Latest News

Gaddesden Estate News May 2018

This past week has been a mad rush to get several weeks of spring work completed, concertina-ed into three or four days. The winter was so long and spring so late that we were not able to get onto the saturated land until the lovely spell of sunshine last week; it was what is known as a “blackthorn summer”, with the white flowers of the blackthorn bushes in the hedgerows blossoming at their best around the farm.

We had about 250 acres of spring oats to drill. Some could be drilled directly into last years stubbles, but on the top of the hills, particularly in the fields behind Bridens Camp, called Hoghstrough and Highbush/Farthings where the ground is very heavy, the ground needed to be cultivated and rolled before we could get the seed drill in. In some places, most noticeably Long Garmer Field, the weeds had grown strongly over the winter among the “volunteer” wheat (seed left over from last year, dropped in the chaff by the combine harvester) and these areas had to be sprayed with glyphosate before drilling. Thankfully all the seed was sown before St George’s day. It is at least a fortnight later than  the latest recommended drilling date, so let us pray that the crop germinates well and catches up, even though it may be a late harvest with reduced bushel weights.

In addition, concurrently it was imperative to put a second dose of nitrogen fertiliser on the wheat and the oilseed rape as well as the next fungicide programme for both, in this case using the same machine, the Bateman sprayer.
The winter cropping has already responded well to this treatment.
Our next task is the application of Muriate of Potash (potassium chloride) using a conventional fertiliser spinner.

We completed planting up sub-Compartment 7k in Big Wood, as reported last month. We have no thinning or felling planned for this year, though we will be continuing with our roadside tree surgery. The sawlogs from last year’s wind-blow in Newlands Wood are at last due to be collected this week.
We await with trepidation the attacks by grey squirrels on the trees in the Farm Woodland Scheme blocks, which were thinned over the past couple of years; these often seem to come after a thinning. It may be because the enhanced growth of the remaining trees produces more sugar in the sap. As I have mentioned previously the American Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, can completely devastate a plantation, making the production of high quality timber well-nigh impossible, and rendering the trees only suitable for firewood or chipwood.

Current research on grey squirrel control measures includes the introduction of the native Pine Marten, which predates on grey squirrels, and the production of an oral fertility control vaccine, which it is hoped may be ready by 2021. As greys carry the squirrel pox virus, the re-introduction of the native Red Squirrel would not be successful here, though reds survive in the north of England, the Isle of Wight and Scotland.

The Great British Spring Clean

On 22nd April about thirty people joined for a cup of tea or coffee at the Home Farm before setting out to clean up the roadsides in our parish. Rubbish was collected in many areas including Red Lion Lane, Water End, Gaddesden Row and Ledgemore Lane. Dacorum Borough Council kindly provided sacks for re-cyclable and non-re-cyclable rubbish, litter picking grabs and fluorescent tabards, all organised by Sharon Row. At the time of writing not all the bags have been brought in, but currently there are over sixty bags awaiting collection by the council. Thank you, and well done to everybody who gave up their Saturday to take part.

Park and Ride

The first of this year’s Park and Ride events takes place on Sunday 29th April. Entry as usual is through the Equo website.
Show More
Gaddesden Estate News April 2018
As I write this we thought that we were past the spell of snow, frosts and winds called the “Beast from the East” and enjoying some spring weather, before the new blast came this week end.


Mainly due, I believe, to the cold weather on the continent, we have had large flocks of wood pigeons attacking the oilseed rape, particularly the fields near Hawbush Farm called Upper Longcroft.  To try to mitigate the damage we have put out several gas “guns”, which imitate the firing of a shotgun at random times, and scarecrows. In the meantime, pigeon shooters have been out reducing numbers and moving the pigeons on, as well as shooting for the pot.
The few dry days we have had have been useful to enable us to apply liquid nitrogen fertiliser to boost the growth of the rape, to get it to grow away from the pigeons.
The next jobs on the arable side will be to apply nitrogen to the wheat, which is generally looking jolly good all round the farm, and to drill (sow) the spring oats in the Highbush/Farthings area behind Bridens Camp and the Glennisters block on Marsh Farm, behind the Village Hall.

