Farm of the Week: Bales piled for good cause draw plenty of attention

Bale sculptures haven't become as common as scarecrow festivals just yet but give them time. The massive teddy bear structures playing guitars and drums that occupy central positions at Tony Hill's farm for the family music festival Staxtonbury in July have become legendary but when the route of the Tour de Yorkshire took in the railway village of Ulleskelf near Tadcaster a fortnight ago a new bale artist duo emerged.

Carl Clayton, of Intake Farm, Ulleskelf, near Tadcaster, with his daughter Charlotte, 16. Picture: James Hardisty.

Carl Clayton and daughter Charlotte of Intake Farm assembled an eye-catching display that put smiles on the faces of both the cyclists and the thousands who passed by in the week that followed.

When I visited, motorists were stopping to taking photographs, but this was more than simply father and daughter making the most of an opportunity for television coverage. Carl and Charlotte had a specific aim in mind.

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“The main reason for doing it was that next year I’m going to Tanzania, through school, with Camps International and we will be taking part in a voluntary project to help a community either by making a school building or improving the water sanitation,” says Charlotte.

“Tanzania is a very poor country with 70 per cent living in rural areas and people only earning about a dollar a day. The funds that we have to raise in order to go and help aren’t all about travel and accommodation. Two-thirds of the fees we are all having to raise will go towards the raw materials that are needed.

“It’s a great way of us as students learning about those who don’t have what we have and helping others at the same time. Dad managed to attract some sponsorship for me from companies he deals with on the farm like Russells and Farmstar and in return we put their banners on the bale sculptures, but I still need to find a lot more sponsorship so I’ve set up a Go Fund Me page on the internet and we’re hoping that everyone who got some pleasure out of seeing the bales might donate something.”

Carl is no stranger to putting in time on others’ behalf. Earlier this year he was invited to 10 Downing Street to be thanked for all his efforts during the floods that marooned Ulleskelf around Christmas and New Year.

“In January nearly half our farm was under water when the River Wharfe burst its banks. Of course many more suffered greater hardship than us but a lot of our grasses were severely damaged. We’re only 26ft above sea level here and we’re prone to flooding.”

The family farming enterprise at Intake goes back to Carl’s grandparents Mary and Colin who started up with 36 acres in 1936, the year Carl’s father Brian was born.

“Dad’s 80 this year and is still very much an active farmer who always spends time with the cattle. Some will also remember my mum Biddy Clayton who was on Yorkshire Television’s Farmhouse Kitchen programme. It was my father being very shrewd at buying land constantly around the area that has led us to the 710 acres we farm today. We own 500 of them and in addition we also contract farm a further 180 acres. It’s all down to me, dad, one full-time man Carl Brooke from Brawby near Malton and a student called Simon Blakey who comes when he can during his studies at Askham Bryan College.

“We grow 280 acres of winter wheat and we’re currently using the varieties Revelation, Evolution, Reflection and JB Diego. They all give good heaps of grain from our medium sandy loam land and mostly go into animal feed.

“Last year’s harvest saw the wheat produce a healthy average of over five tonnes an acre. We deliver in to ABN animal feeds in Sherburn in Elmet. Our winter barley varieties are Quatro and Glacier that both provide good yielding crops. We utilise our barley to feed the cattle. The crop rotation is normally two wheats, barley and oilseed rape.”

Carl has reduced his oilseed rape acreage from 120 to 60 acres this year to put half down to temporary grass as car parking for the Air Fest which will take place at Leeds East Airport in Church Fenton.

“It was chaos last year so we had an approach to assist the organisers. We also have over 40 acres of conservation land under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme. We received a Highly Commended in the Tye Trophy awards from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society in 2011 and I’m always interested in what we can do to encourage wildlife. This year we have two nesting pairs of barn owls.”

Cattle form the only livestock operation at Intake. Carl and Brian buy predominantly Charolais X and Limousin X 10-12 month old bullocks from Newton Stewart and Castle Douglas in Scotland that they take through to 22 months with most sold to ABP in York and some going to Selby Mart.

“We have around 100 on at any one time. The 200 acres we rent has 100 acres of permanent pasture but because it floods we can’t stock quite as highly as we really want to.”

Carl met his wife Georgina when they studied together at Harper Adams College. Georgina is an agronomist with agricultural chemical giants Du Pont. They have two daughters Charlotte, 16, and Victoria, 14.

Charlotte would like to go into land management, having mastered bale management already.

“It took us about a day in the barn to craft them and then another day to get them into the right positions,” she said.

“My schoolmates loved it when they saw them from the school bus and someone else nicknamed them Straw de Yorkshire.”

As well as their eye-catching sculptures, Carl and Charlotte also put together a huge sign made from bales wishing Georgina a happy birthday that was caught by the eye in the sky and was broadcast throughout the world.

Anyone wishing to support Charlotte’s Tanzania trip can do so via her online funding page.