Field to Table, Bean-Straw Fuel & Plashing at Calceby

Both indoors and outdoors, South Ormsby Estate has been a hive of activity this week. Work on the biomass boiler continues. The old tin roof covering the boiler and pipework got a spruce-up to keep it watertight. When operational, we’ll use bean straw as a trial bio-mass fuel alongside such sources as dead wood.


Our bean straw was baled at a tenant’s farm by local contractor, John Benge, then collected with the help of Tom Baxter and his JCB. In our research, we found that local biomass users prefer bean straw as it’s readily available, reasonably priced, burns well, has a high energy output and doesn’t leave much ash. We may also experiment with oilseed-rape straw next year.

Elsewhere on the estate, the wall surrounding the Walled Garden was carefully and slightly excavated so that its base can be repaired. Nearby, estate photographer Damian Furlong captured images of our green-fingered, octogenarian tenant, Harold. He’s currently busy clearing his garden and spreading compost, ready for winter. We learned that Harold’s home-grown parsley goes down very well with his granddaughter’s guinea-pig.


In South Ormsby Hall’s kitchen, the journey from field to plate was completed. Housekeeper Jacqui and graduate trainee Annie made pizza using wheat harvested from our very own fields just a few weeks ago. They were high on flavour and exceedingly low on food-miles. The Hall also hosted the Wolds Tourism Meeting, with key players in the Lincolnshire Wolds tourism industry gathering to build networks and promote our beautiful region as a leisure destination. The meeting later adjourned to The Old Rectory Guest House, recently shortlisted for eviivo’s ‘Hidden Gem – The Midlands’ award for the exemplary welcome it extends to visitors to the region.

This week, we were delighted to welcome to the South Ormsby team David Whiteley as Head of Business, Events & Personnel Operations. Bringing the best out of businesspeople is David’s vocation. Born in Louth, his rich and varied career has included running cruising restaurants in Sydney Harbour, qualifying as an MBA in Nottingham, working in sales and marketing across Europe, acting in an EU-funded business consultant role and turning around the finances and profits of a sports club in Wakefield.


Further afield, hedge-layer Matthew Davey has been busy plashing on the estate near Calceby. Plashing is a traditional way of forming strong, long-lived and biodiverse hedgerows so that they become havens for wildlife and impenetrable boundaries to livestock. Even if managed with a tractor and flail, modern hedges can become leggy and die out over time. By contrast, periodic plashing can extend a hedge’s life indefinitely.

Matthew learned hedge-laying at agricultural college. He gained experience on a countryside management project, learning traditional skills from older hands and securing his chainsaw ticket. His job demands experience, skill and physical strength. No amount of book or video learning is a match for laying kilometres of hedgerow every year. In Lincolnshire, he applies the Midlands style of plashing – one of several regional varieties – which involves binding the top of the hedge with willow or hazel.


Matthew’s craft dates back thousands of years. Roman legions are known to have used plashing to reinforce their timber forts and the practice was old even then. Europe’s pre-historic settlers are thought to have plashed hedgerows to corral livestock after clearing woodland. This ancient and sustainable way of managing the rural landscape is right at home on the 21st-century South Ormsby Estate.