Welbeck Abbey estate welcomes visitors for farm to fork fun on Open Farm Sunday

Welbeck Abbey
Welbeck Abbey

Behind the wrought iron gates and the carved stonework that many of us pass whilst driving up the A60 between Mansfield and Worksop is an historical gem in the Nottinghamshire crown.

Welbeck Abbey is steeped in history from its humble monasterial beginnings to its finery as seat to the Dukes of Portland.

In more recent times it accommodated prospective Army officers as a training college for the Ministry of Defence and is currently now providing residence to its latest heir, William Parente and his family.

It has also starred in many movies and TV broadcasts, including last year in the production of First World War drama, Testament of Youth.

But it’s not simply a majestic listed building. The Abbey is at the heart of a thriving estate of 15,000 acres of farm land, woodland and five lakes. It also accommodates thriving businesses including the Dukeries Garden Centre in the estate glasshouses, the School of Artisan Food in the former fire stables, the Harley Gallery and Foundation and the Welbeck Farm Shop.

Despite areas of the estate being open to the public, the majority of the huge site is private and out of bounds but on Sunday all this changed.

The Welbeck Farm was one of hundreds of farms across the district which turned host for one day only as part of Open Farm Sunday.

Led by LEAF(Linking Environment And Farming), the initiative began in 2006 with around 30,000 visitors enjoying all it had to offer. Since then, Open Farm Sunday has achieved visitor numbers of over 100,000 each year.

This year’s event was held primarily on Sunday 7th June, however Welbeck opened their doors a week later.

“We were delighted to welcome 800 visitors to Welbeck this year,” said farm manager, Ray Beck. “Last year there were many more but the weather wasn’t good this time so I think this put some people off.”

During the day, visitors could take a tour of farm buildings and learn about the processes involved in getting from field to fork. Machinery, including a combine harvester and tractors were also on display for families to climb aboard and see what modern machinery can offer the farms of today.

“We had some terric responses and comments from the visitors during the day and our suppliers and dealers were very supportive in helping us make the event a success,” added Mr Beck who said all staff had been preparing for the day and volunteered their time.

Welbeck can boast of growing barley, wheat, suagar beet, rape and maize amongst other crops and is also a dairy farm as well as having a deer park.

“Days like this are a great opportunity as many people don’t know what goes into their food but hopefully after their visit they will have a greater understanding of farming,” added Mr Beck. “Many people show concern over crop spraying but we want to reassure that here at Welbeck we are caring for the environment as a LEAF marqued farm.”

The marque is an assurance scheme based on LEAF farming principles grown by farmers who are committed to improving the environment for the benefit of the countryside.

Tractor/trailer rides were also held during the day giving guests a tour of the estate, passing by the Great Lake, which plays host to its own sailing club. Visitors were also given the chance to catch a glimpse of the Abbey and admire its majestic architecture.

Nigel and Helen Bradley from Edwinstowe took the tour with their nine year-old son, Luke, and said it was a great family day out.

“We all enjoyed it at Welbeck and was amazed by the size of the estate,” said Helen. “When we passed by the lake we were amazed at the size of it and it was the first time I have ever seen the Abbey as it is normally hidden away.”

As well as the tours, there were refreshments available including the Welbeck Ale and barbecue together with a tombola, raffle and cake stall. All the proceeds from the day, which amounted to £1,228.20 is to be donated to the Notts and Lincs Air Ambulance.