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Gaddesden Estate News December/January 2020/21

The good news is that all the conservation grass/clover mix on five fields, Great Almonds, Long Meadow, Long Robins, Cherry Tree and Reynolds Field is doing really well. Rob Pratt is currently grazing his flock of sheep on Long Meadow. This mix is to give us a lead into the plan for organic conversion, aiming to have good soil structure and fertility for drilling next autumn. The winter wheat planted on the fields which run along the loom of the hills, where the ground is mainly free-draining chalk, is looking well. However, the less said about the plateau land the better! We got some of it drilled during a dry spell some weeks ago, but not all by any means and much of what has been sown has rotted in the wet soil. We now have to think about whether to attempt to drill the remaining land with winter wheat if we get enough cold dry days, or buy in spring wheat seed in the hope we can drill in the early part of 2021.

Field Names
The origin of many of the field names is lost on the mists of time, but others are quite new. Of those mentioned above Great Almonds was called Great Harman’s Field in the 1700s, presumably once farmed by a Mr Harman; Long Meadow is self-explanatory and is the field that runs from the Home Farm to the Golden Parsonage; Long Robins was originally three fields: Hither, Broad and Further Robins. I always wonder is it is the same Robin who gave his name to Black Robins Lane. Cherry Tree was so called by 1740, and Reynolds commemorates Maurice Reynolds and his father Geoff, of Ledgemore Farm, who was farm manager for the Wood family at The Hoo for many years and a churchwarden.

Upperwood Farm Stud
Greg Parsons writes: The foaling season started off at the beginning of February and really got into full swing from March we had 12 foals born here this year with the last arriving on the 10th of June, we were a little down on numbers this year with a several of mares having a rest year,

Our next problem then arose how were we going to get the mares back in foal again with the country being in lockdown.
Fortunately due to some fantastic negotiations between the Thorough Breeders Association and Government the industry was able to carry on travelling mares to stallions around the country but having to observe the most stringent hygiene protocols for the driver no stopping en route and not leaving the vehicle at your destination and all paperwork being forwarded electronically to the stallion studs and all movements recorded with Weatherbys the overseeing administrator of the industry.
I must say it was fantastic to travel around the country with very little traffic and a lot quicker a journey to Newmarket was taking around 20 minutes less and driving no faster than I normally do.

Due to the footpaths and bridle paths passing through the stud we soon became very popular with people out on exercise during lockdown and we saw far more walkers and mountain bikers than we have in the last 21 years here!
In October we saw a downturn in the yearling sales figures, but this was understandable with the economy being somewhat shaky and we are not really one of life's essentials more a luxury.

At the stud in October we coppiced around 2000 meters of hedging that had become overgrown and very thin and soon any gaps and thin areas will be replanted with native hedging whips.

Replacement fencing is proceeding when ground conditions allow which has had to stop for now due to one of wettest Octobers on record.
We look forward cautiously but optimistically to see what the longer term effect Covid will have on the stud, Fortunately bookings are up slightly for 2021 at the moment for mares coming in for foaling, but Brexit is looming and with no agreement as yet on the movement of Equines between the EU and UK it could have a serious impact for studs in this country.

Estate Management
We have not started hedgecutting yet but will be doing so at some point over the next couple of months.  The autumn hedges have been bursting with fruit, and we try to leave cutting as long as possible (if cut at all) to maintain this important source of food.  Some hedges only get cut every third year, whilst others get cut every other year on rotation.  Roadside hedges, particularly where they are tight to the road, get cut every year of course, due to the safety aspect.  

It has been very noticeable over the course of 2020 how many more people are getting out and about to enjoy the wonderful countryside that we are so lucky to have in the parish.  Paths that would in normal times would very rarely see walkers are now regular thoroughfares, and we like, so many, are very grateful to have had the space on our doorstep throughout the course of lockdown. 
2020 has been a tough year all round, but we are now hearing glimmers of excitement from many of our commercial tenants, particularly those in the film and event sectors, who are excited about the prospect of pent-up demand for their services in 2021.  Fingers crossed all round and roll on next year!

On the building front, most things quieten off in the winter, though the scaffolding is up and we are about to begin re-slating the hay and straw storage barn at Marsh Farm, which has suffered a lot from last winter’s gales.

Park & Rides 2021
While it looks like we will be living with Coronavirus for some time, we are hopeful that by next summer there will be enough of a lifting of restrictions to enable us to hold our Park & Ride days again. We are hoping to run four sessions, on 9th May, 4th July, 8th August and 12th September, with the final event as ever held in aid of Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association. Booking, for those who may be looking for ideas for activity-based Christmas presents, is now open via Equo (