FRIENDS have paid tribute to a shepherdess who died in a quad bike accident while working in the hills.

Liz McIntosh, 64, was tending her flock in the Northumberland National Park when her machine crashed.

It may have been some time before the alarm was raised on Friday afternoon.

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It happened on an unnamed road close to West Todholes near Elsdon, where she tended a flock of 700 sheep and cattle with the help of a part-time shepherd.

John Hartshorne, chairman of Otterburn Parish Council, said: ''She had stock to deal with and at this time of year farmers are charging around the hillsides on quad bikes.

''You might say everybody is to some extent at risk if they are out on the hills and people don't know where they are if something happens.

''That's the sort of environment she was working in - upland hill farming, isolated, cold.''

Mr Hartshorne, who runs Albion Outdoors which gets young people out into the countryside to study nature, said Ms McIntosh was a keen naturalist.

The important 10,000-year-old peat bog known as Steng Moss was part of her land, and she allowed his students access to learn about it, he said.

''She was well-informed, a very good naturalist and very good with birds,'' he said.

Ms McIntosh, the daughter of a surgeon who studied geography at Newcastle University, was understood to be divorced.

Her friend and neighbour Barbara Foti said: ''She was very strong, very tough and enjoyed what she did.

''We are devastated and we can't believe it.''

Northumbria Police has yet to officially name the person who died in the accident.

The force is preparing a report for the coroner and has appealed for witnesses who may have seen her prior to the accident to contact them.