A RETIRED GP has described how a “ferocious fire” ripped through 40 per cent of his family’s woodland plantation project.

Dr Steve Ford was stunned when the blaze engulfed the Haydon Fell Plantation, located high to the north of Haydon Bridge, during hot weather late on Sunday afternoon.

A huge plume of smoke could be seen from miles around, with dozens of photos and videos circulating on social media.

No fewer than seven fire crews spent several hours tackling the blaze, with appliances travelling from as far afield as Alnwick, and Tyne & Wear.

They used over 1,000 tonnes of water from ponds at the site, while the damping down process continued into Monday, to prevent any spread of the fire.

Dr Ford, who served as a GP at Haydon Bridge, said his wife, Dr Jean Ford, bought the 50-acre site 12 years ago as an investment in the environment, wildlife and birdlife.

“This was a ferocious fire,” he said. “You’d have to be running to keep up with the speed the flames were travelling.

“It is a very saddening and wearing thing to happen, but we are enormously grateful for the huge amount of hard work that the fire service have undertaken.

“I think we had a third of the Northumberland fleet there - that’s about 50 people.

“We don’t know what caused the fire - there are tons of tinder-dry vegetation.”

Dr Ford said that 20-acres of the 50-acre site has been burned to the ground, but he insisted it wasn’t a lost cause.

“We’ve lost 40 per cent of the woodland,” he added. “But the area affected was the lowest value from a forestry point of view. We’ll re-plant it, and re-plant it better.”

Dr Ford said the family had invested heavily in the plantation, since inheriting the site with 38,000 trees back in 2008.

The family has added 10,000 trees, created paths and tracks, and worked to improve the soil quality.

They have also developed ponds, and a wildlife reserve which has boosted biodiversity, and is home to rabbits, badgers and foxes, toads, and also has an owl box.

Dr Ford added: “People have raised concerns about the effect of the fire on wildlife. “Someone asked if we had any ground nesting birds to be rescued. I don’t think so, and I think any creature capable of running will have done so.”

Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service said the blaze was driven by strong easterly winds, and confirmed an investigation into the incident was ongoing.