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Thread: In the Hop Garden

  1. #221
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Default Some interesting differences (part 1)

    Another fine (if windy) evening, so after work we set off on a quest to find some more hops, and ending up seeing far more things to note than initially expected.
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    Firstly, these hops are growing up permanent open wire mesh panels rather than strings - greater capital expenditure, lower operational expenditure, but a right nuisance to harvest? Also, the growth is so patchy, with some bines already reaching the top well before the end of May but others barely above knee height, and it all looks rather unkempt, so is this a failed experiment?
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    However, right next door, there is a very tidy plot, with the footpath ideally placed for observers (if not the farmer) right through the middle - you couldn't be more "In the hop garden" if you tried! Getting this close, you also notice that each plant only has two strings rather than the usual four, which suggests that any loss of yield is more than offset by the lower manual labour input required?

    More from around here tomorrow....

  2. #222
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Default Some interesting differences (part 2)

    The hops shown in yesterday's post are taken to an oast on a nearby farm which also has its own hop gardens, with the ones visible from another footpath in the neighbouring parish also using the two-string system.
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    However, as more of a puzzle, there is another, much newer but less manicured large hop garden on the other side of the path, so whether this belongs to a different farmer isn't clear.
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  3. #223
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Default Some interesting differences (part 3)

    The "oast on a nearby farm" mentioned yesterday is here (if you look closely...):
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    Most obviously, you can see the two traditional white cowls mounted - rather incongruously - atop an anonymous modern shed. However, the structure to the right also has a ridge vent, suggesting that there may also be another oast here? Of course, one of the other buildings must also be the hop picking machine shed, but plenty of top fruit is grown here too, so some of them are probably pack-houses and/or cold stores for apples and pears.
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    On the way back, we also found the original oast on a third farm, now superseded by the above, with unusual louvred ventilators instead of cowls. All in all, an interesting and rewarding post-work walk.

  4. #224
    This Space For Hire Wittenden's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rpadam View Post
    Another fine (if windy) evening, so after work we set off on a quest to find some more hops, and ending up seeing far more things to note than initially expected.
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    Firstly, these hops are growing up permanent open wire mesh panels rather than strings - greater capital expenditure, lower operational expenditure, but a right nuisance to harvest? Also, the growth is so patchy, with some bines already reaching the top well before the end of May but others barely above knee height, and it all looks rather unkempt, so is this a failed experiment?
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    However, right next door, there is a very tidy plot, with the footpath ideally placed for observers (if not the farmer) right through the middle - you couldn't be more "In the hop garden" if you tried! Getting this close, you also notice that each plant only has two strings rather than the usual four, which suggests that any loss of yield is more than offset by the lower manual labour input required?

    More from around here tomorrow....
    Not really sure about hop stringing, but I think the number of strings,2 vs 4, could determine eventual yield,so the grower manipulates productivity to meet terms of contracts that have been negotiated.Also, younger plants are nurtured on one or two strings in the early years.The saddest sight is unpicked hops left to blow,or surplus plants sprayed off and not strung.
    "Hedge hops" do tend to look scruffy this time of year,but they even up in time. I've not seen a mobile picking rig in action,despite some being grown fairly near by.
    "At that moment I would have given a kingdom, not for champagne or hock and soda, or hot coffee but for a glass of beer" Marquess Curzon of Kedlestone, Viceroy of India.

  5. #225
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Default Spoiler alert: art!

    I got rather side-tracked over the weekend with the ArtUK site which aims to display all the artworks in public collections across our 'united' kingdom.

    You can now 'curate' your own collection ranging from the obvious to the obscure, and bloggers Boak and Bailey starting things off with Pub Life in the 20th century.

    Inspired by this, I have had an initial go at Hops, hop-picking and oasthouses which includes a number of really interesting paintings (as well as a few duffers).

  6. #226
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Default High Weald wander (part 1)

    Another long walk, this time on the Kent - East Sussex border, looking for one hop farm and other (more famous) former hop gardens, produced plenty of interesting things to look at.
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    Firstly, these three hops gardens are growing different varieties, including Epic and Key(worth's) Early, with each looking subtly different even at this early stage.
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    Secondly, this hop garden is being renewed, with new poles and wirework, but the existing hop plants appear to be being retained as they haven't been ploughed up or replanted.
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    Thirdly, as more distant views from the nearby slopes show, this area is becoming increasingly known for its vineyards as well as its orchards and hop gardens.

    To be continued...

  7. #227
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Default High Weald wander (part 2)

    So with plenty of hops (as well as all the vines) on this farm, what about the oast?
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    This can be found in a rather higgledy-piggledy complex of farm buildings of all types and sizes, with a tall brick stowage keeping (most of) a first-floor greenstage that also runs in front of a lower (and probably older) part of the building.
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    The two original roundels were replaced by a small industrial oast with a ridge vent at the far end and this was then supplemented by a much larger building set parallel to the road to expand drying capacity (until this caught fire in 2015, before being replaced by the similar-sized green building).

    To be continued...

  8. #228
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    Default High Weald wander (part 3)

    (... later than planned due to a broadband outage last night...)

    The next part of the walk took us to Bodiam, where the vast Guinness Hop Farms were once located on the slopes and plains of the Rother valley.
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    We need no excuse to visit Bodiam Castle, which is a splendid place run by the National Trust, albeit very rarely looking as devoid of visitors as this (due to being closed for the lockdown, although the footpath through the grounds remains open). Anyway, back to the point, the slopes above and beside the castle that were once covered by hop gardens are now vineyards (some more established than others).
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    One of the former Guinness oasts is visible in the distance directly across the river from the castle, but high above stands one of the original farm oasts in use before the hop gardens were sold to the brewery.

  9. #229
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    Default High Weald wander (part 4)

    Having achieved our objective, we started back towards the starting point when we saw this vista as we walked through the rolling countryside north of Bodiam.
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    With our attention initially caught by the pair of white oast cowls, the suggestion of a hop garden beyond was enough to prompt an unplanned diversion.
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    Firstly, we found the rather parched hops we had seen from a distance, then (probably) the modern oast and older hop picking machine shed and beyond that several more hop gardens (including the one in the third picture, which is showing better growth). However, the surprises didn't stop there...
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    Another series of hop gardens came into sight further up the valley, but these were much more typically located in the low-lying ground than those on the slopes we had seen further back. The footpath fortuitously runs along the periphery of one, giving a good reminder of how this wider area must once have looked in the Guinness days.

  10. #230
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    Default Not what they seem...

    Two very impressive 3½-storey buildings here, set at a right angle, each with two very large square 'kilns' at the far end.
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    They both look like ginormous oasts, but are actually the maltings for the former Close Brewery of Kenward & Court at Hadlow (now converted to flats).
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    Although used for a different (if related) purpose, they must have been constructed by one of the many oasthouse-builders in the district.

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