VISIT TO REVESBY ESTATES JUNE 6TH 2019
A group of eleven Nuffield Scholars and guests met at Revesby Estates between Boston and Horncastle on a lovely June evening. We were met by Peter Cartwright, the Farms manager and Estates Vice CEO. The origins of Revesby go back to 1143 when the estate was left to Cistercian monks of Riveaulx Abbey to build a monastic community in Lincolnshire. In 1539, Henry VIII dissolved the monastery and gifted Revesby to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. In 1714 Joseph Banks bought Revesby, and four generations, all Joseph, developed the estate still apparent today. Revesby was a nursery for Kew Gardens under the influence of the Banks. Lady Beryl Groves lost her first husband in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and her son, Humphrey, in a Spitfire crash in 1942 having fought with distinction in the Battle of Britain. The estate started in-hand farming operations in 1963.
Today, the estate runs to approximately 6320 acres, of which half is farmed in-hand, and half tenanted. Cropping consists of 50% winter wheat, 25% Oilseed Rape, 25% other break crops such as beans, sugar beet, oats and some trials of navy beans and chick peas. The farm operates a 10m controlled traffic system on 67% of the farm, this being the area not growing sugar beet in its rotation. An impressive 500hp Class Xerion has replaced a rubber tracked crawler as the main cultivation and drilling tractor, a return to wheels prompted by the fact that flints meant renewing the Cat’s tracks every two years, at £12k for a pair of belts. Peter has changed from ploughing the whole farm to deep min-till, then shallow min-till with the aim one day of going to no-till. The oilseed rape area will reduce by half next year, because like many farms, the crop is becoming too much of a lottery to warrant having any more than an eighth of the cropping allocated to it. Having stopped growing spring barley he is re-introducing the crop where possible. The farmland extends from below sea level clay with silt, inaccessible from late October due to the level of the water table in winter months, through lighter sands in the middle of the estate up to more calcareous soils in the southern edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Average wheat yields are currently 9.6 tonnes per hectare, oilseed rape 4 tonnes per hectare.
Much use is made of the woodlands, contractors being used to harvest trees and replant. There are a number of wood fired district ring heating systems installed on the estate, some of which supply a number of houses in one location. This entails letting residential property inclusive of heating to make use of the own grown wood chip. There are a large number of cottages owned by the estate, and significant sums are being spent rebuilding and refurbishing some of them. Firewood is sold locally too.
Two new 1500 tonne grain siloes were installed two years ago with the aim of eventually removing farming operations from one of the yards to enable this to be developed into commercial lets. Installed alongside the siloes is a 60 tonne per hour fully automated grain dryer which can be left to run itself during harvest.
Commercial fishing is available making use of a now redundant reservoir which used to supply the town of Boston. It was an idyllic setting, all that was missing were gin and tonics! On the way to the reservoir we’d passed through the deer park with several hundred fallow deer grazing, quite unperturbed by our presence. Deer are culled and sold as wild venison, not farmed, both locally and to supermarkets.
The estate is home to the local Revesby Show, a point-to-point event, hosts weddings and a drive in film night. There is a cricket ground. Peter was also gearing up for Open Farm Sunday, having hosted 1500 visitors in 2018. It was great to meet some of the farm staff who were very much on board with management in how the estate was managed, their pride in the estate being selfevident. A pint and sandwiches in the local pub rounded off a very enjoyable evening.