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Gaddesden Estate News April 2022
During the winter months there has been little to report, without repeating the regular work of machinery and building maintenance. Now the spring has come, the wild daffodils and primroses are brightening the woods and hedges and the land begins to wake up from its slumbers. The blackthorn blossom has appeared and soon the cherry blossom will be here as well. Shoots are beginning to show on many trees and underwood, what is known by the woodman as ”flushing”.

Arable Farming
The winter wheat and oats have come through the cold, dark months well and look promising, though our experimental planting of wheat into a clover “living mulch” in Great Almonds has yet really been able to show its potential. We have taken the opportunity of the recent dry spell to start our spring drilling and we now have sown Bingham’s Bottom and Elmtree Park with spring barley intended for malting (beer or whisky). We still have more barley to sow in fields at Hawbush Farm, and also a block of linseed.
Nearly all 2021 harvest produce has been shifted, though we still have a lorry load of barley and a little wheat to go.

We do not have any of our own livestock, though, two of our neighbours, Reg Cornthwaite and Breeding Vision graze sheep on Gaddesden Park and our organic conversion fields. The latter business also has cattle, in particular the Longhorns, which have been housed for the winter at Hawbush and in due course will grace the water meadows between Water End and Great Gaddesden. Overall, this means that we are effectively a mixed farm, albeit predominantly arable.

While on the subject of farming, I cannot avoid mentioning the conflict in Ukraine and the general economic situation. Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, oil and the raw materials for fertiliser. These all have a major effect on the agricultural sector. Tractors use a lot of diesel when working the land, while conventional crops are highly dependent on fertilisers, nitrogen, phosphorous and potash. The cost of these commodities has in some cases quadrupled. Fuel price rises are well known, but for the last load of farm diesel we ordered the supplier was even unable to quote us a price, and we await both the delivery and the bill with some trepidation.

On the plus side for the farmer the value of the commodities grown (which are traded globally, with the markets typically in dollars) have increased substantially, though this is bound to affect the prices of bread in the shops in due course.  With all of these price rises both for inputs and outputs it increases working capital requirement for the cropping year and means the financial implications of, for example, bad weather events risk being that much more severe.  For the time being we are continuing to plant our crops largely as normal, but it isn’t for the faint hearted!

Our local Forestry Commission officer came recently to go through the proposals in our new ten-year Forest Management Plan from 2022 to 2032. We have a continuous series of what used to be called “Plans of Operations” since the first one begun by Sir Thomas Halsey in 1957. While we have permission to fell predominantly ash trees in New Gorse, this highlights the problem we have with “Ash die-back” disease, about which I have written on many previous occasions. We are hoping to get much of the ash felled as part of the regular thinning and harvesting programme, rather than resort to very expensive tree surgery.

Horses and the Ride
With the summer ahead we are putting ride and jump maintenance on our work programme prior to the first of these on 8th May; they follow on 3rd July, 14th Aug and the Charity Ride 11th September. Booking as usual is through the Equo website

