Fresh idea to help farm thrive again

Elizabeth Walton and Joseph Evans at Marlish Farm
Elizabeth Walton and Joseph Evans at Marlish Farm

A FAMILY whose business was devastated by the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic is bubbling up again thanks to an untapped natural resource.

Pure, fresh water from Marlish Farm near Hartburn is now being bottled under the Marlish Water brand, ready to be launched in the summer.

Elizabeth Walton’s family have lived there since the early 1930s and this new venture is a family initiative that came from a conversation with her biomedicine graduate cousin, Joseph Evans.

They hope that sharing their water, which is believed to have been drunk by both the Romans and the Knights Templar, with the public will bring prosperity and jobs back to the farm.

Marlish was a thriving farm visitor centre, offering educational tours for schools and families before foot-and-mouth disease struck in 2001.

The Ministry of Agriculture came to the site and some 44 rare breed cattle and 808 ewes, along with three pot-bellied pigs and some goats, were culled.

Elizabeth said: “It was a really good business – on summer days we had many visitors enjoying the animals, farm walks and picnic spots – but foot and mouth came and the animals were destroyed, the equipment had to be burned and the business came to an end.”

Since then, she has looked after the land for grazing and created wildlife areas and woodland. Although the family had drunk the water from the underground spring themselves in the past, it was only a discussion between Elizabeth and Joseph that sparked the idea that other people would also enjoy drinking it.

Joseph, from Ulgham, said: “Marlish Farm is near the River Wansbeck and the Devil’s Causeway – the old Roman Road – runs through the farm.

“Historically, the Knights Templar are said to have stopped for refreshment at Hartburn, so it’s likely that the water we’re drinking now is the same water that the Romans and Knights Templar drank.”

He first set out to contact geology and hydrology experts to look at the feasibility of bottling and selling the water.

Six months on, a 90m bore hole has been sunk to reach the historic underground aquifer. The aquifer is a completely sustainable resource which is naturally replenished by rain water, taking thousands of years to filter through the rock strata and gaining its high level of purity on the way.

Joseph added: “We’ll be producing local water for local people and businesses.

“Marlish Water will be sold in local shops in plastic bottles and a premium version of the brand will be launched in the autumn of 2013 to be marketed in glass bottles which we plan to sell in restaurants, hotels, cafés and other establishments.

“We’ll also be taking Marlish Water on the road this summer to events and shows throughout the North East.”

He is planning to grow the business and hopes to create local jobs for young people, support employment in the wider community and is already thinking of the environment – trees are being grown and planted on the farm to offset their carbon footprint.