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Gaddesden Estate News March 2020

As I write this, after Storm Chiara and Storm Dennis my mind turns to the Creation story in the Book of Genesis and the reference to “the waters that are above the firmament”. We have certainly seen a great deal of them this past winter! Yesterday we had what was virtually a “winter bourn” flowing across the Home Farm, beginning at the watershed on our boundary with Ledgemore Farm and flowing across Cherrytree Field, Long Robins, Bingham’s Bottom, Elmtree Park and into Miles’s Bottom. We have seen this before, but not for many years. There have been very strong winds, but unlike previous years, though there have been some trees and limbs down, most of the buildings remain sound, apart from some tiles and slates.

In odd dry spells we have been able to put some fertiliser onto the oilseed rape, though this is very poor in some fields, and spray off the land needed for spring cropping. Hedge cutting has continued, but because of the poor ground conditions not all will be complete before the official deadline of the end of February.

With the lengthening daylight hours, the cereals are beginning to move. Apart from some poor patches where the slugs have had a “field day”, the wheat north of Gaddesden Row on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms is not looking too bad, while, apart from one field, the winter barley is generally alive but not too happy. A good spell of sunshine would do the crops (and us!) a lot of good.

Quincentenary Celebrations
Plans are going on apace for the celebration of 500 years since John Halsey became the tenant of the Golden Parsonage and its farmland. The land was owned by the Priory of King’s Langley, where the prior was the Rector of Great Gaddesden. When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the late 1530’s he took over all their land, gradually selling it off to raise money for the exchequer. In 1544 John’s son William, as sitting tenant, was able to buy the farm, then about 200 acres, for £174 13s 4d.

We are holding a Thanksgiving Service in the church on 4th April at which the Bishop of St Albans has kindly agreed to preach and a farm walk and exhibition in May. We also have other plans, including an Oral History project and a special Charity Ride in September.

As many readers and who walk in High Park Wood will know the contactors for the firm who bought the ash thinnings had to stop work in the autumn because they found that  many of the trees were too large to be processed using a harvester. They are now proposing to complete the work employing hand cutters.

In Big Wood deer damage has been bad again in the compartment we replanted a couple of years ago, the deer have thrashed around the tree guards (which were meant to protect the trees from them!) removing them from the saplings and frequently destroying them.
Fortunately, we have had few trees blown down, though a few old beeches succumbed to storm Chiara, and some Norway Spruce in Big Wood also fell.

Estate Management
In recent weeks much time has been spent repairing damage caused by the recent storms, such as missing tiles and slated and fallen gutters. Farm roads and tracks have suffered considerable damage through the winter mainly due to the level and frequency of rainfall.
Our main focus continues to the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge, which requires a top-to-toe overhaul.

Annual road closures and Water End meadows
As usual the roads and tracks on the estate, including the meadows between Water End and Great Gaddesden, will have their annual closure between 6pm on Monday 16th March until 6 am on Wednesday 18th March. Public rights of way are not affected and remain open.