Estate maintenance
We have completed the redecoration of the Home Farm House, prior to re-letting, both inside and outside and entirely rearranged the garden with new beech hedges, shrubs and trees. Two other properties have had new oil tanks installed for their central heating.  Following the recent storms, there have been slates, and tiles to replace and gutters to repair, as well as a large number of trees to tidy up.
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Gaddesden Estate News February 2022
The crops continue quietly growing during the winter months. The longhorns cattle are tucked up cosily at Hawbush Farm, while the sheep are grazing in Gaddesden Park and on the clover/ryegrass leys in the fields destined for organic conversion.
The spring barley seed we saved from harvest 2021 has been dressed ready for sowing this year.
Grain lorries have been collecting last year’s produce and almost all the oats have now been moved.
Hedge cutting has finished in accordance with the programme, prior to the official completion date of the end of February. This is to avoid disturbance to nesting farmland birds.
Estate maintenance
We have planted a new beech hedge in the car park at Whitehouse Farm Business Centre and we are currently refurbishing the garden at the Home Farm House, which is also being redecorated before being re-let.
Contractors have removed much of the old asbestos-cement roofing at the Home Farm and re-clad the lean-to on the big Dutch barn at the Home Farm.
We have received the Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission to fell all the diseased ash trees in New Gorse and this work is planned to take place in the summer when the ground should be dry enough.
Horses and Ride
There is little to record, though in a few weeks we will be beginning the annual maintenance of the paddocks, ride and jumps.
Water meadows and tracks
As usual we will be closing access to the water meadows and tracks for 36 hours in mid-March, though not of course public rights of way.
Platinum Jubilee
We are in contact with Great Gaddesden Parish Council about having a bonfire in the Park on June 2nd as our contribution to the chain of beacons for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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Gaddesden Estate News December/January 2021/22
As reported last month, our oat seed was held up by processing and haulage issues, but did at last arrive just in time for autumn sowing.  Although rather later than ideal, it has gone in the grown and is now beginning to emerge.  The stand looks to be a little uneven as germination has been poor in the wetter areas, but overall we hope it will do well.  As they say, it won’t grow in the bag, so having it planted meant that for the first time in a couple of years everything that we hoped to plant in the autumn has gone in as planned.

We will shortly have a decision to make about our oilseed rape.  The poor fortunes of this crop have been well publicised in recent years, and we only have a small area of it this year.  The fundamental problem is that everything likes eating it, in particular the cabbage stem flea beetle.  We have taken the approach that we will plant some home saved seed this year (rather than buying expensive new seed), and then turn our back on it, and see if it comes to anything.  We are now at decision time where we need to judge whether we have enough plants to take it to harvest, in which case the spending on the crop begins, with selective herbicides, fungicide and fertilizer.  It is a very expensive crop to grow, so we need to get it right.  Gut feeling at this stage is that there are not enough plants, and they are not strong enough going into the winter.  If this turns out to be the case we will plant barley in the spring, which will be destined for malting for beer. 

The last few weeks have seen quite a few lorries leave the farm, going to various homes – wheat for Weetabix, barley for beer, and some (rather disappointing) oats going off to be made into turkey feed in the run up to Christmas.
Like may people we were very interested to follow the discussions at COP 26, particularly as land use plays such an important part in the life of the planet.

As I have referred to on several occasions, our approach to land management has been constantly evolving, on the agriculture and forestry sides as well as building management.

On the farm side we ceased ploughing some 20 years ago, both to mitigate the loss of carbon to the atmosphere and to encourage soil structure and soil biodiversity, particularly earthworms. Following on from this we are putting about a quarter of the farm into organic conversion and moving towards regenerative agriculture, which includes, is we said last month drilling wheat directly into a clover ley, which will not only provide a “living mulch” but also fix nitrogen into the soil. Overall this should lead to a reduced use of diesel fuel. We have also reduced the arable area in particular returning Gaddesden Park entirely to pasture.

Turning to woodland, we began planting new woods at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, and have continued to do so under various Forestry Commission schemes ever since.  You can be assured that there will be more tree planting to come!
Finally, ( although it seems strange to write this in November), we wish all in Great Gaddesden a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year. 
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Gaddesden Estate News November 2021
This is the first estate news for a few months, mainly because there was little to say about harvest, which was much delayed. This year has been difficult. With a cold and damp August, harvest can best be described as “catchy”. In the end we were able to get all the crops harvested beginning with the spring barley on 20th August and concluding with the linseed on 17th September.

Shortage of transport affecting collection of sold grain and delivery of inputs for autumn drilling, closure of fertilizer plants making fertilizer in short supply and expensive. However, with a kind September and October we have been able to get all the planned autumn drilling of wheat and oats done for the 2022 crop.
As reported on earlier occasions, we have a block of fields which we hope to convert to organic production, having been sown with a ley of clovers and ryegrass. This was grazed heavily with sheep over the summer, though we still had to do a lot of topping to prevent the ryegrass and black grass seed heads developing.