We are going to be growing a large area of spring sown oats this year, about double the area of last year, and are hoping to produce about 600 tonnes in total.  Last year’s crop was sent to be milled into porridge and other oat products by a miller in Crewe, and we’re aiming for the porridge market again this year. 
One thing we are doing differently is that we are experimenting with planting rows of white clover in between the rows of oats this year.  The theory behind this (and it is only theory at this point) is that the clover will help the oats by fixing nitrogen in the soil, will suppress weeds to the extent that hopefully no selective herbicides will be required, will add carbon and organic material to the soil and will also benefit the following wheat crop, which will be planted in the autumn straight into the clover, once the oats have been harvested.  The mechanics of this have required a fair bit of tinkering in the workshop as the rows of clover seeds have to be planted on top of the soil and lightly scratched, whilst the oats are drilled deeper in.  Hopefully we’re nearly there, and so the one machine will be planting both oat and clover seeds at different depths and adding some starter fertiliser to the oats all at the same time.  Time will tell if we are successful!  
We have had a clear out of “tackle” disposing of various redundant pieces of machinery, including our old hedgecutter, which have hung over since the days we had livestock. There is often a problem on most farms, as one is tempted to hang onto things in case “they might come in useful”!


The firewood from the thinnings of the Farm Woodland Scheme areas has now been shifted by the merchant, and we are still awaiting collection of the sawlogs from Newlands Wood. We are currently in the middle of planting up the storm damaged area of Big Wood at Bridens Camp, three quarters with Douglas Fir, but with blocks of English Oak amongst it, as well as some other species to make a mixture. The area is quite rough and wet; before the parish Tithe Map of 1836 it comprised two small arable fields called Hither and Further Moulders. The trees have to be protected from pests including rabbits and deer, so are guarded with 1.5 meter plastic netting tubes, and each surrounded by a bio-degradable mulch mat, to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
We continue our efforts to control grey squirrels, which can cause devastating damage to broadleaved trees, in particular beech, oak and sycamore. Because the use of Warfarin rodenticide, formerly recommended by the Forestry Commission, has been banned from woodland by the EU, we have to rely on shooting; trapping is possible but very labour intensive.
Deer also do considerable damage to young trees This can be by browsing off natural regeneration, thus preventing young seedlings from growing into saplings on their way to becoming trees. Male deer, bucks, grow new antlers each year and at first, they are covered by a thin fleshy layer called “velvet” which provides a blood supply to the growing antlers. When the antlers are fully grown, the bucks need to get rid of the “velvet” and they do this by thrashing their antlers on the stems of young trees, frequently removing all the bark thus destroying the conduit of nutrients from the soil, and so either killing or preventing the trees from growing into timber.
Of the two main species of deer here, Fallow Deer may only be shot during restricted seasons for bucks and does, while Reeves’s Muntjac, which breed throughout the year can be shot at any time, though mainly before the summer foliage grows in the woods. We have also very occasionally seen Roe Deer and Chinese Water Deer.

Estate Management

Until the weather improves and we are able to get on with external redecoration and continue our programme of upgrading windows in order to improve the ratings under Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), our principal project has been to refurbish Mill Hill Farm Cottage. As this stands on a very windy hill top, above Highbush/Farthings field we wonder whether there was ever a windmill on the site, though we have so far been able to find no record of one. It could of course have been so named just because it is on the hill above Noake Mill at Water End! The former lane to Mill Hill was recorded as either “Mill Hill Lane” or “Farthynghill Lane”. Incidentally the name “Farthings”, which has dropped out of use, normally indicates that the field was in mediaeval times divided into strips as part of the parish “open filed system of cultivation, as we know the parkland below Gaddesden Place once was.

Commercial Property

Unit 1 at the Home Farm Business Centre is available to let, please contact the Estate Office 01442 252421 [email protected] . This is a unit of approximately 530 sq. Ft. and is ready for occupation, having just had a new kitchenette fitted. As with changes of occupation to residential property, from time to time there is a turnover as occupants’ business conditions fluctuate. We are very pleased to welcome Quorn Stone to Unit 6 in the Oakengrove Yard at the Home Farm.

Estate Ride and Horse Paddocks

The ride has been used occasionally by hardy riders who have ventured out in the winter, and soon the time will come for the jumps to be re-furbished for the summer and the ground harrowed and rolled. The same applies to the let grazing where we are also continuing our programme of new fencing. The monthly Park And Rides begin in 29th April and as usual entry is through the Equo website: .

The Gaddesden Estate’s new Website

Finally, as the result of several months’ work we now have a splendid new website; do have a look at this:
Show More
Gaddesden Estate News February 2018

With the snow in December and with wet conditions since we have not been able to get out onto the ground, but fortunately there is little to do in the fields until the spring work comes around. Even the normally hard tracks are soft or breaking up, so much so that a timber lorry got stuck in January and couldn’t collect its load!

