Latest News

Gaddesden Estate News November 2018

The oilseed rape, a variety called “Extrovert” was drilled north of Gaddesden Row at Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms the week before the August Bank Holiday, as usual. It established well and has been enjoying the warm weather.  The crop came under attack from cabbage stem flea beetles immediately after planting, but it was strong enough to weather the storm.  Consequently it has had no insecticides applied to it, which is excellent news, and very little crop has been lost.  This pest has been very damaging to oilseed rape crops in recent years, particularly in the East of England, and so to get through the autumn without having to treat for it is a great relief.  
The winter wheat has now all been drilled, with two varieties, “Graham”, a Group 4 biscuit wheat around Hawbush Farm and JB Diego, known to be good as a 2nd cereal, after the oats on the Glennisters Block overlooking Gade Valley and the Highbush Block overlooking Water End. 
A dry September and generally kind conditions have meant that drilling (planting) has taken place later than in previous years.  With little rainfall, weed growth before planting has been minimal.  This is not necessarily a good thing, as the ideal scenario is to encourage the weeds to grow, and then kill them, prior to planting the crop.  In the end we took advantage of good conditions and went ahead to establish the wheat, having waited a good length of time and leaving the weediest fields till last to enable a better kill.  Leave it too late and the wheat plants do not have enough time to make use of the autumn sunshine, which leads to a yield penalty come harvest.  
Hedge cutting has begun, but so far only on the internal sides of the fields due for drilling, when access is possible. As I have mentioned before, hedge cutting is done on a two or three year rotation, among other things to save the wild berries for the birds.

Estate management
We have had three cottages vacant and needing refurbishment. 20 The Park is now let and we welcome new occupant.  54 Bridens Camp is still available, though currently viewing, and the Golden Lodge needs major refurbishment before available to let. We continue the programme of installing double glazed windows, as well as dealing with regular items such as boiler servicing, replacement oil tanks and other maintenance.

Grazing and stables
We welcome new grazing occupants at Mill Hill and Marsh Farms.  Three paddocks have recently  been fenced with the new fencing we used at Whitehouse last year, with galvanised steel posts and electrified top wire.  These posts are guaranteed for 30 years, which is a significant improvement over the length of time that timber posts seem to last in our wet clay soil.  It is interesting to note that some of the Victorian cast iron gate posts around the estate are still perfectly sound more than a century later, so we hope the investment in their modern equivalent will stand us in good stead for many years to come! 
The Estate Ride continues to be popular, even through the very had going this past summer. We are planning a major survey of the jumps this winter and consequent repairs and improvement. The monthly Park & Rides this summer were much enjoyed and we hope to run these again next year. The Charity Ride at the end of September was well attended and raised £2,000 for the Gaddesden Place Group of the Riding for the Disabled.
Most of the trees we planted in Big Wood last winter, mostly Douglas Fir with a sprinkling of Oak, thankfully survived the summer drought, though we still have some to replace from our small stock we grew from seed. This operation is known by foresters by the arcane expression “beating up”, which has no implication of violence! I believe it to come from mediaeval English.
Deer have done damage to the tree guards and our management of the population continues.

John Massey
Many readers will remember John Massey who managed the Home Farm from 1964 until 1989, who sadly died recently. He undertook a major overhaul of the farm introducing modern methods and establishing the Oakengrove Herd of Pedigree British Friesian cows. He won a Nuffield Scholarship which enabled him to travel to America and Australia studying aspects of agriculture. He also served on the Parish Council and Dacorum Council.