KERR Henry used to round up wrong-doers for a living, but since retiring from his job as a police inspector, he now spends his time policing poultry.

At this time of year that’s mainly free range turkeys – 300 of them, to be precise – which Kerr keeps at Fallowfield Brae, his nine acres at Codlaw Hill just outside Hexham.

And to cater to Tynedale’s widening taste in festive fayre, he also rears around 55 geese, a couple of dozen ducks, chickens and a few brace of guinea fowl.

Kerr retired from Northumbria Police aged just 48 and, as the son of a Scottish farmer, he really enjoys his relatively new life on the land, despite ironically dubbing it “a hobby gone wrong.”

“If you work out what we make from each bird, well, we should be locked up!,” he explains.

But it’s worth it for the views alone.

I meet Kerr on a beautifully clear and frosty morning and the vista across the valley to the North Pennines is absolutely stunning.

A love of the land is in his blood and he may well have followed in his father’s footsteps had his dad not given him some sage advice.

“Dad was a beef and sheep farmer in Lockerbie, but it was a tenant farm and my father reckoned we should get a pension at the end of our job. Farming didn’t give you that at the time.”

Instead Kerr became a policeman and transferred from Dumfriesshire in 1987 to the Northumbria force.

He was one of the first on the scene of the Lockerbie air crash on the fateful night of 21 December the following year as he happened to be up delivering Christmas presents to friends and family.

During a 32-year career, he rose through the ranks and became Rural West inspector based at Hexham and Corbridge.

He still remembers keeping ducks on his dad’s farm, though, as a lad and no doubt that early experience has stood him in good stead.

So what are the popular picks for Christmas dinner around Tynedale?

“Turkeys and geese are the two mainstays,” Kerr says. “We’ve found the bronze and the blacks are more popular than the white ones, though there’s still some people like the whiter meat.”

Kerr rears Norfolk blacks, Devon bronzes and Norfolk whites.

The black turkey is the oldest breed in the country and is understood to have been introduced to England from Spain during the 16th century.

Reintroduced to America in the 17th century, it was crossed with the Eastern Wild Turkey which was how the bronze came about.

The bronze and black turkeys have a slightly more gamey taste to the whites, which many people seem to prefer.

“We started to do guinea fowl because of all those cooking programmes by James Martin and the like,” says Kerr.

He takes delivery of the turkeys as poults in July and they spend their first few weeks in heated pens.

“As soon as they get strong, we get them outside as quickly as possible, under nets to stop the predators,” he says.

A sparrowhawk lands on a tree as we speak. But Kerr likes to operate a “live and let live” approach.

And in the 10 years he’s been here, they’ve only suffered one attack by a fox which took around 200 partridge.

In addition to turkey feed, his birds enjoy apples that are donated by friends who have fruit trees in their gardens.

“Some days I’ll turn up and there’ll be bags left by the gate. It’s like the apple fairy has been,” he says.

Kerr doesn’t have the facilities to process the birds himself, nor would he fancy it if he did.

Instead he sends them to Blagdon Farm, near Ponteland, who take on extra staff at this time of year.

“We take them down on a sheep trailer a hundred at a time. Then they come back on a chiller trailer packed up in boxes ready for delivery on December 23.”

The eve of Christmas Eve is Kerr’s busiest day of the year.

“I deliver 50-60 myself and friends who have a couple of hours to spare also help me.”

Fallowfield Brae birds will be gracing tables as far south as Sunderland and as far north as Lockerbie.

As for Kerr’s Christmas dinner – well, he says the closer he gets to his turkeys the closer he’s moving towards vegetarianism.

“I always eat fish, I never eat turkey!,” he says.