With the short hours of daylight, most of the time has been concentrated around the yard. Lorries come to collect wheat and oats (which are going to Mornflake Foods in Crewe to make porridge; in the past the other main market has been for high quality feed for Newmarket racehorses). This year we will be growing spring oats again.

These commodities are of course from last summer’s harvest. These lorries are rather like London busses, all is quiet then two or three turn up at once needing to be loaded, ready to go off to the mills.

The other big event has been our annual inspection for the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme. This enables all our produce to be certified under the “Red Tractor” label. I am pleased to say that we passed this with the Home Farm being approved as “ship shape and Bristol fashion”! This not only involves making sure everything complies with the scheme requirements, but also involves a great deal of office work over the year, so we can provide a “Paper trail” for all the inputs on the farm, fertilisers and sprays, what supplier they came from, on which field where they used and at what rate and in what conditions. 


As part of a drive for better efficiency across the farm we decided to sell our hedge-cutter and to contract out all our hedge-cutting; most of the roadside hedges have been very beautifully trimmed, though the ground is too wet to cut most of the internal hedges. As mentioned in previous years, hedges - other than on roadsides - are cut in rotation, in accordance with our Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme (HLS). Hedges are trimmed during the winter months, and as far as possible after the birds have had most of the berries. By trimming on rotation some of the hedges are left to fruit for longer. This also enables biennial plants to flourish.

 Paddock Fencing

Last year we re-fenced one paddock with a new metal fencing system, which is proved to be much more satisfactory than the conventional post and wire fences, so we intend to expand this system around the Home Farm.

Gaddesden Estate Ride and monthly “Park & Rides”

The inclement winter weather has meant that the ride has been used much less than usual, which has prevented the need to close it due to ground conditions.  We will again be holding our very popular “Park & Ride” events on the last Sunday of the summer months (though not in June as we have another event on the estate).


Before Christmas we were visited by a production company who used one of our buildings to make a documentary film about the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and two people who survived that awful camp came here to participate.

Water End Meadows and Gaddesden Estate Ride

For legal reasons we close the access to the Water End Meadows along the River Gade between Water End and Great Gaddesden for 36 hours every year. This year the closure will be between 6pm on 12th and 6 am on 14th March. This does not apply to public rights of way. For similar reasons the Ride will be closed over the same period. There is a notice about this, elsewhere in the Newsletter.


We currently have two office units of 586 and 516 square feet available to let at the Home Farm Business Centre. If you are interested, please apply to [email protected] or ring 01442252421 .

Otherwise on the property front we are repairing gutters and tiles and slates which were damaged in the recent gales, we are making plans for routine summer maintenance. 


The government has announced new support for forestry within 35 miles of the HS2 corridor and we are looking into the proposals to see if there is anything that might apply to the woodlands here. In the meantime, we are planning to re-plant a block of Big Wood which had bad wind damage a few years ago.



Show More
Tough Mudder 2018 at the Gaddesden Estate
In July 2018 the Gaddesden Estate will be hosting Tough Mudder. the extreme obstacle course, for the first time.

‘Tough Mudder London North’ will be a brand new course, ‘featuring the unmistakable combination of classic obstacles, innovative challenges and mud’.

The 10-mile route (a half-distance course is also available) will run entirely off-road around the estate and feature 20+ obstacles.

For more information and to book tickets visit:
Show More
Gaddesden Estate News - December 2017/January 2018

All the autumn work on the Home Farm has now been completed. We have two areas left for spring cropping, the area around Glennisters field overlooking Gade Valley and the Highbush/Farthings block overlooking the “Red Lion”. We have not yet made a decision about what to plant. The Spring Oats did well for us in the 2017 harvest so some of the area will probably go down to oats.

Brexit and farming

Agriculture will be dramatically affected by withdrawal from the Common Agricultural Policy, the “CAP”. As yet we do not know what new policies will come into force to replace those from Europe, nor exactly when they will be implemented, though our own long-term goals already include continually seeking ways to improve efficiency in the production, while  prioritising long-term sustainability. Among other things, this means experimenting with techniques such as no-till, a low-impact sowing method which both reduces diesel consumption and helps preserve soil health.  The last change as momentous as this, apart from our entry into the then Common Market, was the Agriculture Act 1947, and while it might present some exciting and much-needed changes, we must hope that the UK industry remains healthy enough to maintain its position as a global leader in terms of quality of produce together with environmental stewardship. In a worst-case scenario, if the UK cannot feed itself, then we are not only at the mercy of external market forces, which will dictate prices, but we lose control over how our food is produced.


