The Hepple estate sits at the heart of the Northumberland National Park, one of the cleanest, wildest and most remote areas in England. Centuries of light human occupation and gentle farming has allowed this rugged land to dance to its own tune, still pulsing with self-willed nature and where hospitality is as ingrained as a the chilly wind is guaranteed.
The Hepple Estate extends to 4,000 acres from the highest point of the Simonside hills, a sandstone range that cuts across the centre of Northumberland, to the grass pastures by the banks of the river Coquet. The springs that emerge from these hills are of legendary quality: in the nineteenth century physicians would travel for miles to Rothbury, the local town to drink the water. At Hepple, the same springs that rise across the base of the hills support a wide range of plants as the alkaline water combines with the acid peat of the moor to create biodiverse “flushes”, including the juniper, bog myrtle and other aromatic plants like wild thyme, blaeberry, hawthorn and whitethorn.
How much juniper do we have? A Natural England survey in the mid 1990s showed about a fifth of all the juniper found in the park was resident at Hepple.
From mid 2020 the Hepple Estate is embarking on a new land management plan that aims to allow far more natural regeneration of wild plants through the introduction of an extensive grazing regime. Commonly referred to as Wilding, we would hope that the spirit of Hepple is increasingly unshackled, and ever more wonderful.