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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: