THE results of a bumper year of crops went “up in smoke” when a hay shed burned down at a County Durham farm.

About 300 tonnes of hay and straw were destroyed in the massive blaze at Burn Farm, on the outskirts of Willington. 

The fire started started hours after a text message was sent by the NFU warning members about arsonists in the area.

The cause is not yet known but the fire service and police will be carrying out a joint investigation as soon as the site is cool enough. 

The blaze started at about 7pm on Monday, September 29 and could be seen for miles as the single-storey barn, approximately 40 by 30 metres in size, went up in flames. 

All of the farm’s hay and straw was destroyed while owner Charles Hedley thinks half of his rape seed may also be too damaged to sell.

Mr Hedley, 55, said: “It’s a whole summer’s work gone up in smoke. A lot of work went into that barn. I’ve never had the farm so full of stuff. It’s been a bumper year for crops so I was feeling pretty chuffed. It was chock-a-block in there.”

A baler and trailer were also destroyed but Mr Hedley, who also keeps sheep, was able to get his tractor out. 

At the height of the blaze five fire crews attended the scene, with about 50 fire fighters trying to bring it under control. 

Four appliances and around 20 firefighters remained at the farm on Tuesday morning to continue the work. 

They were helped by farm workers, who used tractors to move smouldering hay from the barn into a neighbouring field. 

Durham station manager Steve Cummings said: “The farmers have been dragging out hay into an adjacent field to burn it out and we’re dampening down the scene. If we didn’t do that it would be smouldering for weeks.

“The next barn along is full of rape seed and pellets and the next is full of wheat so one of our priorities was to protect that.”

Colin Davis, group manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Our plan was to control the fire to this area to protect the other crops which we have done successfully. 

“The owners and workers have been extremely helpful in assisting us in doing our job.” 

The fire was discovered by Mr Hedley while he was working in a field behind the shed.

He said: “I was just in the field and I looked up and was thinking ‘look at the sunshine on the barn’. Then I realised it was on fire so I ran down. The whole lot was fully up in flames.

“I’m 55 and I’ve never seen anything like it."