In one field, Great Almonds, we have experimented with a new form of growing wheat which involves hiring specialist machinery to drill the seeds into strips within the clover/grass ley, using satellite technology. The ley will then be mown, again with a specialized machine to prevent the ley smothering the crop. The idea is for the natural nitrogen fixing ability of the clovers (like all legumes or pulse crops) will fertilize the wheat. Let’s see how it goes!

As an aside the field name “Great Almonds” has been in use for many years. From old estate maps we can see that it is a corruption of “Harman’s” and the adjoining London Wood used to be called Harman’s Wood. Who Mr Harman was we shall probably never know.

Walkers in High Park Wood will have seen the mulching work, chopping up the stumps and fallen “lop and top” to provide an excellent entry for the next crop of trees to be planted.

Water meadows
We have had several representations about the misuse of the meadows along the River Gade from Great Gaddesden to Water End. On one occasion I was sworn at by a commercial dog walker who had parked her van blocking the gate on the Ladies’ Mile entrance, obstructing my Land-Rover from getting out onto the road! Commercial dog walkers have been a particular problem, often with several vans parked along the fence near the former “Cock and Bottle”. The grazing by Longhorn cattle has marginally eased the situation. However the meadows are not open for public access and are formally closed every year for 36 hours in mid-March. In future the only access to the meadows will be via the public footpaths.

Park and Ride, Ride and horses

The Park and Ride season has come to close, we welcomed lots of new faces throughout the season and was lovely to see familiar faces that visit year after year.

Always a pleasure to put these events together, it wouldn’t be the same without being fed by the amazing Marbled meats, and Brian Findlay’s photography capturing the riders best shot. And not forgetting the RDA that do such a fantastic job at directing, Guiding and keep the riders safe on course all with a smile! We have had wonderful feedback and can’t wait to get back out there next year.
Our Septembers Charity ride for the RDA raised £2281.50 plus the cash donations that were given on the day.

Estate maintenance &c
We have been thankful for some dry days in September and October to finish this year’s external decorating.  It’s been a busy year with installing new boilers, replacing windows, installing new lighting, chimney and roof repairs.  We have a rolling cycle of works to our properties to enable us to keep the properties in good repair.

Thoughts will soon be turning to plan for next year’s works and fingers crossed for no violent storms over the winter period.
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Gaddesden Estate News July/August 2021
High Park Wood – clearance for replanting
As I have mentioned several times before we shall be bringing in machinery to clear the area which was felled last year. This will involve mulching the tree stumps and “lop and top” which was left over after the felling. The object is to prepare the ground so that it is in a satisfactory condition for replanting. The timing of the operation is planned to be after the end of the main nesting season for birds. The contractors will be told of and possible badger sets and instructed to avoid disturbing them. This is the only forestry operation which we are doing this year, though there are several in the programme for next year.

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

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

The past year has seen a steep rise in the number of people out and enjoying the countryside, and while of course this is to be welcomed, in some instances this has led to a degree of abuse of the land, in particular of commercial activity, which risks spoiling the place for others.  We are aware that a number of commercial dog walking enterprises have recently taken to using the water meadows, contravening the permissive access arrangement for the local community. We will be contacting them to request that they go elsewhere, and we would be grateful for any reports of similar activity. By being vigilant to this as a community we hope we will be able to maintain the current status of permissive access.  If this proves not to be possible we may have to consider whether closure of the meadows is the only option, which would of course be a great loss to the village.   
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Gaddesden Estate News June 2021
The seasons continue to progress, though today, 21st May seems more like November!

