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Gaddesden Estate News July/August 2020

As we reach Midsummer harvest is not far ahead. In normal years we would be thinking about a holiday before the busy harvest and autumn work begins, but it goes without saying, this isn’t a normal year! Not only have we had the effect of Covid 19, but the crops have lived through the wettest of winters, followed by a near-drought in April and May. At the time of writing, it looks as though harvest will be early, with the Oilseed Rape and the Winter Barley being ready in mid July.

The showers in June have certainly helped both the winter and spring  crops, which were beginning to feel the effects of the lack of rain, though it would not be unreasonable to say that this is only where there is a crop growing that survived the winter.

The spring and early summer work on the farm is now slowing down as the crops begin to reach maturity, though we have been busy planting a cover crop on areas of failed oilseed rape, wheat and barley.  This is a multispecies mix that will ensure living roots growing though the summer months, capturing as much sunlight and carbon as possible, and setting the land in good heart for next year’s crops.  

As I recorded last month, we have had an abundance of wildlife, seeing badgers, foxes and even a roebuck, which is rarely encountered here. Other deer have been around, with the head and antlers of a fallow buck appearing above the ripening barley and a muntjac (sometimes called Barking Deer) slinking across the farm track into Marsh Wood, and sometimes barking in the evenings. The birds continue to use the bird feeders in the garden, and we have seen the yellowhammer is its usual place in the hedge along the footpath between two of the barley fields, Long Meadow and Long Robins. We hear the tawny owls calling but there has been no recent sighting of a barn owl.

We have seen a large number of lapwings this year, with many fields of spring crops having one or more nests on them.  We have had the thrilling sight of multiple chicks around the farm, and we are hopeful that a good number will reach maturity.  These beautiful birds thrive on open ground, and their camouflaged eggs make their nests very difficult for predators to spot as the parent birds dive bomb anything that comes close.  We had the wonderful sight of a group of 25 adults on Red Lion last week, so hopefully it will be a bumper year for them.   We have also seen them nesting on grassland for the first time in years, at Molly’s Meadow at Water End.  Molly’s Meadow commemorates Molly Besent who lived at Waterside Cottage and whose father was the Farm Bailiff.

Estate Maintenance
Work has been done on 55 Bridens Camp while it was unoccupied to counter some movement, and it has now been re-let. A building at Marsh Farm, which was constructed after the Second World War under the War Damage Compensation Scheme, has been repaired with new posts, lintel cut out of home-grown oak and re-hung doors. We will be moving onto the usual summer programme of re-painting. The cricket club are hard at work, while they are unable to play, rebuilding the roof of the old pavilion on Stable Meadow, the timbers of which were in a very poor state.

Ride and “Park and Ride” events
Since re-opening the ride last month, we are delighted to see members using it. Sadly, May and July’s “Park and Ride” events were cancelled due to obvious reasons; however, numbers are looking promising for 9th August and 13th September. Our September event is a special ‘Gaddesden 500’ day which will see the route take in areas not normally open to riders, including The Park in front of Gaddesden Place. The final event of the year is always held in aid of Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association. We hope to be able to give them an extra boost this year.  If you would like to join either of the days please visit or see our website:

Gaddesden 500
As I have previously written 2020 marks 500 years since John Halsey alias Chamber obtained the lease for the Golden Parsonage and Home Farm from Elizabeth, Prioress of Dartford in 1520, setting in motion half a millennium of continuous custodianship.

The COVID-19 virus indefinitely postponed several events we had planned to celebrate this milestone, including, in April and May respectively, a special family church service and a farm open day.  However, see above for our 'Gaddesden 500 Park & Ride' event on Saturday 13th September, which looks set to still go ahead.

Several projects have still been quietly coming together, however. Most notably this includes an oral history series being undertaken by Imperial War Museum historian and Great Gaddesden resident Jonathan Kempster, who we are extremely fortunate to have living on the doorstep. The first instalment of his recordings, with members of the farm workforce from the 1970s onwards, can be found on our website on a new ‘Gaddesden 500’ page ( as well as on SoundCloud ( – search for Gaddesden Estate).. Do have a listen and let us know if you enjoy them.