Wylds Farm: Its trees & the Petersfield By-pass




Wylds Farm was originally part of the larger 200 acre Wylds Estate purchased in 1885 by the Rev. George Cardew. He created the Wylds Lake to give work to local unemployed, and laid out the gardens. We believe the great Red Oaks (the backdrop for the play) were planted around this time; also, the two large Douglas Firs in the garden below. These trees and the large Aspen / Poplar by the railway were decapitated by the Hurricane in 1987, and lost some 20 feet in height. The Lombardy Poplar in the yard was a present from my wife in 2007. There is a Horse Chestnut by the Railway behind the yard grown from a cutting from a tree in the Park of the Dol-y-Coed Hotel in Mid Wales! After the war, in 1950, Wylds was owned by Mr & Mrs Holland who reclaimed the farmland from scrub and bracken and eventually featured in an article in The Field magazine entitled “Victory at Wylds!” in 1956.

The farmland was however “blighted” by a pre-war plan to run a by-pass for Petersfield right through the valley. Mr & Mrs Holland sold the farm to a local farmer who found the land to be of such poor quality and difficult topography that he quickly sold it to the Ministry of Transport under a “blight order”. So they needed a tenant until the bypass was to be built in 1970! This proved difficult, and as the agent said to me “I can’t find a ‘proper’ farmer remotely interested. If you are interested, you can have a go – the rent is £500 a year.” At 24 years old, with little money and less experience, I grabbed the chance and moved into the largely derelict cottage and buildings and 85 acres of the poorest land in Hampshire. Such is the optimism of youth! With only nine months experience as a farm student, which included all of two days milking, we set about establishing a dairy herd which grew over the years to 140 cows and 60 youngstock, running on local bits of land from seven different landlords and which eventually totalled 240 acres.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without some wonderful staff and advisors over the years, some very kind friends who supported us, and above all a wonderful girl who agreed to marry me, and who became the mother of two great children; a first-class cattle handler, and whose record time from the farm to Greatham and back still stands to this day!

The farming story is too long to tell here. Suffice it to say we bought the farm from the Ministry of Transport as sitting tenants, after they had decided to put the Bypass where it is today. When Heather and I decided to retire in 2003, our son Nicholas returned to set up “Organick” and the Wylds Farm Partnership. This comprised an organic veg’ box scheme and the first Christmas Tree plantations. Swiftly it became obvious that our land was more suited to Christmas Trees than veg’ growing and Nick’s expertise in landscaping and gardening, run in parallel with the ever-increasing Christmas tree business, became the main event.

The adaptation and rebuilding of the old cattle sheds, starting with the “Après Tree Bar”, once the cubicles for the barn, have allowed Nick to give full expression to his unusual building talents. This is turn has generated demand for weddings and other events. We were thrilled when the Petersfield Shakespeare Festival asked if they could come here.

We pray for good weather, and hope you all have a great evening. Thank you for coming.

Christopher Rook-Blackstone