Dalesman January 2011 – Myton Grange

Myton stud farm

Brick Chimney at Myton Grange stud farm

Brick Chimney at Myton Grange stud farm

Brothers Nick and Nigel Ramsden restored a Victorian Stud farm, with help from Natural England. The brothers’ involvement with Natural England came about as a consequence of the closure of the British Sugar factory in York, back in 2007. They lost the sugar beet trade that was begun by their grandfather, 80 years ago.

They searched for other options, and liked the idea of Environmental Stewardship – grants for developing wildlife and conservation friendly measures.

On their arable fields, the brothers set aside field margins up to 6m wide. Over the whole farm, explains Nick, this amounted to taking about 30 acres out of production. The margins are good, he says, for English Partridge which nest there, and Barn Owls that feed there.

Natural England also wanted to increase numbers of Corn Bunting, a ‘red list’ bird that was discovered living on the farm. This small brown bird now has 5 acres devoted to pleasing it. Nick says, “We grow 5 acres of spring barley with no herbicides, pesticides or fertisilisers, then leave it unharvested through the winter.” He explains that this is because corn buntings nesting in such fields tend to be late nesters, and are therefore often damaged by harvesting. Nick says, “By leaving the barley unharvested, the nests are safe, and the birds get feed through the winter. Also, not using pesticides allows insects for the chicks to feed on.”

Leaving off the pesticides and fertilisers, says Nick, results in the field producing only around a quarter of the barley that would grow with the pesticides and fertiliser. It also gets weedy – “but the weeds are good for wildlife.”

As well as the wildlife, Natural England was interested in heritage, and, says Nick, “When they built Easingwold bypass, they found a big Iron Age settlement that goes through one of our fields.” To prevent damage to the remains of the roundhouses, the brothers stopped ploughing the field, and put it to permanent pasture.

The brothers’ farms, Home Farm and Myton Grange, were built with bricks that were shipped by barge up the river from York. Nick says, “They built a railway from the river to bring the bricks up to the site.” Nick notes that horses, not steam engines, hauled the bricks on the railway. He says, “There was a steam engine at Home Farm, but it was a stationary one, with pulleys and belts to transfer power to machinery.” Machines would have included turnip cutters, feed mills, and threshing machines.

Nick’s Grange Farm House is next to the stud stables, and he says, “My house was built in 1868, then they built Home Farm and the Stud Farm in 1870.”

The stud farm buildings have been restored using as much as possible of the original fabric, and traditional materials such as lime mortar and copper nails. Nick says that a condiiton of grant assistance is that the buildings must be used for their historical purpose. He is therefore hoping to find someone to use them, perhaps for livery or horse training.

At one corner of the stable yard stands the water tower. Nick says, “In the 1870s, the Estate put up the water tower, which supplied the village, vicarage and school as well as the farm. Spring water was intercepted before it went into the river, filtered through a sand filter, then pumped into the tower by steam engine. There’s lots of historical interest because it was an early water supply.”

“It’s been out of use for 30 years, but we’ve relined it and it’s sound.”

Nick is hoping to develop a renewable energy pump to refill the tower and use it once more.

Nick is happy to host educational visits, by appointment only. Contact him at 07976 751463

Read the full article, in print only, in Dalesman Magazine

About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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