A LARGE barn containing 200 tonnes of straw and belonging to prominent former racehorse trainer Howard Johnson was burned to the ground at the weekend.

Firefighters were called to White Lea Farm, in Roddymoor, near Crook, County Durham, at about 8.30pm on Saturday night, where the Dutch barn, which measured 30m by 20m, was described as “well alight”.

At the height of the fire, four appliances from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and the Environmental Protection Unit were in attendance.

The blaze was visible for several miles and residents living in neighbouring villages described the large flames as “spectacular”.

The Northern Echo:

The aftermath of the barn blaze Picture: Helen Russell

Although the fire service left the scene on Sunday morning, a small amount of baled hay was being allowed to burn out in the twisted, charred remains of the barn under supervision from those living at the site throughout the day.

Mr Johnson did not wish to comment on the incident.

The cause of the blaze has not yet been established.

It is not yet known whether the fire is linked to an incident at Burn Farm, near Willington, a few miles away, in which a shed containing 300 tonnes of hay was destroyed last Monday.

The farm lost all of its hay and straw in the incident, which took about 50 firefighters to bring under control.

Shortly before the Willington blaze, the National Farmers Union (NFU) had sent out a text message to all of its members in the North Riding and Durham counties, warning of arsonists, after a spate of fires on stacks in North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.

In reference to the incident at Roddymoor, a spokeswoman for the NFU said: “That is really bad news for the local community.

“It is the time of year where farmers’ have been working non-stop trying to get everything in.”