Charlie Flindt standing a field© Kathy Horniblow

I knew it: I spoke too soon. A couple of weeks ago, at the end of the thrilling two-parter about the RPA and the missing field, I signed off with ‘Update: the RPA rang. They’ve found Dell Close’.

I confess that I had a certain amount of faith in the RPA’s ability to look back through my application forms over the past decades, see that that particular little field has been on my list for ever, then look up their latest records – which would have shown that it had somehow gone missing.

All they had to do was simply reinstate it. But when the letter arrived to “confirm” what we’d been told on the phone, it brought astonishing news.

See also: Read more of  Charlie Flindt’s columns

The RPA’s definition of “finding” Dell Close was simple: they had simply renumbered it, but somehow – inexplicably, amazingly – given it the number of the field next door, Joan’s Acre.

I had to sit and think about this for a moment. Two points arose: first, I now had two fields with different acreages and different names, but with the same official number.

Computer says no

How in the heck was the computer going to handle this scenario? Could you imagine the fuses blowing, the sparks coming out of the back, the robotic bleating of ‘does not compute… does not compute!’

And, second, who in the RPA office looked at my original problem and thought “Oh, we’ll simply give it the neighbouring field’s number. That’ll do.”

It was back to the phones. This time I got someone sounding quite authoritative. He agreed that this situation was definitely not right at all, and suggested an email, with as much information as possible, and he personally would look into it.

There was something of the pro trouble-shooter in his telephone manner. The email was written and sent. Early the next Monday, I was beavering away at my desk, and heard a helicopter.

We get plenty of air traffic here, being near numerous airports – we’re under the Gatwick and Southampton flightpaths, and south of both Lasham and Middle Wallop – but this chopper seemed odd.

It didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I popped out to the bottom of the garden to see what it was up to. It was just south-east of us, going left, then right, then left.

‘I love the internet’

I shot back indoors, to log on to the wonderful; I knew it would tell me exactly where he was. And what d’you know: he was zigzagging right over the top of Dell Close. Coincidence? Or was he really checking on Dell Close’s existence?

Flight path of helicopter flying over Charlie Flindt's farm. Courtesy of

Courtesy of

I Googled the chopper’s registration, found the owners – a helicopter hire company – and Facebooked them. (God, I love the internet). “What are you lot up to, then?” I asked. “Geological survey” was the not totally unambiguous reply. Make of that what you will.   

A few days later an email arrived from the RPA. “Thank you for your enquiry,” it said. “This is to confirm that the above parcel is linked to your SBI.” And the parcel in question was indeed the original Dell Close.

Well, that sort of answered a question I hadn’t actually asked, but it was enough to send me scurrying to my “land details” on the RPA website.

Well, cover me in brandy butter and call me a Christmas pudding: Dell Close was back. Poor little Manor Farm appears to be back up to its full complement of fields, and I can get on with my SFP application safe in the knowledge that all my parcels are present and correct.

Unless, of course, I’ve spoken too soon.