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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.



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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:
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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.

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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.
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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 (
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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.
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