Opinion: Going round in circles over farm deliveries

I’m hoping that one day I’ll be allowed to visit the National Trust archives and have a good rummage through all the historical documents that Mr Dutton left them, along with his village, when he died in the mid-1980s.

I’d particularly love to find the file marked “Manor Farm”, in the hope that I’d discover the name of the man responsible for the layout of the farm buildings.

The man was obviously a genius. His layout of yards and barns has coped admirably with everything that farming has thrown at it through the centuries. It’s true that the main tractor barn struggles to contain a modern tractor, but if push comes to shove, we can get everything in.

Unfortunately, in late summer 2014, the limit was reached. A delivery lorry, carrying a paltry few tonnes of barley seed, refused to visit the farm, saying his gargantuan machine simply wouldn’t be able to get here.

Well, that’s not quite true. He said he’d checked out the lane off the A272 on his iPhone using Google Earth, and his curtain-sider probably wouldn’t get under the trees. He asked what the turning area was like. I said that we can cope with the latest grain lorries – but then again, those drivers are superhuman, the true superheroes of the road.

Seed Man wasn’t happy. His machine was far longer than a grain artic, and he didn’t think (again, using his gadget) that he’d be able to turn.

His next, rather optimistic, suggestion was to drive up here and see if he could turn round. My reply was simple. “And if you can’t?”

So an impasse was reached. We had made a slot in the harvest schedule to unload him. But we couldn’t persuade him up here.

The problem arises when agricultural suppliers outsource their deliveries to specialist companies. They usually feature the word “solutions” in their title, and rather sweetly assume that every farmyard has the layout of a modern industrial centre in Milton Keynes, and is permanently staffed.

They also use the very latest address system – the one that considers the second line of your address superfluous. Such an approach can cause confusion. Some months ago, we took ages to persuade a lorry driver that we didn’t want or need a load of Portaloos. His ticket said Manor Farm, Alresford – of which there are many. He had found us, and that’s where he wanted to dump his load, if you’ll excuse the phrase.

There was only one solution for Seed Man. I rang Murphy Morton next door. Being a grown-up farmer, he has a proper yard with wide, open spaces and access straight off the A272, and he very kindly said we could use it. Perfect. I despatched brother-in-law Noel down there the next morning with the loader and a flat trailer.

I would have gone myself, but Team Morton have been known to pull up a chair, open a Thermos and enjoy watching hapless and hopeless Team Flindt at work. Far better to let Noel take all the stick.

Some weeks later, the Claire seed turned up. A small, rigid lorry up from Chichester way, a driver who knew about farming, and didn’t mind me unloading a bag at a time to avoid the palaver of putting the weights on the back of the tractor. And he and I both agreed, just before he effortlessly three-point-turned his way out of the yard, that we wouldn’t know how to check Google Earth on an iPhone even if you paid us.

Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, in Hampshire.

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