The crops are growing and mostly reasonable, though it certainly won’t be a bumper harvest this year. The surviving winter wheat looks satisfactory, as do the spring oats which have come well through the very dry period after sowing.  The spring wheat and barley which we drilled where the winter failed are generally looking OK though rather thin in places. The linseed has some catching up to do. The next time I write we will be looking forward to harvest.

We are experimenting with trying to plant white clover to grow as a permanent understorey below some of the spring crops, and this has involved spinning on the seed into the existing crop of oats or barley and harrowing it in lightly.  The plan is for subsequent years’ crops to be planted into the existing clover, which could have numerous benefits including a reduction in fertilizer use, increased soil biology, carbon sequestration, weed control and of course food for pollinators.  Fingers crossed that it works, and it is interesting to note that where we have done this, the oats and barley have generally responded very well to the harrowing (which can look a bit extreme at the time) by growing like mad to compensate for the disturbance.  As they say, “there’s nothing new in farming”, and harrowing crops used to be a standard method of weed control before the advent of selective herbicides.  It certainly felt like stepping back in time as we did this on our smallest and lightest tractor, which doesn’t have a cab, so as to minimize damage to the crop.   

Readers may have noticed the number of livestock around on the Home Farm this year, with the best part of 2,000 sheep, ewes and lambs, grazing our Organic Conversion fields and a bunch of Longhorn heifers on the Water End Meadows, currently on the block formerly know as Water Park Meadow adjoining the Ladies’ Mile.  The grass and clovers in the organic block are now growing very well now that the April frosts are passed, and the ewes and lambs are enjoying a feast.  The red clover and crimson clovers in particular are looking spectacular, and a sight not seen on the farm for many years.    
NoMowMay.  Wherever possible we have been leaving grass areas rough and un-mown to provide food for pollinators and birds.  This has resulted in a wonderful crop of dandelions around the Golden Parsonage (could this be another reason for its name, aside from the usual story about the yellow daffodils, I wonder).   This is a great initiative, and just goes to show that “weeds” can have huge wildlife benefits.  
We had a very successful first park and ride day of the summer.  It decided not to rain that day for once, and thanks to the excellent marshalling from the kind volunteers from the Gaddesden Place RDA, a record number of people were able to celebrate the end of lockdown and enjoy a lovely day out on the estate.  The dates for the rest of the summer are 4th July, 8th August, and then 12th Sept for the Charity ride in aid of the RDA.  

We have been doing the usual round of repairs to jumps and have for the first time put in a series of small jumps for children and ponies – though obviously anyone can hop over them too!
Old Photographs
We were contacted recently by Nigel Holly, whom some may remember used to work on the Home Farm in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He has very kindly sent us a portfolio of photographs showing many aspects of the farm, field work and cultivations, including milking the dairy cows.  It is a wonderful record, and we hope to be able to put up a few of these on facebook or the website in due course.   
Avril Burns
Many people will know Avril who will be finally retiring after 33 years. She originally came to the Farm to help with the seminar business we established in the 1980s and over the years progressed to being farm secretary, PA and to managing all our book-keeping and accounts. Several years ago, she reduced her time to one day a week, but for the end of June this year she will finally leave. She has been a friend to many members of staff, tenants, and the Halsey family. We will be eternally grateful and will miss her. We wish her all the best for her retirement.

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Gaddesden Estate News May 2021
The great news is that drilling of all crops has now been completed, with the linseed finally being sown on 8th April in Lodgemans, Peatmans and Ragged Hall. The parish boundary runs through Lodgemans, with part of the field being in Flamstead parish, as is Peatmans. I don’t know the origin of Lodgmans, though Peatmans, which is sometimes called “Peakmans” in old documents, shares its name with both a field on the neighbouring Puddephats Estate, between Newlands Wood and Babies Wood, as well as Peatmans Lane, sometimes confusingly called Whitehouse Lane, which is the restricted byway running north from Gaddesden Row School. Ragged Hall is the other end of Gaddesden Row. Formerly it was two fields, Eastleigh and Twitchells. The former name is retained by the cottage adjoining the field, while Twitchells may refer to the land being formerly infested with couch grass, often called in the east of England “twitch”. the two fields were amalgamated in the 1950s or 1960s and renamed Ragged Hall after a neighbouring house.

