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Gaddesden Estate News July/August 2021

High Park Wood – clearance for replanting
As I have mentioned several times before we shall be bringing in machinery to clear the area which was felled last year. This will involve mulching the tree stumps and “lop and top” which was left over after the felling. The object is to prepare the ground so that it is in a satisfactory condition for replanting. The timing of the operation is planned to be after the end of the main nesting season for birds. The contractors will be told of and possible badger sets and instructed to avoid disturbing them. This is the only forestry operation which we are doing this year, though there are several in the programme for next year.

We are approaching “shut the gate” time, when all the field operations for this year’s harvest have been completed and we wait for the sunshine to ripen the crops for harvesting. There is just one last round of fungicide to do on the cereal crops to prevent disease in the ears.  If left untreated, there is a risk of diseases getting into the ear, one of which can cause the development of toxins in the grain making it unfit for human consumption. 

The risk of disease is largely determined by the amount of rainfall and levels of humidity when the plants are flowering.  The risk of disease is largely determined by the amount of rainfall and levels of humidity when the plants are flowering, and decisions on treatment product, rate and timing are taken based on current and forecast conditions, together with the knowledge that since cure is impossible, prevention is the only option.    
With no oilseed rape this year it is likely that the start of harvest will be later than it has been for some years, as the rape is always the first crop to be cut.  That said, we are having to keep topping the organic conversion grass and clover, as the ryegrasses within it are putting on seed heads, and these must be destroyed before it has a chance to set seed.  We are controlling these grasses by mowing high (topping) to remove the seeds, and also grazing with sheep.  An alternative method would be to mow for either hay or silage, but this would involve removing the cut grass which represents a loss of carbon and organic matter from the farm as we have no livestock of our own to feed it to.      
The Water Meadows
As many readers will know, there is no formal public access to water meadows between Pipers Hill and the Ladies Mile (the public footpath from Pipers Hill officially runs down beside the drive to Sybden House and onto the arable field behind). However there has been permissive access granted by the Estate for some years at the Great Gaddesden end of the water meadows (where there is now a stile) as we are aware that it is a very valuable resource for many in the local community. 

The past year has seen a steep rise in the number of people out and enjoying the countryside, and while of course this is to be welcomed, in some instances this has led to a degree of abuse of the land, in particular of commercial activity, which risks spoiling the place for others.  We are aware that a number of commercial dog walking enterprises have recently taken to using the water meadows, contravening the permissive access arrangement for the local community. We will be contacting them to request that they go elsewhere, and we would be grateful for any reports of similar activity. By being vigilant to this as a community we hope we will be able to maintain the current status of permissive access.  If this proves not to be possible we may have to consider whether closure of the meadows is the only option, which would of course be a great loss to the village.