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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.