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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:
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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.

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Gaddesden Estate News May 2020
As many readers will know, we write a regular update, most months, in the Great Gaddesden Parish Newsletter. Because of Covid 19 Coronavirus, publication of the Newsletter was briefly suspended, partly as the Church is closed, with services live-streamed from the Vicarage or, more recently, from the church.  

Unusual times!
In a change of routine, in these unusual times, I started to write early in April, the day after the Queen’s very reassuring address. We had a wonderful spell of weather, a time which is sometimes called a “Blackthorn Summer” throughout Holy Week and beyond. The blackthorn blossom was stunningly beautiful and the blossom of the wild cherries, sometimes called “gean”, puts me in mind of A E Houseman’s poem from “A Shropshire Lad”:

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now is hung with bloom along the bough”.

If you know the poem it is particularly poignant for those who have passed their threescore years and ten.
We were very sorry to have had to cancel our 500th anniversary celebrations, a festival evensong on 4th April and a farm walk and open day on 16th May. We hope that when this virus is under control, or we pray, has run its course, we will be able to commemorate the anniversary in some other way.

Natural History
We had the longest and wettest winter that anyone can remember, so the sunny spell came as a great relief. Although it was very dry, we received enough rain to get our spring crops on the way.  One of the beneficial results of the wet winter was the most marvellous display of wild flowers; the Lent Lilies (Wild Daffodils) were the most spectacular that I can remember, both in the woods and the hedges, and there have been masses of primroses.

As we move on through May, most of the older woods have been carpeted with great swathes of Bluebells. And now the hawthorn bushes, sometimes called Quickthorn or May, are displaying their mounts of blossom.  There are several pairs of Lapwings on various fields with their very distinctive cry, and we hear the sound of woodpeckers and the hooting of the tawny owls. A Great spotted woodpecker has been at our bird feeder and a Green Woodpecker, sometimes called a “Yaffle”, has been around. We have only heard a cuckoo on a couple of occasions. There are wagtails and gold finches in abundance.

One noticeable effect of the lock-down has been the return to quietness, with hardly any aeroplanes coming over form Luton airport and the lanes returning to levels of traffic not encountered since the 1950s. When the wind is in the east we still get a hum from the M1 Motorway, though less than usual. Let us hope that when we return to something approaching normality governments around the world will build on the dramatic reductions in carbon omissions brought about by the pandemic slowdown.
Farm work continues, irrespective of the virus, but has little problem with social distancing!
We ploughed-up, metaphorically as we no longer use a plough, the Oil Seed Rape, which had failed due to Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle, in the fields overlooking Great Gaddesden called Under the Hoo, Glennisters and Crosspaths, and part of the land which overlooks the “Red Lion” in Water End. These areas have been drilled (sown) with a ground cover crop, which acts as a “green manure” and will give a good lead in to next year’s Winter Wheat.  We also lost the Winter Barley in Bingham’s Bottom and much of Elmtree Park. This has been replaced by Spring Beans. The planned spring cropping area has been drilled with two different crops, Spring Oats and Linseed, both of which are looking well. It was cheering to see farm work getting underway at last and to hear the distinctive sound of the Cambridge Rollers.

Sub-compartment 7k in Big Wood, which readers may remember we replanted with Oak, Douglas Fir and Coast Redwood a couple of years ago, has again received the attention of the fallow deer, with the bucks trashing the tree guards, notwithstanding the protection which the mounds of bramble have partially given. We have “swiped” (flailed) between several of the rows and we are now able to see that many of the young trees are alive, indeed the redwoods are romping away, but frequently their growth is being impeded by the bent over guards. Clearing them is a job to do in the near future, to allow them to grow straight and true.

Oak Processionary Moth
Covid 19 is not the only nasty thing that has arrived in the UK! If you are walking in woods or near oak trees watch out for Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars. You can identify it by going to the Forestry Commission or Forest Research website. Not only does the moth cause damage to trees, but the caterpillars have hairs which can give an unpleasant rash to people and animals. If you find a nest or a procession of caterpillars, these should be reported to the Forestry Commission.

During the initial lock-down the Ride was closed and the monthly Park & Ride events suspended. We opened again 18th May, following guidance from the British Horse Society. The going is very hard, because of the lack of rain and we are advising members not to use the jumps.

Estate matters
Work virtually has stopped because of lock-down. We are progressing, slowly, with the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge. Having re-tiled the roof and re-pointed the chimneys, the two decorative brackets on the front gables have been renewed. The next task is the replacement of some of the windows.

We have been in regular touch with residential and business occupiers, several of whom have had difficulties due to the situation and are doing what we can to assist where it is appropriate.
We wish everybody all the best, and trust that readers remain in good health!
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Gaddesden Estate News April 2020
The world is a very strange place right now, and it is extraordinary to see what change a week has made to everyone’s daily lives, and particularly to those with businesses supplying the event and hospitality sector, which have had their order books and business cancelled overnight. We hope that everyone in the parish stays well, and that we all come out of this stronger, whenever that may be.

Life seems to be on hold, and it will come as no surprise that we have decided to postpone our 500th anniversary celebrations on 4th April and 16th May, until the situation becomes clearer.

The year marches on, and the arrival of spring brings with it a busy time on the farm, assuming we can continue to work. Like everyone, we are much looking forward to some warm and dryer weather. The wettest February on record has continued into March, with the forecast forever promising to be ‘better next week’. A few dry days this week have allowed us to get on with rolling some of the wheat and barley, which will help it to put on more shoots or ‘tillers’, as well as pushing the stones in, making harvest easier. We have also been able to apply some phosphate, which will help with rooting. Our soils were sampled for nutrition in the autumn and the phosphate has been applied to where it is most needed, the tractor and spreader being controlled by GPS and a computer-generated plan, varying the rate of application as we drive along. It has certainly been nice to get on the land again, though we need a bit more dry weather before we can plant.

We hope to plant a range of spring crops this year, with a mixture of oats, linseed and beans. The oats we hope will be good enough for porridge production, but the risk of them not making the grade increases as the planting date gets later – they need sufficient growing days and hours of sunlight to develop the grains fully.

We haven’t grown beans for a few years, but this year we have a conundrum as significant areas of both the winter barley and the oilseed rape have failed. All being well we will plant beans on the failed barley, and these, being a legume, will add nutrition to the soil for next year. If they are good enough quality they typically are sold to be shipped to Egypt, where they get made into falafel, and we’ll hope to make the grade this year.

It is certainly a year of mixing and matching and trying to make the best of the situation, as cropping plans change from day to day! We will probably also be planting some clover-based mixes for soil improvement after the failed rape, though these won’t be harvested. We may get some sheep to graze them through the summer, which will help the soil still more.

In other news, the Estate has been approached by a television production company who may like to use Home Farm and the surrounding land as a setting for a new series. It is a high-end and prestigious production which tells the story of a US Air Force Bomber Group based in England during World War II. The production would plan to recreate the airbase on the estate, but without any flying. The overall provisional filming period for the production is September 2020 - May 2021, with preparation works in advance and re-instatement on completion. Filming will take place at multiple locations across the South East, with scenes at Gaddesden occurring on intermittent dates during this time, anticipated to be on five separate occasions.

Due to the longevity, the producers will be required to submit a planning application to Dacorum for a temporary change of use for filming, and you will doubtless see the notices about this. All sets and materials would of course be removed at the end of the production and the farmland restored. We are exploring the possibility of establishing 1940s meadow type grasses for the production to aid both authenticity and biodiversity, and the producers will be keen to engage with the local community whilst they are here.

There will invariably be a small amount of extra traffic at the beginning and end of the day over the periods when filming is taking place, but all steps will be taken to mitigate any impact, especially around Red Lion Lane. At the same time we would expect a number of economic benefits with the increased footfall in the area.

