Pick your own pumpkins in Malpas (with audio)
PUBLISHED: 11:06 29 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:01 20 February 2013
Barbara Hughes has always loved farming. But now she is trying something new
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You cant really disagree with Molly Tudor. The five-year-old bounds around her grannys pumpkin patch and, at the sight of another gigantic gourd, she shouts in an unmistakeable North Welsh twang What a big, big beauty before showering it with kisses. Her two-year-old sister, Maisy, shares the same excitement reminding everyone that another big one is emerging from the undergrowth.
Their grandmother, Barbara Hughes, understandably has a big smile on her face. Not only through the enjoyment of watching her grandchildren revel in the fruits of her labour but also at her recent achievements.
Just a few months ago the 51-year-olds one acre pumpkin patch, was an empty field. Today, the land at her dairy farm, Ivy Bank, in Malpas, is teeming with hundreds - maybe thousands - of the big beauties with their leaves reaching for the skies.
She first came up with the idea as a way of bringing more money onto the farm, which she runs with husband Derek. With his help, at the beginning of June, the field was ploughed with tonnes of cow dung and thousands of pumpkin seeds were planted.
She said: I thought I would give growing pumpkins a go. I told Derek and he thought I was barmy. We planted them and that was hard work but we did it. Then I spent weeks running up and down between the field and the house, checking to see if anything was growing. For a while I didnt think anything was going to happen but then they started growing and theyve not stopped since.
After overcoming a few challenges - including taming thistle that tried to overrun the field - Barbara could not be happier. Her pumpkin patch is full of organic pumpkins and her plan has worked.
From October 1st to November 1st she will open her field for a pick your own pumpkin scheme. People will be able to choose their own perfect pumpkin and take it home to either carve or cut up to cook. From October 23rd to October 31st, for half term and Halloween, the family will open the farm for some special pumpkin events.
They will hold spooky field open days with a monstrous maze to navigate as well as holding craft sessions and pumpkin carving lessons given by one of Barbaras daughters, Stella, a teacher in the local primary school. There will also be a childrens Halloween disco.
Barbara said: Weve all worked really hard and it will bea really fun month for us. We just hope people will come now and get involved. All they have to do is put up a flag once they find their perfect pumpkin and we will come and cut it for them and hopefully everyone will have fun doing it.
Although Barbara, originally from Bryneglwys in North Wales, doesnt come from a farming background, it would be difficult to find a more passionate advocate for agriculture.
Derek and Barbara have had farms in North Wales and Chester and first started with 12 milking cows and 22 acres. Today, at Malpas, they have 250 acres and hundreds of cattle. She is the national dairy chairman of the Womens Food and Farming Union, is the former chairman of its Cheshire branch and recently set up the North Wales branch. She recently met with minister of state for agriculture and food, James Paice, to discuss milking regulations and to think up new ways of encouraging more young people into agriculture.
She said: Im very passionate about farming, I love it. When I was a little girl I spent more time on the farm down the road than I did at home. When it came to getting married, the man had to be in farming, so Derek was lucky.
If we dont get more young people into the industry then it will not survive. We need to make it an attractive prospect for them and hopefully we are making farming a better prospect.
Im really pleased with how everything has worked out and Im very proud of the pumpkins. I hope people come and see us now.
Pumpkins are believed to have originated in central America and seeds from related plants date back to 5500BC
They belong to the same family as melons, cucumbers, squash and gourds
The best known is the Jack O'Lantern which is popular for carving at Halloween
The word comes from the Greek pepon - meaning large melon. In the 1500s it was known in England as the pumpion
The first settlers in the US discovered they were part of the natives' staple diet and seeds were sent back to Europe
For more information about picking your own pumpkins at Ivy Bank Farm contact 01948 860326