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Gaddesden Estate News September 2020

We are now a few weeks past haymaking time. The grass around the Golden Parsonage was mown for “haylage”. Nowadays this is a very quick operation, the grass is just being rowed into swaths after cutting and crimping. It is then baled. As quickly as possible it is wrapped in airtight plastic, the machine making a strange “swishing” sound as it spins the bales round. The wrapper preserves it, like “pickling” to produce a nutritious winter feed which is a cross between hay and silage, hence the name “haylage”.

On the wildlife front we have, at last, seen swallows and house martens, and on bright days many varieties of butterflies and moths.
We anticipate starting to cut the surviving oilseed rape in the third week of July. As I have mentioned before this crop is very poor, due both to the appallingly wet winter and a bad attack of cabbage-stem flee-beetle. Regular readers may recall that this insect used to be controlled by a neo-nicotinoid seed dressing, which was banned some years ago by the EU because of its apparent effect on bees. We have been fortunate over the past three years not to have suffered from the beetle, but this year it has really hit us.  The winter barley and the wheat also suffered badly from the wet winter. The barley should be ready soon after the rape, followed by the wheat.  The spring crops are fortunately looking promising, with oats, linseed and beans.  

Our main conundrum will be planning for the 2021 harvest and what break crops to grow, now that rape is no longer an option. It is important to have a crop rotation to avoid the build-up of pathogens. This was much easier when we had cattle on the farm as we rotated grass, both for grazing and for silage, with cereals.

Before harvest, an important task is thoroughly to clean out the grain stores and to make sure all the equipment is in apple-pie order, like having our moisture meter checked. Crops must be stored in a dry condition as they will often remain in the barn for up to eleven months, before they are sold; too damp and there is a risk the seed will start to germinate, drastically reducing its quality, for example, bread-making.

You may have read about ash dieback, sometimes called “chalara”, now re-named “Hymenoscyphus fraxineus”. This is prevalent around the Gaddesden woodlands, though it is more noticeable in younger trees. We are surveying the extent of the disease to see how much ash we need to fell, without upsetting the structure of the woods. Sadly, it will almost all go for firewood, rather than go into a more interesting market. We are also looking at selling a load of big oak trees, dating mostly from plantings in the 1830s.

Estate Work and lettings
On the estate works and lettings front, it is the time of year for undertaking external decorations and the continual on-going maintenance across the estate.  We welcome a couple and a family to two properties in Bridens Camp.
Ride and Park and Ride
Membership renewal for the Ride started at the beginning of July this year giving our members an extra month to make up for the time the ride was closed due to COVID. We have seen a good number of riders renewing and welcomed a few new members as well.
Our Park and Ride on the 9th August has had huge response with 140 riders booked on and only a few spaces left. Numbers for our charity ride in September are also looking promising. Following the difficult times over the past months, and having put in place a number of changes to keep us and our riders safe from the virus, we are really looking forward to seeing lots of smiling faces enjoying what we have to offer here on the Estate. To book a place on the September Ride, the proceeds from which go to the Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association, visit  
Weddings and Private Events
Over the years we have received numerous enquiries regarding holding weddings receptions here, but until now have not really had enough office capacity to manage smaller private events. Earlier in the summer we developed a partnership with specialist event planners Big Green Space ( and we are now able to accommodate private parties of varying sizes in a number of quite special locations. See, or email [email protected], for more details.

Social Media
We have had a Facebook page ( for some years now, but you will now also find us on Instagram: