What a strange season this has been; we had a very cold, late spring, followed by the “Beast from the East” and then suddenly we went into one of the hottest and driest summers that many people can remember.
We cut the oilseed rape at Hawbush Farm on 24th and 25th July.
Then back to the weather! Thankfully for most people and all gardeners the weather at last broke in August. We got back to harvesting the biscuit wheat variety “Barrell”, on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms, around 4th August, but the wet weather following it has meant that we didn’t begin cutting the feed wheat “JB Diego” until 19th August and finished on 21st.
Even so this is still timely, though the crop has stood in the field for several weeks ready for harvest. We can thank heaven that we did not suffer any devastating hail or thunderstorms, and we are now on track for a normal year, where we begin cereal harvest in the middle of the month.
The oilseed rape yield was down to 3 tonnes/hectare (about 24 cwt/acre). Our old pre-cleaner came into its own, enabling us to send a good clean sample to the crushers. The seeds were small, but the oil content was high, compensating somewhat for the lower production.
The Barrell wheat yielded under 9 t/ha, slightly disappointing, though we were pleased that the Diego came off at around 10 t/ha (80 cwt/ac). However, while wheat prices remain buoyant, and though yield is often said to be the critical factor, one is always pleased with a good price!
The final crop to be harvested will be the oats, though this crop is unlikely to make the deadline for the September Newsletter. Due to the relatively high moisture content of the Diego wheat, some time will have to be spent bucketing dry wheat from a drying store to the buffer store No 4, to make room for the oats.
Other work continues during harvest time, on days we cannot cut. Fencing work is in progress on some of the horse paddocks at Bridens Camp and Mill Hill Farm and in due course at Marsh Farm, ready for new clients.
We are in the process of sowing “cover crops” on the land designated for 2019 spring cropping, so the ground is not bare throughout the winter, and by the time you read this we should have drilled and rolled next year’s oilseed rape north of Gaddesden Row.
Our old grain store was last used in the year 2000 and we have at last been working on the removal of the redundant elevators and conveyors, as well as the tip-weigh and dresser, which we should be able to sell. We also demolished the rusty old rolled barley hopper, which dates from our long defunct Barley Beef Unit, which ceased in the 1980s.
Using our farm contractors tracked excavator, we have graded and cambered the farm drives, and a bonus of the hot sun has, we hope, hardened the surface, so that we can reduce our perennial pothole problems.
There is little to report, other than that the majority of the trees we planted in Big Wood in the early spring seem to have survived the drought. We will be able to see better in the winter, when most of the annual vegetation will have died down.
Unusually we will have three residential properties, in different parts of the estate, becoming available over the next few weeks. They all need a certain amount of refurbishment and where appropriate work to comply with the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). Please contact the Estate Office with any expressions of interest.
It is a very long time since the late Alan Lowdon, our last estate carpenter, retired. The Victorian carpenters’ shop in the former Timber Yard was used as a mess room and farm meeting room for many years and then by the shoot as a lunch room. We discovered problems with the valley gutters and so we have re-roofed the building so that it can have a useful future.
Following our Big Pick-Up earlier this year it is disappointing to see our country lanes, particularly Red Lion Lane again littered with cans, plastic bottles, fast food packets &c!
Park and Ride
We sadly had to cancel the July Park and Ride, due to the very hard going, but August’s is still in place, and of course we hope for a good turn out for the September Charity Ride on 30th.
Many of you will remember Derek Christopher, who founded not only our summer Park & Rides but the Ride itself. It seemed fitting to organise a Ride-related award in his memory. As such we are offering a prize for the most sponsorship raised for the RDA (Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Centre (Regd Charity no. 1140330)) by a rider taking part in this September event. We are asking participants to consider getting extra sponsorship with the aim of doubling what is currently donated to the RDA. Fancy dress is optional (though we'll also have a little something for the best-dressed rider).
If you would like to take part in the Charity Ride, bookings as usual through Equo www.equoevents.co.uk.
The September Charity Ride raises much needed funds for the Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled and the British Horse Society who very kindly help run our Park and Ride days throughout the year. If you would like to donate or volunteer for either of these good causes, please visit their websites for further details, http://www.gaddesdenplacerda.org.uk/ and http://www.bhs.org.uk/get-involved/donate.