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Gaddesden Estate News September 2019

With this very wet August, bearing in mind that I am writing before the predicted warm and dry August Bank Holiday, we have not yet started to cut the wheat or the barley, though we are expecting that the combine harvester will begin this very afternoon.
The first wheat to be cut will be the “JB Diego” on the slopes of the Gade Valley overlooking Water End and Great Gaddesden.  Hopefully it will have kept its quality through all the wet weather and will be good enough to be made into Weetabix.  Too much rain during harvest means that the wheat can begin to sprout, meaning it is only good for animal feed. 

The ground will then be sown with Oilseed rape almost straight away. This year’s rape harvest in July, on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms, north of Gaddesden Row, went well and it has all been sold and moved. The land has been cultivated ready for 2020 winter wheat.
Our linseed, lovely though the blue flowers looked a few weeks ago, has been infested with weeds, notably black grass and fat hen. The latter is a close relative of the popular health food, Quinoa. Cutting will need to wait until it is fully ripe and the stalks are thoroughly dry. Otherwise the straw causes a block-up inside the combine harvester, which can be difficult, not to say very uncomfortable to clear.  In the past the straw was used for making rope, so it can be very tough!

Market prices for all commodities are very volatile at the moment, with currency fluctuations, Brexit uncertainty over tariffs, erratic predictions of the American crop and Trump’s trade wars all playing a part. 

Upperwood Farm
We recently had a visit from Jeff Graham of Nevada, the son of the late Mac Graham, and whose grandfather was Mr Thomas Graham, the former farm tenant of Upperwood Farm; indeed, my father often referred to the farm as “Graham’s” long after he had retired.
He kindly delivered a packet of farm records dating from the 1930s and 1940s, including interesting soil surveys and cattle movement books.

Another unusual historic document, which we were shown the other day, was a printed notice of Second World War invasion precautions signed by my grandfather, Canon Frederick Halsey, who was chairman of the Parish Council at the time¸ as well as being the vicar.

Forestry – High Park Wood- and deer management
The felling of the ash trees in High Park Wood has not begun yet, though the contractors are due this month. I apologise for any disruption there may be to walkers.

The deer have been playing havoc again to the young trees in Big Wood. When harvest is completed our stalker will be undertaking his annual deer count. Even with culling, we anticipate that this will rise again. Deer numbers are anticipated to be particularly high in Abel’s Grove and Newlands Wood, just over the Flamstead parish boundary.

Former Pub Garden in Briden’s Camp
We were delighted with the number of residents who attended the exhibition in the Cricket Pavilion to view the proposed development in Briden’s Camp.  We would like to mention our appreciation and to thank everybody who came and participated.  We are evaluating the comments received and the proposals will be revised to address local concerns.

Estate Management
Little to report¸ apart from regular maintenance, though we had a major water leak at the Home farm on the old brittle alkathene pipe. This was very new and up to date when installed in the 1960s but has been subject to leaks in flinty ground for many years. This has now been replaced by a new length of pipe and we believe that there is little of the old pipe still in use around the estate, apart from some of the field supplies at Hawbush Farm and the Park in front of Gaddesden Place.

Charity Ride
The summer “Park and Rides” have gone well this year, following a relatively slow start, due to the hard work of Chantal and the RDA Volunteers, not to mention Rob Pratt and his Wagu beef burgers! The Charity Ride, in aid of the Gaddesden Place Group of the Riding for the Disabled Association, takes place on 15th September.  Entries, as usual, are via the “Equo” website: