I am David Knight, and my Great Grandfather, William, bought Hall Farm in 1911 having been tenant since 1904. The farm used to be part of the Cottesbrooke Estate, owned by the Langham family who sold up and returned to Ireland. Previous to this, another branch of the family rented the farm for most of the previous 200 years, meaning my direct ancestors have farmed here for virtually all of the last 300 years! Thus I have a proud connection to the farm, and particularly the Hall farmhouse which is grade II listed.
Over the years we have had a mix of cattle, sheep and pigs on the farm as well as arable crops – but now the only livestock we have on the farm are horses. We have over 50 stables we let out; mostly DIY but with provision for a few part liveries, along with grazing horses – we over-winter polo ponies, we take youngsters to grow on, horses that need time off due to injury and retired oldies. With this number of horses we obviously make a lot of hay, and it’s got to be good as we use the same hay and haylage ourselves as we sell.
The farm returned to hay-making in a serious way about 20 years ago, about the same time the livery business started to evolve, and has grown alongside it ever since, with improvements in machinery and technical expertise increasing year on year. We take great care in our hay-making – we make all our own hay from all our own grass, so we are fully in control of the fields throughout the year – we don’t rent in fields of indeterminate history, and therefore are able to ensure the quality of grass and guarantee no ragwort. Particularly with the permanent pasture meadows, we don’t spray and fertilize indiscriminately – just where necessary – to ensure as much of the natural wild flowers and herbs are allowed to flourish, and yet still keeping on top of the inevitable thistle and nettle patches