The final arrangements are yet to be confirmed and we will provide any updates as and when we have them. These plans are, of course, subject to developments with the ongoing pandemic. In the meantime please do contact the Estate Office via [email protected] with any queries.
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Gaddesden Estate News March 2020
As I write this, after Storm Chiara and Storm Dennis my mind turns to the Creation story in the Book of Genesis and the reference to “the waters that are above the firmament”. We have certainly seen a great deal of them this past winter! Yesterday we had what was virtually a “winter bourn” flowing across the Home Farm, beginning at the watershed on our boundary with Ledgemore Farm and flowing across Cherrytree Field, Long Robins, Bingham’s Bottom, Elmtree Park and into Miles’s Bottom. We have seen this before, but not for many years. There have been very strong winds, but unlike previous years, though there have been some trees and limbs down, most of the buildings remain sound, apart from some tiles and slates.

In odd dry spells we have been able to put some fertiliser onto the oilseed rape, though this is very poor in some fields, and spray off the land needed for spring cropping. Hedge cutting has continued, but because of the poor ground conditions not all will be complete before the official deadline of the end of February.

With the lengthening daylight hours, the cereals are beginning to move. Apart from some poor patches where the slugs have had a “field day”, the wheat north of Gaddesden Row on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms is not looking too bad, while, apart from one field, the winter barley is generally alive but not too happy. A good spell of sunshine would do the crops (and us!) a lot of good.

Quincentenary Celebrations
Plans are going on apace for the celebration of 500 years since John Halsey became the tenant of the Golden Parsonage and its farmland. The land was owned by the Priory of King’s Langley, where the prior was the Rector of Great Gaddesden. When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the late 1530’s he took over all their land, gradually selling it off to raise money for the exchequer. In 1544 John’s son William, as sitting tenant, was able to buy the farm, then about 200 acres, for £174 13s 4d.

We are holding a Thanksgiving Service in the church on 4th April at which the Bishop of St Albans has kindly agreed to preach and a farm walk and exhibition in May. We also have other plans, including an Oral History project and a special Charity Ride in September.

As many readers and who walk in High Park Wood will know the contactors for the firm who bought the ash thinnings had to stop work in the autumn because they found that  many of the trees were too large to be processed using a harvester. They are now proposing to complete the work employing hand cutters.

In Big Wood deer damage has been bad again in the compartment we replanted a couple of years ago, the deer have thrashed around the tree guards (which were meant to protect the trees from them!) removing them from the saplings and frequently destroying them.
Fortunately, we have had few trees blown down, though a few old beeches succumbed to storm Chiara, and some Norway Spruce in Big Wood also fell.

Estate Management
In recent weeks much time has been spent repairing damage caused by the recent storms, such as missing tiles and slated and fallen gutters. Farm roads and tracks have suffered considerable damage through the winter mainly due to the level and frequency of rainfall.
Our main focus continues to the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge, which requires a top-to-toe overhaul.

Annual road closures and Water End meadows
As usual the roads and tracks on the estate, including the meadows between Water End and Great Gaddesden, will have their annual closure between 6pm on Monday 16th March until 6 am on Wednesday 18th March. Public rights of way are not affected and remain open.
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Gaddesden Estate News February 2020
Gaddesden 500
As many of you may know, 2020 marks a milestone year for us as we celebrate 500 years of continuity. January started with a discussion in the farm office to finalise a number of plans to mark this event.

Our ‘Gaddesden 500’ events look set to include a special Thanksgiving Service in the church on Saturday 4th April - at which the Bishop of St Albans has kindly agreed to preach, and to which all members of the congregation are invited - and a family-friendly open day on Saturday 16th May. Further details will be published nearer the times. We hope we will see many of you at one or other (or both!) of these events.

Other plans include an oral history project, recording the memories of those who have lived and worked here over the years, and a commemorative tree-planting operation. We are also hoping to hold a special Park & Ride event later in the year, once again in aid of the Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association and the wonderful work that they do.

2020 looks set to be an exciting year that will provide us with a chance to assess our plans for the future as well as give thanks for the past. We will continue to publish news as things develop, and you can also visit our Facebook page ( for regular updates.

Timely visitors
Continuing the theme of past and present, we were delighted to receive a visit from Richard Fear and his partner in mid-January.  
Mr Fear’s father had been employed in the early thirties as Groom and then chauffeur for Sir Walter Halsey and ,although he had left here aged 10, Mr Fear had fond memories of the place, including receiving his first pay packet on the farm as a small boy in the 1940s.
Joyfully for us he also brought with him some photographs dating from the 1940s, including several of Marsh Farm where Sir Walter had lived after leaving Gaddesden Place, having prudently let the Golden Parsonage for a time. The 1950 village fete on the cricket pitch is shown, with a gaggle of village children in fancy dress– including the protagonist masquerading as a tin of Bird’s Custard.   

We are lucky to have a good collection of historic photographs and other memorabilia on file here, in part thanks to kind visitors such as Mr Fear over the years, and we are hoping to display some of these as part of the activities taking place on 16th May. If you have any of your own that you might like to have included, then we would love to know about them. You can either email [email protected] or call 01442 252421 to make a time to come into the office.

The new year brings the hope of spring, and we, like everyone, look forward to the end of this very wet winter.  This is usually a quiet time of year on the arable farm, with ‘winter projects’ coming to the fore, such as machinery servicing and maintenance, building repairs and planning for the year ahead.  That said, there are of course still crops in the ground and, weather permitting, we are doing what we can to nurse them through.

Gardeners and allotment holders will no doubt be able to report on the levels of slug damage this season, and it is no different in the fields.  Readers will recall that we were very pleased and relieved to be able to plant our wheat and barley in the brief spell of nice weather at the end of October.  Crops planted at that time of year (known as winter crops) generally yield better and are harvested earlier than those planted in the spring, as well as going for different markets.  Since then, however, our relief has in part turned to dismay as the constant wet has rotted seeds and turned the fields into a slugs’ paradise, with very little we can do about it.  

Slug control is typically a combination of cultural controls (such as crop rotation, cultivation and, in particular, rolling after planting), and chemical, though the use of organic slug pellets.  This year however, it was impossible to roll the ground after planting for fear of both lifting the seed out of the ground (as the rolls pick up wet soil), and capping the soil by compacting the surface and thus preventing seedlings from emerging.  Since then, the opportunities to apply slug pellets have been few and far between, with even the lightest machinery unable to travel across the fields.  The result of this is that the slugs have had a ‘field day’, and we have already written off about 40 hectares (100 acres) of barley (about half the crop), with the remainder looking less than pretty!  This area will be planted with another spring crop, possibly spring barley, but all the cost, effort and opportunity of the winter planting will be lost. 

Estate Management
It seems to be a question of keeping the weather at bay at the moment, as much as anything.  Tracks, roofs and gutters are all taking a hammering, with Storm Brendan being the latest culprit for lifting roof slates, damaging trees and creating ever more potholes!  We have even been investigating a road grader to mount behind a tractor, to enable us to repair gravel roads to a better standard – not productive work, but very necessary given the number of people who rely on our tracks to get to where they live and work. 

Work has started refurbishing the Golden Parsonage Lodge, including re-roofing the rear sections of the house.  It is excellent to see some progress being made and we hope to have the work complete in the spring. 

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Gaddesden Estate News November 2019
I am afraid that there is very little to write about this month, particularly if we avoid referring to Brexit!
“Farming” at present is a term to be taken with a pinch of salt! Farmers are renowned for complaining about the weather; however, this year I think we might be justified in doing so, certainly in this part of England. We have done virtually no fieldwork since the conclusion of harvest, apart from spraying off “volunteers”.

The ground has been so saturated that it has been impossible to drill (sow) any of the winter wheat, which is our main crop, or winter barley. Even if the weather dries up and we can get on the land, germination and growth will be affected by the drop in soil temperature and reduced length of daylight. The principal consequence of this will be an increased yield penalty as the delay in drilling continues.
On the positive side, the produce from the 2019 harvest continues to be moved by the grain merchants’ hauliers, even though the lorries sometimes turn up unexpectedly!
As I write, just before the deadline, we have at last begun to drill Winter Barley, a six-row hybrid variety called “Belmont”. Barley strains are divided between six row and two-row. This refers to the number of rows of grain in the ear. Two-row is usually used for malting, while six-row goes for feed. The field being sown is called Long Robins, or just Robins.  On the old parchment maps there used to be several fields called Robins: Hither, Further and Broad as well as Long. I sometimes wonder if they were called after the same person who gave his name to that part of Bradden Lane known as Black Robins. Long Robins has always been a high yielding field, being close to the Home Farm and having received generations of farmyard manure!
Still little news about the contractors for High Park Wood, hopefully they will arrive during the next few weeks. I fear, though, that having missed the dry weather, they are sure to make quite a lot of mud in the wood and ruts when extracting the timber to roadside.
Other estate matters
Ongoing maintenance still continues, including checking over all our grazing fields for damage to fences and water troughs, as well as assessing the quality of the grass.

