb being born last week when David McCracken at the neighbouring Burdonside farm, took me up the hill to show me the sheep soon to give birth. We made an impromptu stop for David to help a ewe in trouble. He then brought them both back to the farm to keep an eye on them in a pen to make sure they bonded. Pretty amazing for a city girl to see.
I arrived at Highgreen Manor in Tarset, Northumberland over Easter to begin a 6 month residency as part of the Visual Art in Rural Communities (VARC) programme. I’m living in a converted Dovecote and get to work in a amazing studio space. Its beautiful if a little moist up here. I’ve set up the studio with OS maps across the walls to help plan the border walk I’m going to do. Here are a few pictures from my first week including a trip to Kielder Forest and Hareshaw Linn, a waterfall near Bellingham.