Now some time to catch up a bit on all the things that have been put off over the summer. It has been a busy six months, particularly on the fruit and veg side of the business, which is really my main enterprise. Pumpkins and squashes are our last crops of the season before we close down the Pick Your Own at the end of October. They have been selling fast over the last few weeks and the main problem with them has really been theft as they are easy enough to carry across the field to the nearest road. I suggested dumping a load of slurry between the crop and the road to discourage the thieving but I am not sure my manager approved of the idea!
So we started in April and have been kept busy right through until now. The weather has of course been kind to us and we have had more customers this year in the PYI than for many years. We normally open with asparagus on 1 April but that was about 10 days late this year. However, we stopped sales as planned on 21 June so that we could get on with the fertiliser to encourage as much growth of the fern above ground as possible to ensure next year’s crop. The other crops went pretty much to plan and we certainly had a bumper summer.
On the arable side we have ploughed behind the oats and drilled with Cordial winter wheat on 33ha. I prefer to plough if possible as it is an easy operation on our light soils and removes the need for Roundup. The recent rain has not been a problem and a bit of moisture in the ground makes it inexpensive too. The rest will go into spring barley and as we have some sterile brome problems on that land I shall spray off sometime in the next month or so and then plough when the weather is right sometime over the winter. I would then drill at the first opportunity from early February but haven’t yet decided on varieties.
It has been a good year for wedding receptions. We have 14 day licences and are well booked for next year already. I am working on changing the management of this part of the business as I currently handle most of this myself. We now have planning permission for five yurts and that has been a very costly exercise, particularly as there is such a short season for this accommodation ( April to October). They are certainly taking over from the wigwams, which are yesterday’s fashion and not really suitable for the English climate. The shepherd’s huts are more adapted to both climate and avoiding problems with vermin so we may add one or two more of those. Another fun enterprise has been the deer safaris on some land I have in the New Forest. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people have paid to see the deer herds this year so that has been very worthwhile. We also had a circus, which was greatly enjoyed by those who attended, but sadly was not sufficiently popular to make it economically viable. Interestingly most people looked very blank when invited to go to the circus and then have something to eat afterwards, rather as so many do when you suggest they go to a ploughing match! Such a shame.
Another disappointment recently has been that planning permission has been granted for a McDonalds Drive thru’ to replace a local hostelry alongside a main road, where people used to stop for rest and refreshment. I opposed this very strongly because, in my view, a main road through a National Park is just not the right location for a drive through. It seems to me that people will pick up a meal, drive on whilst eating, which is dangerous; throw their litter out, which damages the environment and our beautiful countryside, in one of three potential directions from the site; and probably will not have taken the proper break from driving that a traditional refreshment opportunity would have encouraged. I felt really strongly about this, not because I have anything against McDonalds, indeed I enjoy their food, but I am very saddened by this particular decision.
Still, on to the next thing I suppose and preparations for next year.