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Gaddesden Estate News November 2020

First, for those who are kind enough to read these jottings, I must apologise for not writing anything for the September and October Newsletters. My only excuse is the upheaval of moving home after forty years at the Golden Parsonage!

The less said about the harvest of 2020 the better! We have all been affected in one way or another by the pandemic of Covid 19, so it is invidious of me to refer to the difficulties farmers have had over the past year. I talked about the prospects for harvest in earlier reports in previous months, and I can only say these predictions were justified. We are planning to sell all of this year’s produce and have it moved off the farm before Christmas.

Looking forward to 2021, we have sown down about a quarter of the farm to a conservation and fertility enhancing mixture of grasses and legumes, such as clover and burseem clover, and this is now being converted to organic.  This will be grazed, probably by sheep, though possibly by cattle in fields where the fencing is adequate, and will build fertility and capture carbon in the soil whilst going through the organic conversion process.  Hopefully, this process will be rolled out across the farm in the coming years, if all goes well. 

In between the downpours we have been busy sowing winter wheat on about half the farm, and a couple of very long days saw a good area drilled.  We hope to be able to pick off the remaining fields if the rain relents and we get a bit of sunshine.  The final quarter of the farm will be spring cropping, probably a mix of beans, oats or linseed.

We have now completed the felling, mainly of ash, in High Park Wood in accordance with our Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission. The next task is to mulch the “lop and top“ which remains on the ground, so that it is in a suitable condition for replanting. We now have to survey other ash trees on the estate and see if any are both suffering from “ash dieback”, and in a position where if they were to fall or drop a limb it might cause a danger. One ash tree recently fell across our telephone line and cut us off from broadband for a few days. Later we will programme our regular roadside tree survey.

We will be applying to the Forestry Commission for a Felling Licence to fell the ash trees in New Gorse, planted in 1984, which are badly infected by dieback, to continue thinning in one of our Farm Woodland Scheme blocks, planted 1990, and to fell some mature oak in Big Wood, planted in around 1830. The work will not take place before next summer, when the ground should be dry enough to carry heavy machinery.

We will be reviewing the Cricket Bat Willows on the Water End Meadows, with a view to harvesting some more next year and then replanting with new willow sets.   These quick growing trees have a relatively short lifecycle and having a mix of ages adds diversity to the landscape as well as providing timber for cricket bats. 

Estate maintenance
Work continues, and is hopefully almost complete, on refurbishing the Golden Lodge to bring it up to modern standards and to comply with a satisfactory EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating. The house has had to be completely re-roofed, re-wired and re-plumbed as well as insulated. It has also been reordered internally to include a third bedroom.

Other work does of course continue on the farm and commercial buildings, as well as routine boiler servicing, redecoration and other work to the cottages.

Commercial units
We have had quite a “general post” at Whitehouse Farm Business Centre, with businesses moving between units, others leaving and new ones being welcomed onto the estate.

Horse Enterprise, Ride and “Park and Rides”
John has done a wonderful job maintaining the ride, and as it stands today, we have lots of happy members!  Due to Covid we only hosted 2 Park and Rides this year, but they were a huge success, with both dates being fully booked with 145 participants on each date. We had wonderful feedback on social media, not only on our Facebook page but also on other equine sites. In total we are delighted to have raised £3,428.00 for Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association.

We also received several thank you emails complimenting the organisation of the events, how friendly and helpful the marshals were, the fantastic photography by Brian Finlay, Photographer and burgers by Marbled Meats of Northall.

Plans for next seasons Park and Ride are yet to be discussed, but all involved are happy to return in 2021.