The electric fencing around the fields being grazed by sheep, which I mentioned last month, has now been completed. The fences adjoin several public footpaths and yellow warning signs have been put up. There is plenty of space between the paths and the electric fences.
General farm work continues with the usual round of road and track repairs, gate hanging and machinery maintenance.

We have recently met the Forestry Commission to inspect areas in two woods where a large number of ash trees are dying from ash dieback “Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus”, which was formerly known as “chalara”. The disease is rampant in this area and can cause branches to snap off and fall as the tree gradually dies and decays. Readers may remember that this is also why we felled the trees in High Park Wood last year. The woodland compartments concerned, which are likely to be felled in 2022 are in Big Wood, adjoining the Red Lion Lane opposite the Home Farm entrance, and New Gorse near the Golden Parsonage. Both compartments will be replanted in due course.

In High Park Wood, we will be bringing in a machine, in July or August this year, after the bird nesting season, to “mulch” the stumps, roots &c, so as to leave a clear site for replanting with native species already agreed with the Forestry Commission.
We are currently in discussion with the Forestry Commission about tree health and felling licences. Our current licences run out in 2022 and the next stage is to prepare a new Plan of Operations to cover the work we need to do over the next five to ten years.
Our regular roadside tree survey is in hand as I write and some people may have noticed that some trees have painted numbers on them, indicating that they may need attention.

Estate properties
Now that spring is here and soon it will be summer, annual maintenance time has now arrived, principally exterior redecoration, reading water meters &c.
Equestrian Matters
A quick overview for everything equine over the last couple of months.  All the grazing paddocks have been harrowed and rolled and a few maintenance jobs carried out mainly at The Ley at Whitehouse Farm. The grazing is thankfully slowly recovering from the wet winter.

New fencing has been erected in Spinney Meadow, which is also at Whitehouse, by our client to keep walkers from straying off the popular public footpath, causing damage to the grazing and leaving the gate open for the horses to escape.

Preparations are being made to prepare Abel’s Meadow, in Flamstead Parish (another field name dating from the Middle Ages!) for new clients in May. There is lots of work still to be done and water to be connected.

We have had a handful of new members joining the Gaddesden Estate Ride. The bridge in New Gorse has been repaired, and reopened, main parts of the ride have been rolled after a fair bit of damage on Lime Avenue and Cherrytree Field and is looking much better.

Park and Ride
May’s Park and Ride is fully booked bar a couple of places in the novice slot.  
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Gaddesden Estate News April 2021
We have at last been able to get on with some land work after a long wet and cold winter. 73 hectares to drill with linseed and oats.  45% of our autumn sown winter wheat has failed so 94 hectares (235 acres) have been re-drilled with spring crops, in some fields this will be wheat and in other fields barley. We hope that this latter will make a malting sample and go for brewing or whisky distilling. We still have 75 ha (185 ac) of planned Spring cropping on Whitehouse and Upperwood Farms north of Gaddesden Row. This is due to comprise beans and linseed.

Walkers will have noticed that several fields are being fenced with semi-permanent electric fencing. These fields are in our Organic Conversion programme. Provided that we have a reasonable harvest this year, they will have a couple of years grazing by sheep before being sown with a fully certified organic crop.

To digress onto the names of fields, which I did a few months ago and which sparked some interest, two of the fields being grazed are called Great Almonds and Bingham’s Bottom. Great Almonds was originally Great Harman’s, as the adjoining London Wood was called Harman’s Wood. For many years in the 1970s and 1980s this filed was divided by mains electric fencing into paddocks for the dairy herd, with a “race” down the middle of the field. Bingham’s Bottom is a valley field adjoining the site of Gaddesden Cottage which was lived in by several generations of the Bingham Family. They were vicars of Great Gaddesden, and their memorials are in the church on the left as you enter through the main door, behind the font. I believe they were interred in a vault beneath the memorials.

