14 February 1997

Spring diary picks up as buyers test market

THE outcome of an auction including over 1000 acres due last week could have been a good early test for the 1997 farmland market.

However anyone hoping to use the results as evidence to support future sales was disappointed when the sale of the 1085 acres of fenland, near March, Cambridgeshire, was cancelled after deals were successfully achieved by private treaty.

Offered in seven lots by agent Grounds & Co and mainly bought by local buyers the better quality blocks are believed to have averaged over £3500/acre.

However although the auction diary for the rest of February is currently quiet, for March there is already some activity.

Seeing no reason to wait, two early March auction dates have been booked by auctioneers Denton Clark & Co for some bareland (Mar 11) and a small farm (Mar 6) in Cheshire.

Near Chester, the 183.50 acres of medium loam land at New Hall Farm, Higher Kinnerton, includes 887,647 litres of milk quota which has been apportioned between the five main blocks to be auctioned at about 5500 litres/acre.

"Blocks of accommodation land can be marketed anytime as there is plenty of demand from dairy farmers keen to expand," says Julian Mellis of the firm.

With an overall guide price of over £4500/acre the quota element, of each lot, which is 62% used is valued at around 50p/litre, also there are 9.36 acres of mainly hardwood amenity woodland included in the sale.

And formerly a dairy unit, Yew Tree Farm, Weston, near Crewe is for sale without milk quota – this will be sold during the next quota year, due to retirement.

In need of updating, the farm includes a five-bedroom farmhouse, ranges of modern and traditional farm buildings and grade 3 pasture which although ineligible for arable area aid is suitable for arable cropping, says the firms Richard Cooke.

"This is an ideal starter unit," he said, who already has received enquires from Cheshire and the surrounding counties.

Offered in two lots the house, buildings and 65 acres are guided at between £350,000-400,000, with the house valued at around £150,000 with £5000/acre anticipated for a separate 4.70-acre field.

Also going to auction is Westfield Farm (Mar 7), North Kelsey, Lincolnshire, a 110-acre dairy and arable unit. The owners lack the milk quota needed to expand and have decided to emigrate and farm in America.

The grade 3 land is roughly split half pasture and arable and James McIntyre of agent Dickinson Davy & Markham values the arable acreage at between £2300-2500/acre and the grassland at nearer £2100/acre.

"It is possible that Westfield Farm could go to a new entrant to farming from outside this area," says Mr McIntyre.

Also going to auction (Mar 4), in Humberside, some 20 acres of warp land at Owston Ferry with irrigation, which was used for horticultural purposes, is guided at in excess of £4000/acre by the same selling agent.

In Wales the purchasers of the 145-acre dairy unit, Elton Farm, near Ludlow, Powys, sold by tender with a £700,000 guide excluding milk quota last year, now are selling at auction (Mar 13) most of the 140-acre stock unit, Anchor Farm, Newcastle, near Craven Arms, Shropshire.

Guided at £1500-1600/acre, 108 acres of mainly permanent pasture in a ring fence and a range of modern farm buildings will be offered at auction, with the purchaser then having the option to buy the 4-bedroom farmhouse, some traditional buildings partly with planning permission for residential conversion and 32 acres of pasture for a fixed price of £175,000.

"The unit splits naturally in two," says auctioneer Peter Willcock, of Halls, "And it is possible that the steading might go for equestrian use."

Also testing the early spring market towards April he is auctioning two 30-acre blocks of accommodation land in south Shropshire guided at £2000-2500/acre.

"These blocks will be a good test of the markets strength, although there is currently no sign of it altering, especially while money is still cheap," he said.

And in May between Much Wenlock and Shrewsbury, Shropshire, a 185-acre mixed unit including 157 acres of eligible land, a six-bedroom farmhouse and a good range of stock housing will be offered as a whole for clients who are consolidating their farming interests. A guide of £600-650,000 is quoted by Mr Willcock.n

At the western tip of the Clun valley in an environmentally sensitive area, Anchor Farm, has included sheep and suckler cow enterprises with seed potatoes and arable crops recently grown on about 22 acres.