The Great Poplar Debate

    Jack and Olivia - 2019

    Planting the new cherry tree this morning (with more plantings to come) got me thinking about the huge number and variety of trees we have established over the years.

    Having the privilege of living on a farm surrounded by plenty of space, over time we must have planted hundreds of individual different trees, let alone the thousands of cider apple trees in the orchards.  Our house, which looked very odd in an empty field 30 years ago, can now hardly be seen for trees and hedges, and no doubt more on the way.

    Shute Farm - new build









    Towards Shute Farm House from Clock House










    It’s always been a family thing, and who doesn’t love the infinite variety of shape, size and colour that the world of trees can bring.  Robert’s father, Arthur,  was a very practical and hard working man, so trees not only had to provide beauty, but often served a useful purpose too.  His practical side led to a certain style of ‘bottle brush’ trees around their garden, when any lower branches which interfered with cutting the lawn were unceremoniously chopped off!  The trees might not have been allowed to grow in their true shape, but never could it be said that the garden of Shute House (now Shute Manor) was anything other than immaculate and beautiful at all times.

    We haven’t been able to work out exactly when, but sometime in the late sixties or early seventies, Arthur planted a screen of Lombardy Poplars around the farm yard to protect it from the wind.  To many people, these should be kept where they originated in Italy, as they are far from a natural species for this area, but the square of tall stately trees has become a pretty iconic feature of the local landscape.  At the time they were planted, the more natural looking poplar varieties were not around, and the fast growing Lombardy type were readily available and provided a fast growing windbreak, so that is why they were chosen.

    Shute Farm yard circa 1970







    Shute Farm Yard circa 2020
    At some point between these two old pictures of the farmyard, the original Lombardy poplar screen had been planted.

















    This also rather brings into question the often repeated statement that Lombardy Poplars are a relatively short lived tree, not surviving beyond 30 or so years.  Well Arthur’s trees are still going strong, and he soon discovered they had another quality which he much admired, namely how easy they were to propagate.  By just breaking off a branch, sticking it in the ground, and having a little patience - hey presto - another tree!  By this means, when the farm yard was extended in later years, more poplars appeared around its boundary, and why in hedges all over the farm you will see the odd Lombardy towering above the other trees.

    Two fabulous specimens frame the driveway into Harefield Barn, and as the sun goes down, the long shadows cast by poplars can be seen stretching across the field on the opposite side of the valley.


    Lauren and Aaron 2019

    Emily and Owen 2019Autumnal Shoot - 2020











    The question is, do we continue this ‘Ayre’ tradition?  I’m sure the purists would say that once the existing trees come to the end of their natural life, then Lombardy Poplars should make a graceful exit from this corner of Devon.  However, Robert and I are not so sure, and this morning he has taken some splits off the existing trees, to see if he has his Father’s magic touch!  I personally think that Shute Farm would not be the same without its trademark poplars, and for those who spent time here as children, there’s something of a little buzz when you return and see them in the distance.

    Let me know what you think - should we perpetuate the longstanding tradition of Lombardy Poplars here at Shute Farm, or stick to more native varieties? (Spoiler alert - the existing ones will be around for a while yet!)

    Amy and Mark - 30th March 2019

    First of all we would like to start off by saying we had the most amazing Wedding Day, it was everything we'd dreamed and considering we did it all within 8 months, it was most certainly the best day of our lives so thank you very much for letting us have Harefield Barn for our special day. You were a wonderful help and always there via email or phone if ever we needed you and you allowed us to bring our friends and family to visit Harefield Barn on numerous occasions before the wedding so they could share the excitement with us so thank you for this, it was much appreciated.

    So where do we start with the venue; it was the most amazing and beautiful venue with incredible views and we were so lucky with the weather for our special day - it was the cherry on top. The venue has everything you need, from a room for the Bride and Bridal party to get ready in, to the bar with a cosy log burner built in (perfect for those winter/colder months). It has an outdoor fire pit which was also lovely for the evening of our wedding and lots of our guests were very happy to have had this. Harefield has all of the amenities you could possibly need and is the perfect location for a barn wedding. It's the perfect venue if you want a DIY wedding in a rustic, but modern place. Truly beautiful and we couldn't have wished for any better - the views are to die for 😊 The venue/surroundings had SOOO many compliments from all of our guests and everyone loved it just as much as we did! Debbie also has a lot of decorations on offer to hire which is very useful if there's anything you've forgotten. On every occasion we went to view the venue and on the weekend of our own wedding, it was always very clean and tidy and it has such a welcoming atmosphere. 

    I would recommend this venue to anyone, it is truly beautiful, with great owners and magnificent place to get married!

    Amy and Mark xx