The Trust’s Estates in Leicestershire
The Little Dalby Estate
The Little Dalby Estate, three miles south of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire is the Trust’s largest and, in many ways, its most complete estate. Extending to 5,600 acres, the estate was purchased in two parts by Ernest Cook, the northern half from the Burns Harttop family in 1938 and the southern half from Brasenose College in 1940. A further 480 acres comprising Grange Farm, Leesthorpe was purchased in 1977 with an additional 280 acres forming Jericho Farm being purchased in 2000.
The principal house, Little Dalby Hall, is relatively small and compact following extensive demolition after the war and subsequent modernisation. The house is surrounded by parkland and grassland and is in a most attractive area of high Leicestershire; outside this inner ring the heavy soil is, thanks to modern and powerful machinery, highly productive wheat land.
Following the Trustees’ policy of farm amalgamation and its desire to encourage the policy of family succession, there are currently five farming tenants on the estate from an original 19 holdings in 1952. Up until 1982 a number of farm houses and cottages were sold off the estate but, with the change in housing legislation, the Trustees resisted the temptation to sell off further surplus farm houses and cottages. Over the past 25 years, the properties have been modernised and improved to provide an important source of income. There are now 37 let houses and cottages on the estate.
The Little Dalby Estate was the pioneer of the Trustees’ policy of establishing in-hand farmers’ shoots on the estates in conjunction with the farm tenants; the success of the Dalby shoot is helped by their enthusiasm.
Nearly one-third of the estate is now within the Countryside Stewardship or Higher Level Schemes (schemes which help safeguard the environment) covering the central and southern parts of the estate around Rise Hill and Burrough Hill, together with one organic dairy farm.
The new wetland area of the River Eye (an important Site of Special Scientific Interest) and the adjoining land continues to be affected by the Melton Mowbray Flood Alleviation Scheme and the whole of the central and northern part of the estate is within the River Eye Catchment Sensitive Farming Scheme.
The Trustees’ policy of encouraging appropriate public access was first started in 1974 on the Little Dalby Estate with the establishment of the permissive path from Little Dalby to the Burrough on the Hill Iron Age fort, a country park let by ECT to Leicestershire County Council.
Much of the local footpath network is featured in nationally available guide books.