A few years ago we had strong winds in the winter following some thinning of a 1970 plantation, Compartment 7k in Big Wood. About 1 ½ acres was damaged with some trees being completely blown over and some snapped off at about 8 feet. Thanks to Peter Hall and his machinery we have been able to clear the site of broken tree trunks and stumps and plan in early spring to re-plant. This is not classified as “Ancient Woodland” as it was farmland until the early 19th Century. We are planning to experiment with a number of species, predominantly conifers which are recommended as being resilient to climate change. The mixture will certainly include Douglas Fir with probably some Coast Redwood, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar.

Internet and website

Over the past few months we have been busy in the Estate Office upgrading our IT, which involves not only improving our operating system and email but also completely rewriting our website, commissioning new photographs, and making it tablet and telephone compatible.  All being well we hope to go live in the new year (


We have had a few small events this year, the most recent being an autumn foraging day, run by a firm called “Woodland Ways”. We hosted two days this year, one in spring and one in autumn, and both proved very popular, with participants being introduced to edible (and poisonous!) plants and fungi. They are shown how to make a camp fire and then cook what they have foraged. Dates for 2018 will be announced on Facebook in due course.

The Cloth of Gold Archery club continue to hold their field archery events in Stable Wood


Many will have noticed the high-vis film direction signs around the parish which sprout up from time to time. They show that we have had a busy season with various aspects of the film industry. Gaddesden Place has been a popular location since the 1960s. In recent years the Unit Base for films there has been based on the estate, usually in the Home Farm yard. Filming around the estate has taken place as well, including “The Child in Time” with Benedict Cumberbatch. Two major productions are going out on the BBC and Amazon next year.
Kath Grayson

We sadly have to report that Kath Grayson of Mill Hill Farm passed away in late September. Kath was Irish and had lived with her late husband, Mike, at Mill Hill for 30 years or so, from where they ran the “Loch Creran” Clydesdale working horses. They participated with great success in many shows, including the Royal Show and the Dacorum Steam Fair, horse drawn ploughing competitions and in conjunction with Nick Sutton used these great horses for forestry work.

Residential Property

We continue the regular round of repairs and maintenance and have welcomed several new families to live on the estate over the past few months.

Commercial Property

Since I last reported new businesses joining the estate have included Tandem Creative, a TV Film and Video production company, Shire Homecare Services and Design Corse, a specialised motor cycle parts business.

Estate Ride

Chantal McDouall has joined us to help with our various horse enterprises, the livery yard, grazing paddocks Gaddesden estate Ride and “Park and Rides”.

The Ride itself goes from strength to strength. Lots of people, horses and ponies took part in the monthly Park and Ride Events, in association with the British Horse Society, as well as becoming regular members of the ride. The Charity Ride in September raised £2,000 for the Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association, and £500 for the BHS. The RDA held their own ride the same day for which Bruce Claridge raised another £2,000.

Show More
Ride Membership: Discounts Available for Winter Joiners
The Gaddesden Estate Ride follows an 8 mile route through this very special part of the Chilterns' Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Primarily off-road, the route features 30 optional jumps, including two jump complexes, with fences suitable for both novices and more confident riders.

Annual ride membership, which runs from 1st June, starts at £90 per rider, and allows access throughout the year*. However we also offer discounts to members joining late in the season, with a sliding price scale depending on the time of year.

To find out more, and for a Ride membership form, visit our Ride webpage, or email [email protected]

*The Ride is closed on Saturdays throughout the shooting season, and occasionally on other dates throughout the year.
Show More
Park & Ride Events - Booking Now Open for 2018
Booking is now live for our 2018 Park & Ride events. With many of our popular early slots filling up well before the closing deadline last year early booking for this summer is recommended!

The dates for 2018 are:
29th April
27th May
29th July
26th August
30th September (special charity day with all proceeds going to the Riding for the Disabled

Please note that there will be no event in June due to preparations for the Tough Mudder event which takes place on 7/8 July.

Following the route of the Gaddesden Estate Ride, our Park & Ride days provide the chance to take in an 8-mile, primarily off-road circuit through this unspoilt corner of the Chiltern hills. The route includes 30 optional jumps suitable for experts and novices alike, including two jump complexes.

