Set in a hollow at the top of the hill to the east of Ford village, with stunning views over the Till Valley and the Cheviots, Ford Moss is an area of wild landscape, exciting flora and fauna, and historical remains of an abandoned mining community.
Ford Moss extends to over 60 hectares (150 acres). It is an area of bog and scrub known as a lowland raised mire. A deep layer of peat, formed by rotting vegetation over many thousands of years, overlies the carboniferous limestone bedrock. Seams of coal were mined on the site from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Ford Moss has become increasingly more dry over the last 250 years mainly through human activity (mining, afforestation and associated drainage).
The bog plant communities in this area include the aromatic Bog Myrtle, while the adjacent woodland contains mature Scots Pine and Oak trees. The Moss is also of interest for its wildlife, the site being home to common lizards and occasional adders as well as birds such as red grouse, woodcock and snipe. Buzzards and kestrels are also often seen above the reserve.
Because of its special characteristics, Ford Moss was notified in 1968 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and further classified by the European Union as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in 2000. Ford & Etal Estates work closely with Natural England and the National Wildlife Trust to promote positive management of the reserve. The aim is to maintain the conservation interest, principally by reducing the amount of water run-off through a series of small dams on the bog surface. This has retained the mire community.
Ford Moss is dangerous to walk on. Its boggy surface is very soft and treacherous. However, a circular path of 2 miles allows visitors to walk right around the area and gives excellent views of the surrounding countryside as well as the Moss itself.
Park on the road side by the main entrance gate and please wear appropriate clothes and footwear. A seasonal toilet is located 300m further along the tarmac road behind the small stone building.
The archaeological remains of the former colliery at Ford Moss are an iconic feature of the landscape. Known to have been active from the 17th century, the coal mine largely operated along the northern and western edges of Ford Moss, where the ruin of an old engine house and a large brick chimney are the most obvious features.
The mine closed in 1918, but several of the miners who lived and worked at Ford Moss colliery in the late 19th century were depicted by Louisa Lady Waterford in her famous paintings on the walls of the school which she built in Ford.
A project to record the important social heritage of Ford Moss colliery is currently under way, in connection with the Lady Waterford Hall.
There’s nothing better than a walk with your dog in the countryside and at Ford & Etal Estates we welcome dogs and their owners but ask that you are respectful of the area and of other people by following the simple advice below.
Ensure that your dog does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control. This means that you:
keep your dog on a lead, or
keep it in sight at all times, be aware of what it's doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command
ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access.
We strongly recommend that in public areas you keep your dog on a lead at all times.
The access rights that normally apply to open country and registered common land (known as 'open access' land) require dogs to be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, to help protect ground nesting birds, and all year round near farm animals.
For your own safety and for the welfare of the animals your dog should be kept on a lead around horses and farm animals. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog's owner.
However, if cattle or horses chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead - don't risk getting hurt by trying to protect it. Your dog will be much safer if you let it run away from a farm animal in these circumstances and so will you.
Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections, so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Please do not leave poo bags on footpaths - "bag it and bin it" in one of the bins in the villages. Poo bags are available free of charge from Heatherslaw Visitor Centre, Ford and Etal Village Shops, and at the start of the riverside walk at Etal.
Follow the Countryside Code - Respect Protect Enjoy
Respect other people
Consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors
Leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available
Protectthe natural environment
Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre is set to step back in time on 11th & 12th October with its "Looking Back" event. Visitors to this weekend event will be able to see Heavy Horses working in the field and view horse drawn machinery through to the first working tractors. Whilst children can visit the Clydesdales stabled within the barn parents can browse the selection of crafters, food producers and demonstrators located in the undercover market area. The organisers of the event have been very fortunate in locating a rare crafter who will be demonstrating the old art of corn dolly making. Also joining them for the weekend will be a very unusual sight - the only ploughing mule team in the country, who apparently are also highly skilled at escaping from stables!
In its day Hay Farm was an integral part of the estate as the standing steam engines for threshing were located here. In years gone by seventeen heavy horses worked the land and moved cereals down to Heatherslaw for milling. This event incorporates these two venues and visitors can take a short leisurely walk down past the working horses to Heatherslaw Cornmill and learn of its history - children can even become 'junior millers'! This is truly a family event and is sure to bring back memories for grandparents as well as giving younger family members an insight into rural life in years gone by. Daily admission charge to event only £2.50 adults/£1.00 children. Admission event plus Cornmill – Adults £5.00 Children £2.00. Both venues open 10am – 4pm, last admission to Mill 3.15pm.
The Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum is taking part in the 2014 Northumberland Residents Festival on 29th and 30th March with events at Heatherslaw Mill and the Crookham Peace Centre.
Also taking place the same weekend is the launch of the new Ecomuseum site, the Flodden Ridge: a circular walk around the ridge on which the Scots Army was encamped. The route, which offers spectacular views of the Tweed Valley and the Cheviots, will be publically accessible for the first time and during the course of the weekend free guided walks will be led by Flodden 1513 Archaeologist Dr Chris Burgess, HLF-funded Flodden Project Coordinator Alistair Bowden, Dr Chris Bowles, Scottish Borders Council archaeologist and local Flodden-author Noel Hodgson. For more information and to book a place please click here.
Ford and Etal Estates is a quiet and remote part of the country, filled with hidden gems, with many walking trails around the villages and farms. But one of the wildest parts of the estate is a place many visitors don’t get to: the nature reserve of Ford Moss. Situated east of Ford village, it lies away from the main roads, accessible by foot from Ford, or by car along a narrow, winding lane followed by a short walk. The Moss itself is a bog, dangerous to walk on, but a circular path allows visitors to explore the area safely.
Ford village, picturesque and secluded, is still recognisable as the place it was a hundred years or more ago. After centuries of border warfare, the union of England and Scotland led to a more peaceful time, and by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the area was a quiet, rural backwater. But it was also an era of change – industry was growing, travel and communications becoming easier, the population was expanding, and agricultural estates like Ford were vital for food production.
The 24th North Northumberland Bird Club Dawn Chorus Walk this year took place on Sunday 14th May, starting from Slainsfield, and there was a record turn-out of 27 members when we saw and heard a record number of 53 species.