A big exercise the past month has been relaying the water main supplying the stackyard, Dutch Barn and the main yard wash-down standpipe. This involved hiring a large tracked excavator and digging across the farm drive, or “chase” as they call it in Essex; and then trenching around the grain stores and stackyard.

Our next major project is the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge, including installing a new kitchen and redecoration and carpeting throughout, as well as attention to the roof.

In October, we were honoured with a visit from thirty children and their teachers from Hemel Hempstead School. The school “houses” are called after local villages and a new house has been started called “Gaddesden”. These were the first pupils to join the new house. They ate their packed lunches in the Orchard Barn and had a group photograph in front of the Golden Parsonage, followed by visiting the house and hearing a bit about its history.
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Gaddesden Estate News October 2019
What a difference a few days make! When I wrote last month, just before the August Bank Holiday, we were nearly a fortnight late as it was too wet to start the cereal harvest, but the weather changed and by the beginning of the following week “all was safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin”.

Harvesting is nowadays done at break-neck speed, with the combine sending as much as 60 tonnes of wheat per hour back to the farm on grain trailers.  The weather window was long enough for us to carry right through both varieties of wheat and the barley without drawing breath, making for a very hectic bank holiday weekend, but some nice full sheds to show for it in the end.    
Most of the wheat we have moved so far has gone off to Weetabix, and we are grateful that the crop managed to hold onto its quality through those wet weeks of August.  That said, a few loads have gone to Gilbertson & Page in Welwyn to be turned into dog biscuits!  The barley has all been accepted for malting, either for brewing or distilling for whisky. The 90 or so acres of linseed were rather disappointing, partly because we had to destroy areas which were riddled with black grass.

From now until Christmas we will be loading a stream of grain lorries. Each load has its “passport”, not only to ensure traceability for the purchaser, but also to check that everything is properly accounted for our end. Some forty years ago, before the days of farm assurance, a lorry load of wheat once went missing!  It was eventually tracked down and paid for, but thereafter we started recording the index number of the lorry and the driver’s name.

As usual all the wheat straw was shredded and incorporated into the soil, to return the nutrients. The barley straw was baled and sold to a neighbouring farmer, again a very fast job, much of the work being done at night.  This will be transported down to Devon where it will be used as bedding for cattle. 

Land work goes on apace for the 2020 harvest. The oilseed rape was drilled over the bank holiday, but has found it difficult to get away, probably because of the current lack of rainfall.  This has meant that the plants were unable to establish themselves strongly enough to resist attack, and some fields, particularly overlooking the Gade Valley, have been devastated by cabbage stem flea beetle and will have to be written off.  The ground for the wheat and barley crops for next year has been cultivated and is awaiting planting in a couple of weeks or so. 

We save some of our wheat as seed for the following harvest, so today we had a visit from a large seed cleaner-dresser machine. Wheat is fed in one end from a trailer, which is constantly re-filled by the JCB loader; good seed is bagged from chutes at the side, while the chaff and extraneous material feeds into another trailer.

Some twenty-five years ago, when there was still a dairy herd at the Home Farm, new cattle cubicles were installed in one of the barns.  The old concrete base had to be broken up and the lumps were spread at the top of Parson’s Hill. Last week we hired in a concrete crusher, a huge tracked machine which was able to break these lumps into a material of a practical size, which can be used for repairing farm roads.

The work in High Park Wood has still not begun, as the contractors are gradually moving westwards from East Anglia. We understand that they have now reached Bedfordshire, so they shouldn’t be too long!
Following harvest, the annual deer count was undertaken over the whole estate, and deer culling has resumed around the woods. As I have mentioned previously, a lot of damage was done in the spring to the newly planted trees in Big Wood.

The summer season for Park and Ride events finished with the Grand Finale of the Charity Ride, in which around seventy riders took part. We shall soon be having our annual meeting to discuss future plans for the ride.

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Gaddesden Estate News September 2019
With this very wet August, bearing in mind that I am writing before the predicted warm and dry August Bank Holiday, we have not yet started to cut the wheat or the barley, though we are expecting that the combine harvester will begin this very afternoon.
The first wheat to be cut will be the “JB Diego” on the slopes of the Gade Valley overlooking Water End and Great Gaddesden.  Hopefully it will have kept its quality through all the wet weather and will be good enough to be made into Weetabix.  Too much rain during harvest means that the wheat can begin to sprout, meaning it is only good for animal feed. 

The ground will then be sown with Oilseed rape almost straight away. This year’s rape harvest in July, on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms, north of Gaddesden Row, went well and it has all been sold and moved. The land has been cultivated ready for 2020 winter wheat.
Our linseed, lovely though the blue flowers looked a few weeks ago, has been infested with weeds, notably black grass and fat hen. The latter is a close relative of the popular health food, Quinoa. Cutting will need to wait until it is fully ripe and the stalks are thoroughly dry. Otherwise the straw causes a block-up inside the combine harvester, which can be difficult, not to say very uncomfortable to clear.  In the past the straw was used for making rope, so it can be very tough!

Market prices for all commodities are very volatile at the moment, with currency fluctuations, Brexit uncertainty over tariffs, erratic predictions of the American crop and Trump’s trade wars all playing a part. 

Upperwood Farm
We recently had a visit from Jeff Graham of Nevada, the son of the late Mac Graham, and whose grandfather was Mr Thomas Graham, the former farm tenant of Upperwood Farm; indeed, my father often referred to the farm as “Graham’s” long after he had retired.
He kindly delivered a packet of farm records dating from the 1930s and 1940s, including interesting soil surveys and cattle movement books.

Another unusual historic document, which we were shown the other day, was a printed notice of Second World War invasion precautions signed by my grandfather, Canon Frederick Halsey, who was chairman of the Parish Council at the time¸ as well as being the vicar.

Forestry – High Park Wood- and deer management
The felling of the ash trees in High Park Wood has not begun yet, though the contractors are due this month. I apologise for any disruption there may be to walkers.

The deer have been playing havoc again to the young trees in Big Wood. When harvest is completed our stalker will be undertaking his annual deer count. Even with culling, we anticipate that this will rise again. Deer numbers are anticipated to be particularly high in Abel’s Grove and Newlands Wood, just over the Flamstead parish boundary.

Former Pub Garden in Briden’s Camp
We were delighted with the number of residents who attended the exhibition in the Cricket Pavilion to view the proposed development in Briden’s Camp.  We would like to mention our appreciation and to thank everybody who came and participated.  We are evaluating the comments received and the proposals will be revised to address local concerns.

Estate Management
Little to report¸ apart from regular maintenance, though we had a major water leak at the Home farm on the old brittle alkathene pipe. This was very new and up to date when installed in the 1960s but has been subject to leaks in flinty ground for many years. This has now been replaced by a new length of pipe and we believe that there is little of the old pipe still in use around the estate, apart from some of the field supplies at Hawbush Farm and the Park in front of Gaddesden Place.

