Across the road from Home Farm is Garden House, where hundreds of bouquets were taken up to the main house in its heyday, more frequently that the most expensive London hotels have their flowers changed these days. As well as a rare orchid collection, a collection of ferns lined the banks of the arched tunnel under the road, where the bouquets were carried. As children, Barnaby and Jemima used to climb the gate by the big slurry pit and make dens down here and steep tracks for Barny’s mountain board - a rural equivalent to skateboarding.
The concrete farm yard and silage heap in the Dutch barn also provided plenty of smooth, slightly dangerous slopes, and in the paddock Barny invented a game called Hamster Wheels, turning circular metal cattle feeders on their sides and running inside. The derelict stone barns, with their cavernous lofts, where an American soldier fell out of the window to his death in WW1, were also perfect to explore until they were converted into houses. Growing up on a farm allows a lot of freedom, and slightly unsafe games.
Simon grew up on this farm too, as his father had, and when he was a child, there were even more picturesque stone barns, but they’d been dismantled and the stone sold to Arabs as the story goes. Like his father's siblings, Simon had a pony, Trixie, in the paddock that became his garden in married life. Jemima and Harriet’s little ponies, Magic and Stinker, where stabled in the old Weighbridge, where a huge cast iron set of scales could weigh parting carts.
When the Holford’s built the estate, like many of the super rich, they wanted to give the illusion that the their land was never ending. A haha drops from the house gardens, with its expansive collection of holly varieties and ornate stonework, into Churchground. The Sherbourne, a stream that rises in the winter, draws a straight gully across, with Victorian drains that have started to collapse. Beyond, another haha draws your eye up to the gentle slope of Balastground, populated with gnarled oaks, where the old road, which curved behind the house, was removed but a cart dip, to swell dry wooden wheels on their long dusty journeys, still sits in Balastground. In front of the school, the park provided grazing for the dairy herd, as well as Homeground. With the park each section had its own name for the farmers to refer to, and on the far right was the Snake Path piece, where a slate path linked the main house to the workers’ village.
A beautiful place to grow up, but a difficult place to farm in the 21st century. The landscaped fields that were intended for small herds of native British sheep and cattle, have lost their lustre from 21st century farming, and of course being split up with many different landowners. We used to graze our Shorthorns over on the banks of the Arboretum before their new car park build because their grazing encouraged the growth of wild flowers including wild orchids. With our small suckler herd in Churchground and some of Balastground, means that we are farming in a traditional, sensitive way, as Simon’s grandfather did with his Shorthorns, and we imagine the Holfords did.