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Gaddesden Estate News November 2019

I am afraid that there is very little to write about this month, particularly if we avoid referring to Brexit!
“Farming” at present is a term to be taken with a pinch of salt! Farmers are renowned for complaining about the weather; however, this year I think we might be justified in doing so, certainly in this part of England. We have done virtually no fieldwork since the conclusion of harvest, apart from spraying off “volunteers”.

The ground has been so saturated that it has been impossible to drill (sow) any of the winter wheat, which is our main crop, or winter barley. Even if the weather dries up and we can get on the land, germination and growth will be affected by the drop in soil temperature and reduced length of daylight. The principal consequence of this will be an increased yield penalty as the delay in drilling continues.
On the positive side, the produce from the 2019 harvest continues to be moved by the grain merchants’ hauliers, even though the lorries sometimes turn up unexpectedly!
As I write, just before the deadline, we have at last begun to drill Winter Barley, a six-row hybrid variety called “Belmont”. Barley strains are divided between six row and two-row. This refers to the number of rows of grain in the ear. Two-row is usually used for malting, while six-row goes for feed. The field being sown is called Long Robins, or just Robins.  On the old parchment maps there used to be several fields called Robins: Hither, Further and Broad as well as Long. I sometimes wonder if they were called after the same person who gave his name to that part of Bradden Lane known as Black Robins. Long Robins has always been a high yielding field, being close to the Home Farm and having received generations of farmyard manure!
Still little news about the contractors for High Park Wood, hopefully they will arrive during the next few weeks. I fear, though, that having missed the dry weather, they are sure to make quite a lot of mud in the wood and ruts when extracting the timber to roadside.
Other estate matters
Ongoing maintenance still continues, including checking over all our grazing fields for damage to fences and water troughs, as well as assessing the quality of the grass.

A big exercise the past month has been relaying the water main supplying the stackyard, Dutch Barn and the main yard wash-down standpipe. This involved hiring a large tracked excavator and digging across the farm drive, or “chase” as they call it in Essex; and then trenching around the grain stores and stackyard.

Our next major project is the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge, including installing a new kitchen and redecoration and carpeting throughout, as well as attention to the roof.

In October, we were honoured with a visit from thirty children and their teachers from Hemel Hempstead School. The school “houses” are called after local villages and a new house has been started called “Gaddesden”. These were the first pupils to join the new house. They ate their packed lunches in the Orchard Barn and had a group photograph in front of the Golden Parsonage, followed by visiting the house and hearing a bit about its history.