4 September 1998

CONVENIENT AND BETTER FOR WILDLIFE

John and Linda Deeley were early converts to the UK Chasers cause. They entered the scheme in 1990, building a six-mile course on their 260ha (650-acre) mainly arable farm at Chesterton near Bicester, Oxon.

The farm was an ideal venue for a course. It is close to the M40 motorway (one part of the course actually runs alongside) and near to several large towns. It is also situated on free-draining light brash and can stay open all year. The land is all in one block with just one quiet road-crossing for riders.

A total of 350 people rode the course at Simms Farm last year, providing a useful £3500 of revenue. Ironically, though, it was the extra convenience the course gave for moving machinery around the farm and the conservation benefits as much as the financial attraction of a diversification that appealed to the Deeleys.

"It has meant that I dont have to cut my hedges every year and I dont have to farm right up to the edge of the field," says John Deeley. "I also like having animals on the farm and I enjoy meeting people."

Mr Deeley and his one farm staff built the course and jumps themselves. The 25 jumps range in height from 0.76m (2ft 6in) to 1m (3ft 3in) and were constructed, mainly from old railway sleepers and telegraph poles, over the course of one winter. Cost, reckons Mr Deeley, was no more than £1500. An impressive water jump was constructed by damming a spring.

The course itself runs largely around the perimeter of the farm, though it misses out wetter or outlying fields. Mr Deeley adds that its proved useful for moving machinery around the farm, particularly at harvest time. At the start of harvest combines can get from one field to another without running on growing crop or having the table taken off. It also makes access easier for hedgecutters.

Being a UK Chasers host farmer has also allowed Mr Deeley to make a big improvement to the wildlife habitats on his farm. Hedges are now cut every three years, verges arent cut at all and the grass on the course is mown twice a year. Between them, they provide a variety of habitats for both wild and game birds.

He says that the riders that come to the farm, almost without exception, behave well and respect the fact that they are on someone elses land. An honesty box for regulars means that he doesnt have to be on hand all day, though he keeps an eye out for riders. There has never been an accident on the farm, he adds, and checks the course regularly for safety and upkeep.