Charity Ride
The summer “Park and Rides” have gone well this year, following a relatively slow start, due to the hard work of Chantal and the RDA Volunteers, not to mention Rob Pratt and his Wagu beef burgers! The Charity Ride, in aid of the Gaddesden Place Group of the Riding for the Disabled Association, takes place on 15th September.  Entries, as usual, are via the “Equo” website:
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Gaddesden Estate News July/August 2019
Before I go into thoughts about farming and harvest there is one important subject which I must mention:
Public consultation for the land south of The Crown and Sceptre, Bridens Camp
The Gaddesden Estate is working with Wheatley, a Hertfordshire based housebuilder, on proposals to develop the land south of The Crown and Sceptre in Bridens Camp, to provide 9 new homes. We intend to submit a planning application for this site soon. Before we do so, we wish to give local residents an overview of the site’s history, present the proposed development plans and provide the chance for people to give feedback at a public consultation event we are to hold.
We appreciate that this is a sensitive site to redevelop and we have worked closely with Wheatley in the design of the scheme. The brief to the architects was to produce a scheme that would look as if it has always been there. As such, we have sought to mirror the design of the existing houses. We propose a mixture of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses. Arranged as terraced, semi-detached and detached houses, all will be 2-storey. Vehicular access to these houses will be from the bridle path, with car parking located behind the houses. This road will be improved. The scheme will also bring improvements to the T-junction of the bridle path and Red Lion Lane. In turn, this will require a new bus shelter. The existing wooded area along the site’s eastern boundary will be retained.
We understand that there is an urgent need for more housing in the UK.  We believe building new homes within Bridens Camp the will help sustain the hamlet’s existing services, whilst making use of an unused acre of land located between the existing houses.
We hope you will like our scheme.  Please do come along to have a look at our design and give your feedback at the consultation event, which is to be held at the Great Gaddesden Cricket Club’s Green Pavilion on Saturday 20th July from 9am to 12:30pm.
We are nearly at the point now when we can, in the colloquial expression, “shut the gate” on the arable land.  The wheats though need one more fungicide to protect the flowering plants from disease.  Wheat can be particularly vulnerable to a disease at this point which produces toxins in the grain, meaning it can be unfit for human consumption.  Since we hope most of the wheat will go into Weetabix we need to ensure that the plants are protected.  From then on it will be a case of waiting for the crops to ripen and praying for fine weather.  The spring barley too is flowering and seems to be developing very fast this year, helped by its early sowing in the February heatwave.  As I write this in the third week of June, the linseed is just beginning to display its beautiful blue flowers, and the oilseed rape north of Gaddesden Row will be ready to cut in a few weeks.
In the lull before harvest, we take the opportunity thoroughly to clean the grain stores and the drying ducts, ready to receive the grain as it comes in off the combine.  It is also a good time to carry out machinery maintenance.
Our grazing tenants have shorn their sheep and during the next few weeks will be haymaking in the fields around the Golden Parsonage, also hoping for a reasonable spell of fine weather.

Estate Maintenance
As part of our efforts to be as “green” as we can, six years ago we installed Solar Photovoltaic panels on the roof of our No 4 building. For the first time we have had these cleaned in order to prevent the build-up of moss and lichen, which can affect their efficiency.  It’s a job we could do ourselves in future as three of the team have just passed their cherry picker test. The day of the test was made more entertaining by the fact that the test machine broke down when one of them was 18 metres up in the air.  Thankfully not for long though, and he has safely now returned to earth! 

High Park Wood
A reminder from last month’s Newsletter: The thinning of High Park Wood is due to begin in the next few weeks. We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause walkers. Part of the need for the thinning and removal of the ash trees at this time is that the Ash Dieback disease, commonly called “Chalara” can cause mature ash trees to drop limbs unexpectedly. As there are several public footpaths in the wood, this is something we have to take very seriously.

Ride and Horse grazing
Ride membership was renewed at the 1st June. We had many members calling into the Estate Office which provides a good chance to meet members and to sound them out about improvements or maintenance of the Ride. Welcome to any new members from Flamstead Pony Club, we have had a great response from you! If anybody would like to join, membership is limited but some spaces are still available, Please contact [email protected]
We are pleased that at present all our horse paddocks are occupied. We are beginning summer grassland maintenance.

Park and Ride
We have had some very enjoyable “Park and Rides” this summer. The next events are on 14th July and 11th August, with the Charity Ride, held in aid of Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled, on 15th September. We get masses of good feedback on our Facebook page and riders seem thoroughly to enjoy the day, not least breakfast baps and Wagu Burgers from Marbled Meats!
We welcome riders of all abilities; booking is through Entry is £20 and £25 for the Charity Ride. For more information see

American Halseys
Having heard very little from across the Atlantic in the earlier part of this year, we now have several visits arranged from members of the Halsey family in the United States. As I may have mentioned before, Thomas Halsey emigrated to New England in the 1630s and begat a large number of descendants, who spread over the whole of the USA. Many families remained, though, in his home town of Southampton, Long Island, NY, where several still farm the sandy land, and where his house of around 1650 still stands.

1520 -2020
Next year will see 500 years since John Halsey took a lease of the Golden Parsonage and Grove Farm (which became the Home Farm in 1870) from the Prior of King’s Langley, who was also the Rector of Great Gaddesden. While John is first heard of in 1513, the family are recorded in the parish having land at Stags End in 1434 and Richard Halsey was the signatory of a deed with the Prior of 1458.

Has anyone heard a cuckoo this year? I certainly have not, for the very first time! There seems to be a worrying decline in some bird numbers. Is this due to climate change, drought in the Sahel region of Africa, or what? Swallows, swifts and house martins seem to be very scarce , though there are a large number of goldfinches around. I saw some lapwings in the spring, but only one pair. Another bird we used to see regularly was the Little Owl, but no longer, and sparrows which used to frequent the farmyard have virtually disappeared. On the estate we have ancient woodland as well as old grassland,and the farm has planted wild bird cover and ”pollen and nectar” mixtures for bees and other pollinators, photos of which will be on our facebook page.
The other evening we did though see a fallow deer “pricket”, a young buck, playing on the lawn outside our bedroom window. Fortunately, he has not yet found the roses! 

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Gaddesden Estate News June 2019
I ought to begin this month’s report by giving apologies for not writing in the Newsletter for both April and May this year.
As usual I start with farming, looking first at the arable side. This year our spring cropping is divided between Barley, Planet, and Linseed, Marquise. Linseed has not been grown on the farm for 20 years or so, and we look forward to its beautiful purple flowers, which will be great for the bees.  The plants are very small at the moment and are being badly eaten by flax flea beetle.  We are though trying not to use any insecticides on the farm and hope that with some warmth it will recover. 

The barley is grown for malting and we hope will be good enough quality to be used by brewers or distillers to produce beer and whisky. One of the fields, which is called “Long Robins” is now in its third year as an experiment in “No Till”, i.e. sowing straight into the soil without ploughing or cultivating, as opposed to the rest of the land which is “Min Till”, minimum tillage, still no ploughing, but with some cultivations. We are delighted with the number of earthworms these systems encourage, which do much of our cultivation for us, as they burrow into the soil and digest the surface residue.  No Till also has the twin benefits of greatly reducing fuel usage in planting the crop and preserving carbon in the soil as organic matter.  Cultivation, and in particular ploughing, brings air into the soil and over time tends to reduce the organic matter as the carbon is lost to the atmosphere through oxidation.

As a slight caveat on the carbon friendly methods of husbandry is that these rely on good weed control following the previous crop. This entails the weed-killer glyphosate, often known as “Roundup”, which has been much in the news recently.  Were this ever to be banned, as some authorities have proposed, carbon friendly arable farming would become well-nigh impossible and we would revert to traditional ploughing and cultivations.

The winter crops are as usual wheat, of which we are growing two varieties called JB Diego and, Graham.  They have a variety of uses, but may well end up as Weetabix, as did much of last year’s wheat crop.  The Oilseed Rape, Extrovert, is just finishing flowering and is “podding up” nicely.  The crushed seeds of this member of the cabbage or brassica family are used as a lubricant or in cooking, for example in mayonnaise.

It is essential that all conventionally grown crops are fed with the right nutrients and protected from pests and diseases and this means a very busy time for farmers, particularly in springtime and early summer.
With the changes brought about by the new Agriculture Bill and Brexit we are tentatively looking at organic systems. I last investigated this in the early 1990s, but at the time did not believe it would be suitable, though much has changed since then.

