A good night’s sleep starts with village manor’s crops

Gary McPartland of Hornington Manor near Bolton Percy holding two orphaned lambs.  (GL1010/00f)
Gary McPartland of Hornington Manor near Bolton Percy holding two orphaned lambs. (GL1010/00f)
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What you need is a good night’s sleep. How many times have you been told that and how often have you become frustrated with your bed?

Gary McPartland, farm manager at Hornington Manor’s 300 acres in Bolton Percy, is responsible for growing and harvesting some of the products that go into arguably the healthiest and most natural beds in the world and led to Leeds-based Harrison Spinks taking the title of UK Bed Manufacturer of the Year for 2015/16. This is very much a homegrown Yorkshire success story.

Harrison Spinks’ managing director, Simon Spinks, bought the farm in 2009 as part of the company’s policy that now ensures nearly every aspect of production from base produce to finished product is under their control.

Gary is a farmer’s son and had farmed in Kelfield, near Selby but switched to gamekeeping on Charles Forbes Adams’ Escrick Park Estate. The approach from Simon to run the farming operation at Hornington Manor came totally out of the blue.

“One minute I had a bag around my shoulder checking on the game around the estate not really knowing where my life was heading and next minute I was being offered the opportunity to manage a 300-acre farm.

“My wife Joanne and Simon’s wife Andrea were already friends and their sons and ours had grown up together. Simon told me that Harrison Spinks had decided to buy a farm and that he would like me to be the farm manager.

“He’d asked me on a Friday night, we all came to take a look on the Saturday morning and it just blew me away.

“It needed a lot of work doing to it but if I’d dreamt it I couldn’t have dreamt it any better, even though at that time I’d never had any experience of livestock.

“Half the acreage at Hornington Manor is pasture land and half is arable. Everything we grow is here because it has some involvement in the fillings of Harrison Spinks beds. We believe the company is the only bed manufacturer in the world to have its own farm. Our arable crops are simply hemp and flax; and our livestock crop is quality pure grade wool from our flock of 180 breeding ewes.”

All three products are about ensuring a more comfortable night’s sleep in a bed made from natural sources. Hemp has historically been used in bedding because of its strength. It is used above the springs and replaces man-made fibre such as polyester. It is also naturally anti-bacterial.

It’s a busy time all round at Hornington Manor as lambing took place in April, flax was planted last week and hemp will be planted either by the time you’re reading this or not long after. The flax is harvested in late July and the hemp in August.

“Hemp and flax are much easier crops to grow than wheat and barley. You simply drill what we call industrial hemp and leave it, giving it a bit of nitrogen beforehand but otherwise it needs no sprays. We’ve yet to find an insect that preys on it

“We now have a hemp cutter, one of only two or three in the UK. The crop grows to around 12ft tall in just three months and that makes for an interesting challenge. It grows about two-and-a-half inches a day and this year we are growing the variety Fedora.

“When it’s cut it’s laid on the ground for about a month in a natural process called retting. This brings out the fibres. Ideally we want a lot of rain on it and then sun to break it down.

“When the woody bits drop off it’s ready for baling. It is a very strong and resilient fibre that produces wood faster than any other crop and a lot of producers grow it for that, but what we want is the outside of the plant, that’s the fibre that has traditionally been used for ships’ ropes in the Navy. It provides the foundation for mattresses and is incredibly good at absorbing and releasing moisture naturally.

“In the factory on site here it is put through processes that keep opening up the fibres so that it becomes a bushy product that can then be blended with cottons and wools to produce the mattresses.

“Flax is very similar to growing cereals and also to growing linseed. It grows to around 3ft. The hemp and flax are both processed here and then carded at the factory in Leeds.”

Texels, Suffolks and Zwartbles largely make up the sheep breeding flock.

“We need a springy wool and you certainly get that out of the Texel and Suffolk. While the business needs a great deal more wool than we produce here, as it uses 3,500 fleeces a week, this farm provides the company’s corporate customers with the opportunity to feel the quality of what goes into the bedding.

“We’re also currently looking at introducing Wensleydales. We have Zwartbles, producing black wool that has further benefits. The thermal properties of black wool allow heat to radiate more quickly.

“We source fleeces from as close as possible to the farm and around 50 per cent of what we need is produced locally.”

Gary is married to Joanne who is the events manager at Hornington Manor that has developed from self-catering accommodation into a wedding venue.

Gary’s eldest son Liam, 27, works alongside him on the farm.