Latest News

Gaddesden Estate News October 2019

What a difference a few days make! When I wrote last month, just before the August Bank Holiday, we were nearly a fortnight late as it was too wet to start the cereal harvest, but the weather changed and by the beginning of the following week “all was safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin”.

Harvesting is nowadays done at break-neck speed, with the combine sending as much as 60 tonnes of wheat per hour back to the farm on grain trailers.  The weather window was long enough for us to carry right through both varieties of wheat and the barley without drawing breath, making for a very hectic bank holiday weekend, but some nice full sheds to show for it in the end.    
Most of the wheat we have moved so far has gone off to Weetabix, and we are grateful that the crop managed to hold onto its quality through those wet weeks of August.  That said, a few loads have gone to Gilbertson & Page in Welwyn to be turned into dog biscuits!  The barley has all been accepted for malting, either for brewing or distilling for whisky. The 90 or so acres of linseed were rather disappointing, partly because we had to destroy areas which were riddled with black grass.

From now until Christmas we will be loading a stream of grain lorries. Each load has its “passport”, not only to ensure traceability for the purchaser, but also to check that everything is properly accounted for our end. Some forty years ago, before the days of farm assurance, a lorry load of wheat once went missing!  It was eventually tracked down and paid for, but thereafter we started recording the index number of the lorry and the driver’s name.

As usual all the wheat straw was shredded and incorporated into the soil, to return the nutrients. The barley straw was baled and sold to a neighbouring farmer, again a very fast job, much of the work being done at night.  This will be transported down to Devon where it will be used as bedding for cattle. 

Land work goes on apace for the 2020 harvest. The oilseed rape was drilled over the bank holiday, but has found it difficult to get away, probably because of the current lack of rainfall.  This has meant that the plants were unable to establish themselves strongly enough to resist attack, and some fields, particularly overlooking the Gade Valley, have been devastated by cabbage stem flea beetle and will have to be written off.  The ground for the wheat and barley crops for next year has been cultivated and is awaiting planting in a couple of weeks or so. 

We save some of our wheat as seed for the following harvest, so today we had a visit from a large seed cleaner-dresser machine. Wheat is fed in one end from a trailer, which is constantly re-filled by the JCB loader; good seed is bagged from chutes at the side, while the chaff and extraneous material feeds into another trailer.

Some twenty-five years ago, when there was still a dairy herd at the Home Farm, new cattle cubicles were installed in one of the barns.  The old concrete base had to be broken up and the lumps were spread at the top of Parson’s Hill. Last week we hired in a concrete crusher, a huge tracked machine which was able to break these lumps into a material of a practical size, which can be used for repairing farm roads.

The work in High Park Wood has still not begun, as the contractors are gradually moving westwards from East Anglia. We understand that they have now reached Bedfordshire, so they shouldn’t be too long!
Following harvest, the annual deer count was undertaken over the whole estate, and deer culling has resumed around the woods. As I have mentioned previously, a lot of damage was done in the spring to the newly planted trees in Big Wood.

The summer season for Park and Ride events finished with the Grand Finale of the Charity Ride, in which around seventy riders took part. We shall soon be having our annual meeting to discuss future plans for the ride.