Turning to the recently re-drilled fields, the largest is Highbush-Farthings. I don’t know the origin of “Highbush”, but fields called “Farthings” or “Severalls” often indicate areas which were once part of the mediaeval “three field” strip farming system. Another field is Long Garmer, or Ford’s-Long Garmer. Garmer and Ford’s Meadow were amalgamated in the 1960s. I don’t know who Ford was though Garmer shares a name with Garmer Spring, a spinney adjoining it. “Spring” in this case refers not to a spring of water but to small woods which were formerly coppiced to yield underwood products such as hedging and thatching spars. Garmer Lane is the bridleway from the Red Lion corner in Water End to Corner Farm in Gaddesden Row. Again, I do not know the origin of the name.

Horses, grazing and Park & Ride
Paddock maintenance- we are waiting for the right weather to Harrow and Roll the paddocks after a very wet winter. Annual maintenance has been carried out on shelters.

Smaller jumps are being made for our younger riders to have the option to pop over whilst out and about. 
Park and Ride- numbers are already looking good for 9th May.  Planning has begun for the Charity Ride on 12th September, with riders already booked in we are hoping for another busy season ahead.

The other Park and Ride dates are 4th July and 8th August. Booking as usual is through Equo.
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Gaddesden Estate News March 2021
Winter maintenance work continues in the workshop. We are currently extending our seed drill to enable us to cover more ground when conditions allow. After our very cold spell and then very wet weather, it is difficult to predict when we will be able to drill our spring crops. Hopefully, we will have something positive to report next month. Hedge cutting along the roads and tracks, and wood sides continues and where the ground is dry enough. This is in accordance with current rules and we have to finish at the end of February so as not to disturb nesting birds. Some hedges are cut on alternate sides either two or three years apart.
The fields sown to the clover/grass mixture will be grazed by sheep late this year, before being drilled to cereals as the first step to Organic Conversion.

We have had virtually no movement on the commercial and residential property occupancy. The businesses based on the estate are all valiantly battling on through this Covid pandemic. The only residential change is that the Golden Lodge is now occupied.

I reported last month on our proposals for the woods this year. We are currently awaiting Felling Licence Approval from the Forestry Commission in order to undertake the proposed work. Our current Plan of Operations expires next year so we will, over the next few months, be planning for future work over the next five to ten years.

The going is very wet and sticky so few people are making use of the ride at present. In normal circumstances we would have liked to have closed it due to the wet conditions. However, in favour of keeping members off the roads, and hopefully encouraging people to keep riding for mental health and the welfare of horses in these strange times. We are looking forward to sunshine and the end of Lock Down so we can enjoy the Park and Rides in the summer!

Paddock maintenance has been rather busy this month with fencing and shelter repairs, tenants are being advised to limit grazing due to wet weather in order to protect pasture.

Park and Ride dates for 2021
9th May
4th July
8th August
12th September
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Gaddesden Estate News February 2021
Dacorum Local Plan Consultation
You may already be aware, but Dacorum Borough Council are consulting on their Local Plan, which includes proposed development of 5,550 houses on Green Belt land to the North of Hemel Hempstead, around Dodds Lane and Cupid Green Lane.   Much of this land sits within the Parish and is immediately adjacent to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Whatever your views on this, it is important that as many voices as possible are heard, so that the consultation process can reveal a true picture of local feeling on the proposals.  We will be submitting a response, and we hope that you will too.  Further details can be found in the dedicated section of this magazine and through Great Gaddesden Parish Council. 
January is a relatively quiet time on the Home Farm. As usual it is an opportunity for maintenance of machinery and buildings, as it is both too early and much too wet to get on the land. One task that comes around at this time of year is the annual inspection for the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme. This as you would expect involves a considerable amount or record keeping, paperwork and computer spreadsheets, in addition to a thorough inspection and checking out of the grain stores.