A reminder to all walkers in High Park Wood and the Water End Meadows that in June we will be harvesting ash trees from High Park Wood. The timber will be hauled from the wood, along the fence in the Water Park Meadow, to a stacking area by the gate on “The Lady’s Mile” (Nettleden Road), ready to be transferred to lorries. Signs will be erected to warn people of forestry operations.
Incidentally the word “Park” in both the names of the wood and the meadow is because they were once part of a mediaeval deer park.
The trees we “beat up” in Big Wood, that is replacing those which had failed last year, mostly Douglas Fir, came from 100 or so we grew from seed in the greenhouse and the kitchen garden at the Golden Parsonage. So far, they seem to be happy.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting an estate in Suffolk which practices a system of growing high-quality oak in around 100 years, developed in France, by carefully selecting the seed stock, often from Holland or Denmark. Then it is planted at 1m x 1.5m spacing, mainly pure oak (not usually a mixture). The “winning” trees are selected at an early age and then the trees surrounding them are regularly removed, allowing the crowns to develop, without touching any other trees. The trees are high pruned as necessary. From what readers will remember from previous comments, this system is dependent on control of deer and grey squirrels!

Oak for Notre Dame
After the disastrous fire in the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, Historic Houses put out an appeal for members to donate an oak tree for the rebuilding of the roof. Surprisingly it is unlikely that there are enough suitable oaks in France. We have offered a tree, though whether it will be needed, having seen some of the futuristic designs suggested, is uncertain.
Waste of the Manor
The Manor of Great Gaddesden, in the sense of “Lordship of the Manor” was acquired by Sir Walter Halsey from Earl Brownlow’s Ashridge Estate in 1928, when that estate was broken up to pay Death Duties. Sir Walter’s family had already held the Manor of Hemel Hempstead, including Bovingdon and Flaunden, since the early 1700s. In practice today all that remains is the Waste of the Manors, being much of the roadside verges in Gaddesden Row, Bradden Lane and Ballingdon Bottom and part of Water End Moor.

Estate maintenance
Property maintenance is a perennial task, always getting busier in the summer months. So far this year we have installed one new central heating boiler and we are now looking at upgrading some of the oil tanks. We are continuing the programme to install double glazed windows where appropriate and external redecoration is proceeding apace.

A great excitement has been the re-building of the 12 ft garden wall at eighteenth century Gaddesden Place Stables. This was built by the architect of Gaddesden Place, James Wyatt. This wall fell over several years ago, possibly due to ground subsidence. We saved the bricks on pallets at the Home Farm and have been planning to rebuild the wall for some time and are using lime mortar as it our forebears did.
The cleaning and servicing of gutters around the estate is an important annual job; we have installed new extruded aluminium gutters on the Atcost building at the Home Farm, formerly used as a cubicle house for the dairy herd, as well as replacing several corrugated roof panels. A less pleasant task has been the investigation of faulty drains at various properties, including Gaddesden Row School!

Horse Enterprise
Horses continue to play an important part in the estate business. The ride has had its annual survey and jump repair and new jumps have been introduced; as always though, there is more ongoing work to do.
If you are a member of the Gaddesden Estate Ride, remember that annual renewal is in June.

The monthly Park and Rides are continuing for this year each month, though their future is dependent on take-up. Bookings, as usual are through the Equo website:
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Gaddesden Estate News March 2019
I begin this month with forestry, which will be of interest to walkers in High Park Wood and on the public footpath in the Water Park Meadow. We will be thinning the ash trees in the wood in accordance with our Forestry Commission Felling Licence granted in 2012 under our Management Plan. This will reduce the canopy cover in the wood by around 30%. The contractors are aware of the public footpaths and will erect warning notices when forestry operations are taking place. The extraction route will lead to a stacking area adjoining the Ladies Mile (Nettleden Road). Unless conditions are very dry, there is bound to be some rutting where the timber is extracted.
We do have the ash disease known as Chalara ash dieback  (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) on the estate, which can make normally resilient ash branches go brittle and break in high winds. This as a secondary reason for undertaking the work now, due to the large number of rights of way within and approaching the wood.
Readers may recall that we replanted one of the compartments in Big Wood last year principally with Douglas Fir and some oak. Even with last year’s hot dry summer most of the trees survived. There has been considerable damage caused by deer playing with the tree guards. We are in the process of “beating-up” with transplants grown from seed in the kitchen garden at The Golden Parsonage.
It is possible that later this year we will be selling some mature oak, from Big Wood, for which there is a good demand at the moment.
We continue the programme of deer management as set out in our management plan. Up to now, we have been concentrating on two woods in Flamstead parish, but now are moving nearer the centre of the estate.
Our most precious resource is the soil. Much thought has gone into the best way of preserving and enhancing this to make it as healthy and long lasting as possible. To this end we ceased ploughing almost everywhere eighteen years ago, and moved to minimum tillage, known as “min-till”. This has a secondary advantage of releasing much less carbon into the atmosphere. We have investigated “no-till”, though this is only applicable to suitable soils, and unlikely to be practical here. Both methods are reliant on the herbicide Glyphosate, usually known as “Roundup”, about which there has been some controversy!
Winter crops have come through well, though the woodpigeons have attacked the oilseed rape badly in various places. Now, with the beautiful weather at the time of writing we are able to get on with the spreading of phosphate and potash fertiliser in solid form and liquid nitrogen. We grazed some of our Winter cover crops with a neighbour’s sheep and now all the cover crops are receiving a dose of glyphosate, preparatory for spring drilling. This year we have split the spring area between barley, hopefully for malting (Beer!), and linseed.
Other livestock news includes the lovely sight of spring lambs gambolling in the grassland at the Golden Parsonage, and cattle continue to graze Gaddesden Park.
Virtually all of the produce, wheat and oats, from 2018 harvest has now been sold and moved.
We have had a good go at hedge-cutting this winter, within our Environmental Stewardship parameters, as last year weather conditions precluded much work on the hedges. This operation has to finish by the end of February, in order not to disturb nesting birds.

Estate maintenance
One of the banes of our lives is water! Every winter we seem to have various winter water leaks. This year we had a particularly bad one at Whitehouse Farm.
We are as usual continuing the programme of redecoration and cottage maintenance, ensuring dwellings are up to EPC regulations, and seeing where we can make improvements, such as installing double glazed windows.
We are planning to re-build a wall at Gaddesden Place stables, which collapsed some years ago as well as possibly beginning a long programme of re-pointing the former kitchen garden wall. Our next major project will be the refurbishment of the Golden Lodge, which we hope to begin later this year.
We have been clearing redundant and long disused structures in the Home Farm yard such as old oil tanks, the rolled barley hopper (dating from the days of our “Barley Beef” unit) and the slurry ramp which was used to fill muck spreaders in the days of the dairy herd.

Horses and Ride
Due to the outbreak of Equine flu in February, we closed the ride for a few days, until racing resumed, well aware that several businesses on the estate were dependent on horses.
We are beginning our annual programme of Ride and jump repairs, which will take several weeks, as well as installing new fencing in some of the grazing paddocks.
The monthly “Park and Ride” events will take place as usual in the summer and the dates for these are on the “Equo” website.
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Gaddesden Estate News December 2018/January 2019
The winter crops have now been “put to bed”. The oilseed rape north of Gaddesden Row is looking strong and hopefully will go through the winter able to survive the depredations of wood pigeons. Both varieties of wheat were drilled in good conditions and they too look happy. Our ground “cover crop” of mixed cereals and clover in the field we call Long Robins, or just Robins, will probably go towards our Ecological focus Area, or EFA, which we are required to provide every year. This is normally one of the most productive fields as on the farm, as it is close to the Home Farm steading and for many generations, when we had cattle, always received copious quantities of FYM (farmyard manure, otherwise “muck”!).
We aim to sell, if not move all the remainder of the output from the 2018 harvest by Christmas. As I mentioned last month, the spring oats suffered from the weather conditions in the spring and summer; they yielded poorly and had a very low bushel weight. By passing the oats through our old pre-cleaner, with its reciprocating sieves, strung on flexible battens of ash wood, with its strong fan to remove dust and shrivelled grain, we hope to be able to gain a premium price, so “fingers crossed”!

Old Grain Store and Farmyard
The old grain store at the Home Farm was built, I believe, in 1957. It has not been used since the year 2000, and the internal structures of elevators, conveyors, dresser, walkways and gantries, as well as the grain reception pit had become unsafe. Over the past few weeks we have been removing the redundant equipment and structure and filling the pits and elevator sumps with hardcore, ready for concreting. We have taken down the old Rolled Barley Hopper, dating from the time of the Barley Beef unit, as well as the final redundant oil tank. This grain handing system featured in the 1977 BBC film “Harvest at Great Gaddesden”.

