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Gaddesden Estate News March 2019

I begin this month with forestry, which will be of interest to walkers in High Park Wood and on the public footpath in the Water Park Meadow. We will be thinning the ash trees in the wood in accordance with our Forestry Commission Felling Licence granted in 2012 under our Management Plan. This will reduce the canopy cover in the wood by around 30%. The contractors are aware of the public footpaths and will erect warning notices when forestry operations are taking place. The extraction route will lead to a stacking area adjoining the Ladies Mile (Nettleden Road). Unless conditions are very dry, there is bound to be some rutting where the timber is extracted.
We do have the ash disease known as Chalara ash dieback  (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) on the estate, which can make normally resilient ash branches go brittle and break in high winds. This as a secondary reason for undertaking the work now, due to the large number of rights of way within and approaching the wood.
Readers may recall that we replanted one of the compartments in Big Wood last year principally with Douglas Fir and some oak. Even with last year’s hot dry summer most of the trees survived. There has been considerable damage caused by deer playing with the tree guards. We are in the process of “beating-up” with transplants grown from seed in the kitchen garden at The Golden Parsonage.
It is possible that later this year we will be selling some mature oak, from Big Wood, for which there is a good demand at the moment.
We continue the programme of deer management as set out in our management plan. Up to now, we have been concentrating on two woods in Flamstead parish, but now are moving nearer the centre of the estate.
Our most precious resource is the soil. Much thought has gone into the best way of preserving and enhancing this to make it as healthy and long lasting as possible. To this end we ceased ploughing almost everywhere eighteen years ago, and moved to minimum tillage, known as “min-till”. This has a secondary advantage of releasing much less carbon into the atmosphere. We have investigated “no-till”, though this is only applicable to suitable soils, and unlikely to be practical here. Both methods are reliant on the herbicide Glyphosate, usually known as “Roundup”, about which there has been some controversy!
Winter crops have come through well, though the woodpigeons have attacked the oilseed rape badly in various places. Now, with the beautiful weather at the time of writing we are able to get on with the spreading of phosphate and potash fertiliser in solid form and liquid nitrogen. We grazed some of our Winter cover crops with a neighbour’s sheep and now all the cover crops are receiving a dose of glyphosate, preparatory for spring drilling. This year we have split the spring area between barley, hopefully for malting (Beer!), and linseed.
Other livestock news includes the lovely sight of spring lambs gambolling in the grassland at the Golden Parsonage, and cattle continue to graze Gaddesden Park.
Virtually all of the produce, wheat and oats, from 2018 harvest has now been sold and moved.
We have had a good go at hedge-cutting this winter, within our Environmental Stewardship parameters, as last year weather conditions precluded much work on the hedges. This operation has to finish by the end of February, in order not to disturb nesting birds.

Estate maintenance
One of the banes of our lives is water! Every winter we seem to have various winter water leaks. This year we had a particularly bad one at Whitehouse Farm.
We are as usual continuing the programme of redecoration and cottage maintenance, ensuring dwellings are up to EPC regulations, and seeing where we can make improvements, such as installing double glazed windows.
We are planning to re-build a wall at Gaddesden Place stables, which collapsed some years ago as well as possibly beginning a long programme of re-pointing the former kitchen garden wall. Our next major project will be the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge, which we hope to begin later this year.
We have been clearing redundant and long disused structures in the Home Farm yard such as old oil tanks, the rolled barley hopper (dating from the days of our “Barley Beef” unit) and the slurry ramp which was used to fill muck spreaders in the days of the dairy herd.

Horses and Ride
Due to the outbreak of Equine flu in February, we closed the ride for a few days, until racing resumed, well aware that several businesses on the estate were dependent on horses.
We are beginning our annual programme of Ride and jump repairs, which will take several weeks, as well as installing new fencing in some of the grazing paddocks.
The monthly “Park and Ride” events will take place as usual in the summer and the dates for these are on the “Equo” website.