The End of the Common Agricultural Policy

Now that the UK has left the European Union the whole basis of farm support is changing.  Under the CAP, farmers received an annual payment based on the amount of land they farmed, not owned, subject to various conditions.  Without this payment many of the farms in the country would have become unviable without a big rise in commodity prices and consequently prices in the shops. Basic Payment Scheme “BPS” is now being phased out over the next few years to be replaced by “ELMS”, the Environmental Land Management Scheme. This scheme will pay farmers for, as Michael Gove said, “Public Money for Public Goods”. This is still being trialled and when it is clearer, I hope to be able to explain it. Among other things which are likely to be covered are soil health, public access, organic production, carbon capture and climate change mitigation.
The planned felling in High Park Wood was completed last summer. When the ground is dryer, probably after May, we will be bringing on a machine to mulch the remaining stumps and the “lop and top”, in order to prepare suitable conditions for replanting with native tree and understory species.

We hope also to clear the diseased Ash trees in New Gorse and do a light thinning in Marsh Wood, as well as harvesting some mature Oak, planted about 1830, in Big Wood.

We may well be harvesting and replanting some more Cricket Bat Willows on the Water End Meadows.

Golden Lodge
We are delighted that work on refurbishing the Golden Lodge is virtually complete. This has involved a comprehensive “top to toe” operation, starting with the roof replacement, re-wiring, re-plumbing, insulation and internal and external redecoration. The property went on the market for letting in mid-January, so by the time you read this may well be occupied.
Following an article in the “The Times” on the Saturday after Christmas a very large number of people came to take their exercise on our local footpaths, often inadequately clad for walking in the country. It was cheering to see so many people enjoying the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside during this time of lockdown. However, such large numbers resulted in the paths becoming very muddy and spread to a considerable width across the pasture fields.  The path through Marsh Wood, which has a hard surface, has been reduced to yards of mud in places.
Gaddesden Ride
Like everyone we are really hoping that the spring brings with it some form of normality and an ability to meet and do the things that we enjoy together.  With this in mind we have booked in Park and Ride events on 9th May, 4th July, 8th August and 12th September.  It seems a long way off in these dark days, but roll on some sunshine and a Wagyu burger from Marbled Meats!
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Gaddesden Estate News December/January 2020/21
The good news is that all the conservation grass/clover mix on five fields, Great Almonds, Long Meadow, Long Robins, Cherry Tree and Reynolds Field is doing really well. Rob Pratt is currently grazing his flock of sheep on Long Meadow. This mix is to give us a lead into the plan for organic conversion, aiming to have good soil structure and fertility for drilling next autumn. The winter wheat planted on the fields which run along the loom of the hills, where the ground is mainly free-draining chalk, is looking well. However, the less said about the plateau land the better! We got some of it drilled during a dry spell some weeks ago, but not all by any means and much of what has been sown has rotted in the wet soil. We now have to think about whether to attempt to drill the remaining land with winter wheat if we get enough cold dry days, or buy in spring wheat seed in the hope we can drill in the early part of 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Park & Rides 2021
While it looks like we will be living with Coronavirus for some time, we are hopeful that by next summer there will be enough of a lifting of restrictions to enable us to hold our Park & Ride days again. We are hoping to run four sessions, on 9th May, 4th July, 8th August and 12th September, with the final event as ever held in aid of Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled Association. Booking, for those who may be looking for ideas for activity-based Christmas presents, is now open via Equo ( 
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Gaddesden Estate News November 2020
First, for those who are kind enough to read these jottings, I must apologise for not writing anything for the September and October Newsletters. My only excuse is the upheaval of moving home after forty years at the Golden Parsonage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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