High Park Wood
Over the past few years many people will have read about the ash tree disease known as “Chalara” or ash dieback. One of the side effects is that the branches of mature trees lose the elasticity for which ash is renowned. This can mean that branches can break off. High Park Wood has considerable public access via the footpaths, so we are planning to go ahead with felling the older ash, probably in the early part of next year. We were granted a Felling Licence for this work by the Forestry Commission under our ten year management plan in 2012.
Most people will know that Great Gaddesden is a prime area for Hertfordshire Puddingstones, indeed there are some very large ones visible in the foundations of the church and in the churchyard. This conglomerate was formed in an earlier period of global warming, when the weathered pebbles from seaside beaches became cemented bur a silica matrix into a natural form of concrete. Puddingstone is principally found in Hertfordshire and the adjoining counties, and Normandy, although I have seen some rather dull examples in the Arnold Arboretum in Boston Massachusetts.  It is a very hard material and well suited to the production of querns, hand corn mills. Recent research has located several Roman or pre-Roman quarries for puddingstone and production areas for querns in the parish.

River improvements
Affinity Water, on behalf of the Environment Agency, are undertaking a project to restore chalk streams, a very important habitat, in Hertfordshire, including the River Gade. They have already completed work in Gadebridge Park. The basis of the work proposed here is to by-pass the sluice at Noke Mill to allow fish to swim upstream, probably including work to the bridge on Noke Mill Lane; removing some of the weirs between the lower bridge on the Leighton Buzzard Road and re-grading the Broad Water between the two Water End Bridges to return it to a chalk stream with enough flow to ensure  clean gravel bed.
Happy Christmas to one and all from those of us on the Gaddesden Estate!

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Gaddesden Estate News November 2018
The oilseed rape, a variety called “Extrovert” was drilled north of Gaddesden Row at Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms the week before the August Bank Holiday, as usual. It established well and has been enjoying the warm weather.  The crop came under attack from cabbage stem flea beetles immediately after planting, but it was strong enough to weather the storm.  Consequently it has had no insecticides applied to it, which is excellent news, and very little crop has been lost.  This pest has been very damaging to oilseed rape crops in recent years, particularly in the East of England, and so to get through the autumn without having to treat for it is a great relief.  
The winter wheat has now all been drilled, with two varieties, “Graham”, a Group 4 biscuit wheat around Hawbush Farm and JB Diego, known to be good as a 2nd cereal, after the oats on the Glennisters Block overlooking Gade Valley and the Highbush Block overlooking Water End. 
A dry September and generally kind conditions have meant that drilling (planting) has taken place later than in previous years.  With little rainfall, weed growth before planting has been minimal.  This is not necessarily a good thing, as the ideal scenario is to encourage the weeds to grow, and then kill them, prior to planting the crop.  In the end we took advantage of good conditions and went ahead to establish the wheat, having waited a good length of time and leaving the weediest fields till last to enable a better kill.  Leave it too late and the wheat plants do not have enough time to make use of the autumn sunshine, which leads to a yield penalty come harvest.  
Hedge cutting has begun, but so far only on the internal sides of the fields due for drilling, when access is possible. As I have mentioned before, hedge cutting is done on a two or three year rotation, among other things to save the wild berries for the birds.

Estate management
We have had three cottages vacant and needing refurbishment. 20 The Park is now let and we welcome new occupant.  54 Bridens Camp is still available, though currently viewing, and the Golden Lodge needs major refurbishment before available to let. We continue the programme of installing double glazed windows, as well as dealing with regular items such as boiler servicing, replacement oil tanks and other maintenance.

Grazing and stables
We welcome new grazing occupants at Mill Hill and Marsh Farms.  Three paddocks have recently  been fenced with the new fencing we used at Whitehouse last year, with galvanised steel posts and electrified top wire.  These posts are guaranteed for 30 years, which is a significant improvement over the length of time that timber posts seem to last in our wet clay soil.  It is interesting to note that some of the Victorian cast iron gate posts around the estate are still perfectly sound more than a century later, so we hope the investment in their modern equivalent will stand us in good stead for many years to come! 
The Estate Ride continues to be popular, even through the very had going this past summer. We are planning a major survey of the jumps this winter and consequent repairs and improvement. The monthly Park & Rides this summer were much enjoyed and we hope to run these again next year. The Charity Ride at the end of September was well attended and raised £2,000 for the Gaddesden Place Group of the Riding for the Disabled.
Most of the trees we planted in Big Wood last winter, mostly Douglas Fir with a sprinkling of Oak, thankfully survived the summer drought, though we still have some to replace from our small stock we grew from seed. This operation is known by foresters by the arcane expression “beating up”, which has no implication of violence! I believe it to come from mediaeval English.
Deer have done damage to the tree guards and our management of the population continues.

John Massey
Many readers will remember John Massey who managed the Home Farm from 1964 until 1989, who sadly died recently. He undertook a major overhaul of the farm introducing modern methods and establishing the Oakengrove Herd of Pedigree British Friesian cows. He won a Nuffield Scholarship which enabled him to travel to America and Australia studying aspects of agriculture. He also served on the Parish Council and Dacorum Council.
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​Gaddesden Estate News September 2018
What a strange season this has been; we had a very cold, late spring, followed by the “Beast from the East” and then suddenly we went into one of the hottest and driest summers that many people can remember.
We cut the oilseed rape at Hawbush Farm on 24th and 25th July.

Then back to the weather! Thankfully for most people and all gardeners the weather at last broke in August. We got back to harvesting the biscuit wheat variety “Barrell”, on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms, around 4th  August, but the wet weather following it has meant that we didn’t begin cutting the feed wheat “JB Diego” until 19th August and finished on 21st.

Even so this is still timely, though the crop has stood in the field for several weeks ready for harvest. We can thank heaven that we did not suffer any devastating hail or thunderstorms, and we are now on track for a normal year, where we begin cereal harvest in the middle of the month.

The oilseed rape yield was down to 3 tonnes/hectare (about 24 cwt/acre). Our old pre-cleaner came into its own, enabling us to send a good clean sample to the crushers. The seeds were small, but the oil content was high, compensating somewhat for the lower production.

The Barrell wheat yielded under 9 t/ha, slightly disappointing, though we were pleased that the Diego came off at around 10 t/ha (80 cwt/ac). However, while wheat prices remain buoyant, and though yield is often said to be the critical factor, one is always pleased with a good price!

The final crop to be harvested will be the oats, though this crop is unlikely to make the deadline for the September Newsletter. Due to the relatively high moisture content of the Diego wheat, some time will have to be spent bucketing dry wheat from a drying store to the buffer store No 4, to make room for the oats.

Other work continues during harvest time, on days we cannot cut. Fencing work is in progress on some of the horse paddocks at Bridens Camp and Mill Hill Farm and in due course at Marsh Farm, ready for new clients.
We are in the process of sowing “cover crops” on the land designated for 2019 spring cropping, so the ground is not bare throughout the winter, and by the time you read this we should have drilled and rolled next year’s oilseed rape north of Gaddesden Row.

Our old grain store was last used in the year 2000 and we have at last been working on the removal of the redundant elevators and conveyors, as well as the tip-weigh and dresser, which we should be able to sell. We also demolished the rusty old rolled barley hopper, which dates from our long defunct Barley Beef Unit, which ceased in the 1980s.
Using our farm contractors tracked excavator, we have graded and cambered the farm drives, and a bonus of the hot sun has, we hope, hardened the surface, so that we can reduce our perennial pothole problems.

There is little to report, other than that the majority of the trees we planted in Big Wood in the early spring seem to have survived the drought. We will be able to see better in the winter, when most of the annual vegetation will have died down.

Unusually we will have three residential properties, in different parts of the estate, becoming available over the next few weeks. They all need a certain amount of refurbishment and where appropriate work to comply with the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). Please contact the Estate Office with any expressions of interest.

Carpenters’ Shop
It is a very long time since the late Alan Lowdon, our last estate carpenter, retired. The Victorian carpenters’ shop in the former Timber Yard was used as a mess room and farm meeting room for many years and then by the shoot as a lunch room. We discovered problems with the valley gutters and so we have re-roofed the building so that it can have a useful future.