Refreshments, a loo and running water are available on the day.

Tickets are £20 per horse and rider (£25 for our special charity day in September). To book, and for full details of the day, visit Equo Events (
Show More
Gaddesden Estate News October 2017
Charity Ride

The Charity Ride, mainly in aid of the Gaddesden Place Riding For The Disabled Group will have taken place on the last Sunday in September, as it has for the past few years. At the time of writing we are expecting 105 riders to complete the course of about 10 miles, mostly on the Estate, though this number is likely to increase.

Harvest 2017
I mentioned the Hagberg test for milling wheat in last month’s newsletter. Crops have to go through a number of tests in order to meet specification.
Another important test is “Bushel weight”, properly known as “Specific weight”, measured in kilograms per hectolitre. The young and sprightly will of course remember what a bushel is, other than something to not hide your light under! A UK bushel, still used as a measure of grain volume in America (see below), is a measure equal to eight Imperial Gallons. (A US Bushel is slightly smaller as it is worked back to a US pint of 16 UK Fluid Ounces, rather than the UK 20 Fl. Oz.)
Grain has been sold by weight, ton before the EU and tonne now, in the UK for all my working life.   Different grades of wheat will have different criteria that must be met, but generally speaking the higher the weight for a given volume, the Bushel Weight, the more valuable the crop.
The bushel, in which grain is traded on commodity markets and for production reports, is now a unit of weight. This is done by assigning a standard weight to each commodity that is to be measured in bushels. These bushels depend on the commodities being measured, and on the moisture content of the commodity.

Harvest 2018
All the 2017 Rape ground has been cultivated with three passes of tackle, except where we have run over the areas of black-grass with our new Cambridge rolls; these are fitted with “paddles” which can be used to break clods and uproot the black-grass seedlings. The Oat and fallow land at Whitehouse Farm and Upper Wood has received a similar treatment, without the rolling.  The Oilseed rape for harvest 2018 was planted in the middle of August.  Where it has established it looks to be flourishing, but in other areas it has had very high pressure from slugs, particularly at its earliest stages, and decisions on what to do with failed areas need to be taken imminently.  The pressure from Cabbage-stem Flea-beetle, which is can be another devastating pest particularly in Hertfordshire and East Anglia has been low this year, and we have not had to use any insecticides.
Some of the ground which will be used for a Spring crop next year which has been deep cultivated to aid drainage.  In the past there was much more of a need for this when every field was ploughed and compacted layers called pans developed below the ploughing.  It is an expensive process and is now done only in specific situations.   In Highbush/Farthings Field we have sown a “cover crop” of vetch, which will be destroyed in due course before another crop is grown. The remainder of the ground will have a pass with a light disc / press combination to assist with the breakdown of residues from this harvest.  Drilling the winter Wheat on the remainder of the farm will soon be upon us.
Before we can apply any more sprays we will be changing the wheels on the sprayer to wider wheels with low ground-pressure tyres. This avoids compacting the seed-bed.

Hedge cutting and fencing
Hedge cutting has begun, as the rules permit from the beginning of September. First of all we have been tackling the paddocks at Whitehouse Farm, where we are investing in some new high-tensile fencing, in the hope that we can avoid the regular damage to fences that horses seem to do! Hedge-cutting continues throughout the winter months.

Woodland work is on-hold at the moment, though we plan to do some planting in Big Wood later in the season, with Douglas Fire that we have grown from seed in the greenhouse.

Gaddesden Estate Ride
The Charity Ride sees the conclusion of the 2017 series of monthly “Park & Ride” events which we have held over the summer and we hope to continue next year.

We have welcomed several new occupants to residential properties, as well as new business tenants at the Home Farm and Whitehouse Business Centres. External redecoration continues, the estate office having just been completed.

We have had a busy period providing both film locations and Unit Bases over the past few months. This included being called out at week-ends and in the middle of the night to take a tractor to pull out several lorries which had become stuck!

Tough Mudders
We have reached an agreement with “Tough Mudder”  to hold an event over the week-end of 7th-8th July 2018. Estate residents and households local to the estate will receive a letter explaining about this event, which will inevitably cause an increase in traffic over that week-end and a certain amount of inconvenience to people in the area, though of course everybody is welcome to apply to take part!

Rights of Way Hearing
We were very pleased that following the hearing in public at the Village Hall on 4th July, the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State refused to endorse the Order upgrading the rights of way at Briden’s Camp.
Show More