A FORMER MOD fuel storage depot known locally as ‘Telly Tubby Land’ has been reopened.

A Cheshire farmer has been forced to use the former government Cold War fuel dump after running out of storage for thousands of gallons of slurry following a record rainfall over the summer.

The mixture of water and cow muck would be spread in a normal year on Ray Brown's fields in Twemlow, Goostrey and Cranage from his Orchard Farm's two-and-a-half million-gallon storage lagoon and tanks.

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But this year's abnormally high rainfall has swamped fields where crops of maze and wheat are grown.

The feed for his 300-strong dairy herd was unable to be harvested before an Environment Agency deadline for spreading slurry on the land.

The agency bans the use of slurry between October 15 and January 31 because of a danger of polluting streams and rivers from a ‘run-off’ from the land where the mixture is spread.

Knutsford Guardian: An aerial view of the so-called 'Telly Tubby Land' in TwemlowAn aerial view of the so-called 'Telly Tubby Land' in Twemlow (Image: Charlie Goode)

Now, faced with the dilemma of running out of storage and overwhelmed with thousands of gallons daily, Ray has resorted to storing the slurry in one of a series of six million-gallon tanks at the redundant fuel dump he owns at Twemlow Green.

Ray said: "It would have helped farmers if the Environment Agency had relaxed the regulations this year but you can't stop cows mucking.

"We have around 10,000 gallons of slurry a day and it has to go somewhere if not on the fields.

“Our storage is full and we have no alternative but to use the fuel depot tanks until we can begin spreading again next year.

"It is not just a case of staying compliant with the regulations but making sure we can utilise this valuable organic resource and cut down on chemical fertilisers.”

Ray bought the former top-secret dump from the Ministry of Defence after it was mothballed in 2007.

The 12-acre site was nicknamed Telly Tubby Land because of its similarity to the Teletubbies homes in the children's TV series.

Ray had hoped to build a biogas plant at the site to generate green energy to serve 5,000 homes from farm slurry.

But plans to use the site as an anaerobic digestion and combined heat and power plant were refused by Cheshire East Council in 2015, following local opposition.

Since plans for the biogas plant were scuppered, Ray has diversified into establishing Bidlea Dairy with a shop and café.

This family run farm has become a successful tourist attraction selling dairy products, including 26 flavours of ice cream as well as offering refuge nearby to a small zoo looking for a new home.

Ray runs the 400-acre family farm and award-winning Bidlea herd with his wife, Jill, daughter Mel, sons Adam and Ryan, and their wives, both called Becky.

Ray has reassured the local community that there is no danger from reopening the former fuel dump.

He said: "There has been a lot of interest locally in what we are doing but I can assure people storing the slurry at the old depot poses no risk to anyone living in the area as the tanks were used to store fuel and are very well sealed.

“All dairy farmers are faced with the same problem and fortunately we have these tanks.

“I have been told in one area of Cheshire, the Environment Agency has posted notices asking residents to 'grass' on farmers if they see them spreading slurry."

The storage tanks comprise an inner steel casing surrounded with a concrete outer casing, which are covered in earth and grassed over.

A network of underground pipes feed the tanks and 1.5 metre high grassed earth bunds surround the tank area.

Construction of the fuel storage site began in 1953 and is thought to have been decommissioned during the mid 1990s.

The use of the dump has been inspected and approved for storing the slurry by the Environment Agency.