Following our Big Pick-Up earlier this year it is disappointing to see our country lanes, particularly Red Lion Lane again littered with cans, plastic bottles, fast food packets &c!

Park and Ride
We sadly had to cancel the July Park and Ride, due to the very hard going, but August’s is still in place, and of course we hope for a good turn out for the September Charity Ride on 30th.

Many of you will remember Derek Christopher, who founded not only our summer Park & Rides but the Ride itself. It seemed fitting to organise a Ride-related award in his memory. As such we are offering a prize for the most sponsorship raised for the RDA (Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Centre (Regd Charity no. 1140330)) by a rider taking part in this September event.  We are asking participants to consider getting extra sponsorship with the aim of doubling what is currently donated to the RDA. Fancy dress is optional (though we'll also have a little something for the best-dressed rider).

If you would like to take part in the Charity Ride, bookings as usual through Equo

The September Charity Ride raises much needed funds for the Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled and the British Horse Society who very kindly help run our Park and Ride days throughout the year.  If you would like to donate or volunteer for either of these good causes, please visit their websites for further details, and
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Gaddesden Estate News July/August 2018
Tough Mudder
As many will know, Tough Mudder Ltd will be holding their inaugural London North Event on the estate on the weekend of 7th and 8th July.

Those who have been following the planning application process will know that Tough Mudder’s original application was withdrawn and their subsequent application is still under review.  For this year, the event and course have been revised such that planning permission is no longer necessary.  

We expect it to be a busy weekend in and around the parish but are confident that measures are in place to minimise any disruption to local residents.  All public footpaths and bridleways will be open as always, and we are sure there will be some interesting things to see for those who happen to be passing!

There is more information contained in the separate notice in this magazine, together with contact details ([email protected]) to answer any queries that may arise. 
All the crops are looking reasonable at present, though we shall soon need some rain. The wheat is just finishing flowering and the late sown spring oats are looking remarkably happy. The stems of the oilseed rape are rather short, probably stunted by a combination of the infamous “Beast from the East” and very heavy pigeon pressure. We continue to battle with various grass weeds, in particular black-grass, which is very difficult to control. Walkers on the footpaths may have noticed that, as in former years, we have sprayed off patches of wheat to kill bad patches of black-grass infestation. We calculate that the loss of crop is of less moment than the risk of the weed spreading.

In a few weeks we will be hosting the annual farm walk organised by the Redbourn and District Agricultural Competitions Association, the same group who run the annual Ploughing Match in September and the Hay, Root and Corn show. This involves a tractor and trailer ride around the farm and ends with a barbecue or hog-roast.

The farm walk always precedes harvest which is the next big thing on the farmers’ horizon. By the time I sit down to write the next news from the estate, the rape will have been combined and sold, hopefully all the wheat will have been cut too and maybe the oats as well. If we decide to grow rape again, this will hopefully have been drilled by the third week in August. 
Residential Properties and Commercial Units
Annual maintenance and minor improvements continue as usual on the houses and cottages. Mill Hill Farm Cottage has been completely refurbished and the traditional farm buildings stabilised.  All dwellings are now occupied, with one exception prior to another extensive refurbishment.

The office units are now either fully let or with leases in the process of completion. We are pleased to welcome to the Home Farm and Whitehouse Farm Business Centres: 168 Security, Quorn Stone, B 360 Ltd and Building Services Management Ltd.

Gaddesden Estate Ride and “Park and Ride” Events.
Membership of the Ride renews in June and applications come into the Farm Office on several days a week. We did not have a “Park and Ride” in June, due to other estate commitments, and the next two will be held on Sundays 29th July and 26th August. The Charity Ride takes place on the last Sunday of September, 30th, to conclude the season. As usual applications are made through the Equo Website

Derek Christopher
It is with great sadness that we record the passing of Derek Christopher in his eighty ninth year. He had been involved with the estate for nearly fifty years in many roles, but principally as Manager of the Upperwood Farm Stud, the concept of which he initiated and then developed laying the foundation to the thriving business it is today. He managed all the horse enterprises on the estate, as well as being involved with estate management and farming matters. His memorial service at Great Gaddesden Church was packed as was the Party, as he called it, afterwards at the Bridgewater Arms. We all miss him.
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Gaddesden Estate News May 2018
This past week has been a mad rush to get several weeks of spring work completed, concertina-ed into three or four days. The winter was so long and spring so late that we were not able to get onto the saturated land until the lovely spell of sunshine last week; it was what is known as a “blackthorn summer”, with the white flowers of the blackthorn bushes in the hedgerows blossoming at their best around the farm.

We had about 250 acres of spring oats to drill. Some could be drilled directly into last years stubbles, but on the top of the hills, particularly in the fields behind Bridens Camp, called Hoghstrough and Highbush/Farthings where the ground is very heavy, the ground needed to be cultivated and rolled before we could get the seed drill in. In some places, most noticeably Long Garmer Field, the weeds had grown strongly over the winter among the “volunteer” wheat (seed left over from last year, dropped in the chaff by the combine harvester) and these areas had to be sprayed with glyphosate before drilling. Thankfully all the seed was sown before St George’s day. It is at least a fortnight later than  the latest recommended drilling date, so let us pray that the crop germinates well and catches up, even though it may be a late harvest with reduced bushel weights.

In addition, concurrently it was imperative to put a second dose of nitrogen fertiliser on the wheat and the oilseed rape as well as the next fungicide programme for both, in this case using the same machine, the Bateman sprayer.
The winter cropping has already responded well to this treatment.
Our next task is the application of Muriate of Potash (potassium chloride) using a conventional fertiliser spinner.
We completed planting up sub-Compartment 7k in Big Wood, as reported last month. We have no thinning or felling planned for this year, though we will be continuing with our roadside tree surgery. The sawlogs from last year’s wind-blow in Newlands Wood are at last due to be collected this week.
We await with trepidation the attacks by grey squirrels on the trees in the Farm Woodland Scheme blocks, which were thinned over the past couple of years; these often seem to come after a thinning. It may be because the enhanced growth of the remaining trees produces more sugar in the sap. As I have mentioned previously the American Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, can completely devastate a plantation, making the production of high quality timber well-nigh impossible, and rendering the trees only suitable for firewood or chipwood.

Current research on grey squirrel control measures includes the introduction of the native Pine Marten, which predates on grey squirrels, and the production of an oral fertility control vaccine, which it is hoped may be ready by 2021. As greys carry the squirrel pox virus, the re-introduction of the native Red Squirrel would not be successful here, though reds survive in the north of England, the Isle of Wight and Scotland.

The Great British Spring Clean
On 22nd April about thirty people joined for a cup of tea or coffee at the Home Farm before setting out to clean up the roadsides in our parish. Rubbish was collected in many areas including Red Lion Lane, Water End, Gaddesden Row and Ledgemore Lane. Dacorum Borough Council kindly provided sacks for re-cyclable and non-re-cyclable rubbish, litter picking grabs and fluorescent tabards, all organised by Sharon Row. At the time of writing not all the bags have been brought in, but currently there are over sixty bags awaiting collection by the council. Thank you, and well done to everybody who gave up their Saturday to take part.

Park and Ride
The first of this year’s Park and Ride events takes place on Sunday 29th April. Entry as usual is through the Equo website.
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Gaddesden Estate News April 2018
As I write this we thought that we were past the spell of snow, frosts and winds called the “Beast from the East” and enjoying some spring weather, before the new blast came this week end.

Mainly due, I believe, to the cold weather on the continent, we have had large flocks of wood pigeons attacking the oilseed rape, particularly the fields near Hawbush Farm called Upper Longcroft.  To try to mitigate the damage we have put out several gas “guns”, which imitate the firing of a shotgun at random times, and scarecrows. In the meantime, pigeon shooters have been out reducing numbers and moving the pigeons on, as well as shooting for the pot.
The few dry days we have had have been useful to enable us to apply liquid nitrogen fertiliser to boost the growth of the rape, to get it to grow away from the pigeons.
The next jobs on the arable side will be to apply nitrogen to the wheat, which is generally looking jolly good all round the farm, and to drill (sow) the spring oats in the Highbush/Farthings area behind Bridens Camp and the Glennisters block on Marsh Farm, behind the Village Hall.

