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A Week on the Estate: Wild Weather, Looking Back & Tools Needed

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This winter really has given us a bit of everything. In the first half of February, we saw sunny days-out for the Reds, saturated ground in front of the Hall and fields locked in snow and ice across the estate. This week, the temperature has climbed from freezing lows last weekend to almost double-digit highs at the time of writing.  Long-range forecasts suggest a possible return to freezing weather by March, so it’s not quite time to roll out the welcome mat for spring.

A look back at this time a year ago suggests there’s no such thing as a normal week on the estate. Around 14th February 2020, we were dealing with the aftermath of Storm Ciara, which brought wind-speeds above 50mph and sudden, heavy downpours to the county. By night, estate staff worked with chainsaws and a JCB in wild weather to clear a road blocked by fallen trees at Campaign Top. Daylight revealed more fallen timber and some wrecked fencing to be added to the estate’s job-list.

tree clearance & rug laying

There was also plenty of work going on indoors in February 2020. Jacqui Rhodes was busy restoring a fine, hand-made rug to its rightful place in the entrance hall following its repair by the expert craftsmen of James Barclay Rugs of London. Over several generations, the rug had developed a hole substantial enough to trip the Squire from time to time, obliging him to place it in storage. The remarkable repair carried out by James Barclay was all but invisible. A large swatch was replaced in a process that included re-building the warp and weft, then knotting in wool precisely matched to the original design. The rug was originally made to match the shape of the room, and an underlay was subsequently added to protect both the restored rug and the slab-stone floor beneath.

old & new combines

‘Our Days’ continued this week with the second instalment of Dennis Hotchin’s account of a life on the land. After finishing his National Service in the late 1950s, Dennis returned to the Wolds, got married, moved into Harden’s Gap and began a long and eventful 35-year career at South Ormsby Estate. This period was marked by a shift from labour-intensive to mechanised agriculture, although early combine harvesters, with open cabs and manual grain collection, certainly lacked the creature comforts of the latest models.

Unpredictable as the weather is, spring isn’t far off and we’ll soon need to break ground on our community garden project. We aim to give local people the chance to socialise over a spot of gardening and grow their own fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs in the process. If any of our readers have spare garden tools they could donate to ‘Incredible Edible South Ormsby’, Nicky Coxon would love to hear from you:


* Image of 1950s combine harvester courtesy of Evelyn Simak via / CC

* Image of modern combine harvester courtesy of Martin Pettit via Flickr / CC


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