We are going to be growing a large area of spring sown oats this year, about double the area of last year, and are hoping to produce about 600 tonnes in total.  Last year’s crop was sent to be milled into porridge and other oat products by a miller in Crewe, and we’re aiming for the porridge market again this year. 
One thing we are doing differently is that we are experimenting with planting rows of white clover in between the rows of oats this year.  The theory behind this (and it is only theory at this point) is that the clover will help the oats by fixing nitrogen in the soil, will suppress weeds to the extent that hopefully no selective herbicides will be required, will add carbon and organic material to the soil and will also benefit the following wheat crop, which will be planted in the autumn straight into the clover, once the oats have been harvested.  The mechanics of this have required a fair bit of tinkering in the workshop as the rows of clover seeds have to be planted on top of the soil and lightly scratched, whilst the oats are drilled deeper in.  Hopefully we’re nearly there, and so the one machine will be planting both oat and clover seeds at different depths and adding some starter fertiliser to the oats all at the same time.  Time will tell if we are successful!  
We have had a clear out of “tackle” disposing of various redundant pieces of machinery, including our old hedgecutter, which have hung over since the days we had livestock. There is often a problem on most farms, as one is tempted to hang onto things in case “they might come in useful”!

The firewood from the thinnings of the Farm Woodland Scheme areas has now been shifted by the merchant, and we are still awaiting collection of the sawlogs from Newlands Wood. We are currently in the middle of planting up the storm damaged area of Big Wood at Bridens Camp, three quarters with Douglas Fir, but with blocks of English Oak amongst it, as well as some other species to make a mixture. The area is quite rough and wet; before the parish Tithe Map of 1836 it comprised two small arable fields called Hither and Further Moulders. The trees have to be protected from pests including rabbits and deer, so are guarded with 1.5 meter plastic netting tubes, and each surrounded by a bio-degradable mulch mat, to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
We continue our efforts to control grey squirrels, which can cause devastating damage to broadleaved trees, in particular beech, oak and sycamore. Because the use of Warfarin rodenticide, formerly recommended by the Forestry Commission, has been banned from woodland by the EU, we have to rely on shooting; trapping is possible but very labour intensive.
Deer also do considerable damage to young trees This can be by browsing off natural regeneration, thus preventing young seedlings from growing into saplings on their way to becoming trees. Male deer, bucks, grow new antlers each year and at first, they are covered by a thin fleshy layer called “velvet” which provides a blood supply to the growing antlers. When the antlers are fully grown, the bucks need to get rid of the “velvet” and they do this by thrashing their antlers on the stems of young trees, frequently removing all the bark thus destroying the conduit of nutrients from the soil, and so either killing or preventing the trees from growing into timber.
Of the two main species of deer here, Fallow Deer may only be shot during restricted seasons for bucks and does, while Reeves’s Muntjac, which breed throughout the year can be shot at any time, though mainly before the summer foliage grows in the woods. We have also very occasionally seen Roe Deer and Chinese Water Deer.

Estate Management
Until the weather improves and we are able to get on with external redecoration and continue our programme of upgrading windows in order to improve the ratings under Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), our principal project has been to refurbish Mill Hill Farm Cottage. As this stands on a very windy hill top, above Highbush/Farthings field we wonder whether there was ever a windmill on the site, though we have so far been able to find no record of one. It could of course have been so named just because it is on the hill above Noake Mill at Water End! The former lane to Mill Hill was recorded as either “Mill Hill Lane” or “Farthynghill Lane”. Incidentally the name “Farthings”, which has dropped out of use, normally indicates that the field was in mediaeval times divided into strips as part of the parish “open filed system of cultivation, as we know the parkland below Gaddesden Place once was.

Commercial Property
Unit 1 at the Home Farm Business Centre is available to let, please contact the Estate Office 01442 252421 [email protected] . This is a unit of approximately 530 sq. Ft. and is ready for occupation, having just had a new kitchenette fitted. As with changes of occupation to residential property, from time to time there is a turnover as occupants’ business conditions fluctuate. We are very pleased to welcome Quorn Stone to Unit 6 in the Oakengrove Yard at the Home Farm.

Estate Ride and Horse Paddocks
The ride has been used occasionally by hardy riders who have ventured out in the winter, and soon the time will come for the jumps to be re-furbished for the summer and the ground harrowed and rolled. The same applies to the let grazing where we are also continuing our programme of new fencing. The monthly Park And Rides begin in 29th April and as usual entry is through the Equo website: .

The Gaddesden Estate’s new Website
Finally, as the result of several months’ work we now have a splendid new website; do have a look at this:
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Gaddesden Estate News February 2018
With the snow in December and with wet conditions since we have not been able to get out onto the ground, but fortunately there is little to do in the fields until the spring work comes around. Even the normally hard tracks are soft or breaking up, so much so that a timber lorry got stuck in January and couldn’t collect its load!

With the short hours of daylight, most of the time has been concentrated around the yard. Lorries come to collect wheat and oats (which are going to Mornflake Foods in Crewe to make porridge; in the past the other main market has been for high quality feed for Newmarket racehorses). This year we will be growing spring oats again.

These commodities are of course from last summer’s harvest. These lorries are rather like London busses, all is quiet then two or three turn up at once needing to be loaded, ready to go off to the mills.

The other big event has been our annual inspection for the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme. This enables all our produce to be certified under the “Red Tractor” label. I am pleased to say that we passed this with the Home Farm being approved as “ship shape and Bristol fashion”! This not only involves making sure everything complies with the scheme requirements, but also involves a great deal of office work over the year, so we can provide a “Paper trail” for all the inputs on the farm, fertilisers and sprays, what supplier they came from, on which field where they used and at what rate and in what conditions. 

As part of a drive for better efficiency across the farm we decided to sell our hedge-cutter and to contract out all our hedge-cutting; most of the roadside hedges have been very beautifully trimmed, though the ground is too wet to cut most of the internal hedges. As mentioned in previous years, hedges - other than on roadsides - are cut in rotation, in accordance with our Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme (HLS). Hedges are trimmed during the winter months, and as far as possible after the birds have had most of the berries. By trimming on rotation some of the hedges are left to fruit for longer. This also enables biennial plants to flourish.

 Paddock Fencing
Last year we re-fenced one paddock with a new metal fencing system, which is proved to be much more satisfactory than the conventional post and wire fences, so we intend to expand this system around the Home Farm.

Gaddesden Estate Ride and monthly “Park & Rides”
The inclement winter weather has meant that the ride has been used much less than usual, which has prevented the need to close it due to ground conditions.  We will again be holding our very popular “Park & Ride” events on the last Sunday of the summer months (though not in June as we have another event on the estate).

Before Christmas we were visited by a production company who used one of our buildings to make a documentary film about the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and two people who survived that awful camp came here to participate.

Water End Meadows and Gaddesden Estate Ride
For legal reasons we close the access to the Water End Meadows along the River Gade between Water End and Great Gaddesden for 36 hours every year. This year the closure will be between 6pm on 12th and 6 am on 14th March. This does not apply to public rights of way. For similar reasons the Ride will be closed over the same period. There is a notice about this, elsewhere in the Newsletter.

We currently have two office units of 586 and 516 square feet available to let at the Home Farm Business Centre. If you are interested, please apply to [email protected] or ring 01442252421 .

Otherwise on the property front we are repairing gutters and tiles and slates which were damaged in the recent gales, we are making plans for routine summer maintenance. 

The government has announced new support for forestry within 35 miles of the HS2 corridor and we are looking into the proposals to see if there is anything that might apply to the woodlands here. In the meantime, we are planning to re-plant a block of Big Wood which had bad wind damage a few years ago.



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Tough Mudder 2018 at the Gaddesden Estate
In July 2018 the Gaddesden Estate will be hosting Tough Mudder. the extreme obstacle course, for the first time.

‘Tough Mudder London North’ will be a brand new course, ‘featuring the unmistakable combination of classic obstacles, innovative challenges and mud’.

The 10-mile route (a half-distance course is also available) will run entirely off-road around the estate and feature 20+ obstacles.

For more information and to book tickets visit:
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