Hop Off

hops 2

Ivy Creeps over Earl Inveagh CB CMC
Ivy Creeps over Earl Iveagh CB CMC

The summers of the latter years of WW II are particularly memorable for me as they were spent with my mother in the hop-fields of Kent. At the time the war had become an accepted backdrop to our lives but those months in the hop-fields, from hop- training to hop-picking were an escape from the close packed towns and cities from which we came. Of course, we knew that the hops were an important part of English life, but to children it was the excitement of the avenues of vines and the smells of sacking and wood fires that would remain. At that time I did not appreciate the long road that lay behind those magnificent hop-flowers and the energy of the growers and pickers. So, now, living in Wye I have come to appreciate what a story of dedicated research and long hours of patience exercised by the hop-specialists of Wye College and East Malling Research Station.

Kent and Sussex Courier March 29th 1935 - Guinness provide funds for the Hop Research Laboratory, South East Agricultural College, Wye
Kent and Sussex Courier March 29th 1935 – Guinness provide funds for the Hop Research Laboratory, South East Agricultural College, Wye

So very nearly eighty one years ago, on October 5th 1935, The Right Honorable Earl of Iveigh opened The Guinness Hop Research Laboratory that stands, just, alongside the Churchfield Allotment. The Guinness Company had acknowledged the quality of the research effort that had produced several substantive advances in the quality of the hops – their flavours, oil contents and disease resistance – but knew that was a never-ending battle. At this time it was very much plain common sense and hard graft that made such progress possible, the genetic foundations of both quality and resistance to pests had to await the discoveries of later geneticists and molecular biologists. So it is a great deal of sadness that we now see the parlous state to which The Hop Research Laboratory has fallen. Wye is justifiably proud of its historical roles in education, civic administration and spiritual understanding. However, we now stand, as we were warned against not too long ago, by dark forces that merely nod in the direction of this heritage.

Less falling into the gutter more like the gutter falling into space
Less falling into the gutter more like the gutter falling into space

PS We will publish more about the history of hops and Wye in future posts. While researching this topic we came across many of the family names familiar to older Wye residents – Maxtead and Amos to mention two. If anyone has particular stories to pass on we would love to hear from you.

The Guiness Hop Laboratory when still in use (thanks to James Sumner
The Guiness Hop Laboratory when still in use (thanks to James Sumner)

Kentish hops and their herbal value (as well as aesthetic) you can judge for yourselves at Hops and Flowers, Bekesbourne  that is run as part of Chalkpit Farm farm. Amanda Barker clearly loves farming as well as reveling in hops! She writes,

“I’d love to take a few minutes to tell you a bit about our business and how we started growing hops and flowers for decoration.My family has been farming in Kent, where we live today at Chalkpit Farm, for 3 generations and much has changed across the agricultural landscape since my Grandfather started farming in 1954. Diversification was the order of the day by the time Mike and I left university and when my father made the decision to stop growing hops for beer in 1989 my mother wasn’t quite so keen to let go. She persuaded my father to keep one acre one hops in production so that she could continue the tradition of hanging hops in the farmhouse. Mike and I met at Wye Agricultural College and it was in 1990 when I came back to the farm to help with harvest, that I saw an opportunity to sell hops for decoration at the farm gate. Mike joined me, and our first year was spent exploring the decorative flower market and our own business Essentially Hops was born! The rest, as they say, is history. Since our small beginnings when we we started Essentially Hops alongside my father’s family farm. We have developed, grown, adapted and become the vibrant business we are today. I took on the tenancy of the family farm in 1996 and now we operate the whole farming enterprise.Today, Mike focuses on the farming and growing side whilst I work with my team to grow the retail side of Essentially Hops.Chalkpit Farm is a 415 acre predominantly arable farm (growing mainly wheat) which we manage as efficiently as we can, with the help of a machinery share with two neighbouring farms. Mike has his hands full running both the arable activities as well as keeping us stocked with hops and a wonderful array of fresh and dried flowers & grasses. We also grow and harvest for a small number of commercial partners and we are delighted that once again our lavender will be available in choice M&S stores this year.25 years ago we started simply selling hops to local pubs, restaurants and passing traffic! Today, through our farm shop and our on-line store we have been able to reach a wider market and we have continued to evolve and expand essentiallyhops to reflect this. As growers and driers with a depth of experience, we are able to experiment with different flower crops and this has allowed us to create the broad range that we offer today. Providing both fresh and dried products delivers a wonderful variety of home decoration ideas throughout the year.We are hugely proud of our fresh flowers and the fact that Essentially Hops is now recognized as a destination Florist – both for our every-day flowers and also the wonderful wedding arrangements that we create. The combination of hops and wild flowers makes for the perfect Country Wedding. Our farm shop, tucked away in an old stable building in our farmyard, has also expanded over the years. Today, as well as being home to our florist, it stocks an ever expanding range of essentiallyhops-branded products (candles, oils, etc.), dried flower arrangements, country gifts, pots & containers and everything you need to make your own arrangements. Our seasonal flower arranging demonstrations and talks have been hugely popular and we continue to promote traditional crafts and skills whenever we can.As traditional growers we are heavily focused on the environment and creating a balance between modern farming methods and the protection of the wonderful wildlife that shares our land. We were delighted to support the M&S garden (Nature’s Hidden Heroes: Bees, Bugs and Butterflies) at 2014 Chelsea Flower Show, which promoted biodiversity and how we can all play our part to protect it. Essentially Hops is a family business and will always remain that way. We are a small team that is passionate about what we do and we’d love you to come and visit us at Chalkpit Farm to see for your self. Over the past decade we have expanded our farmyard to create a rural shopping destination (Chalkpit Rural Shopping) where alongside the local vet you will find a coffee shop, a fine food delicatessen, a maternity and children’s shop, a picture framer & gallery and a pop-up Shepherd’s Hut shop – so come and make an afternoon of it!We’re nestled in the center of the village of Bekesbourne which boasts a long and varied history including an association with Ian Fleming (Octopussy was written here), the Archbishop’s Palace (where the Book of Common Prayer was written), a beautiful Saxon church and much, much more.Essentially Hops farm shop is open Monday to Saturday (except between Christmas Day & New Years Day) or why not come and see us at one of our many events.We look forward to seeing you soon.Amanda”


Remember the Wye Proposal for a Wye Sustainability Institute?


On 24th March 2008 we advanced, yet again a proposal that instead of resuscitating Wye College as it was we cut a new furrow with a Wye Sustainability Institute. It seemed that the time was ripe since John Denham was advancing the idea of many more universities. That idea has since caused an explosion of universities both as associated colleges/campuses and some new universities, like our local Christchurch university. Below you can read the draft proposals that we put forward. It had as its mainsprings two efforts. One from the USA which had already set up The Sustainablity Institute (see Appendix 1) and Agrarian Renaissance a UK-based effort to train farmers in techniques conducive to agricultural sustainability. Combining these two idea we proposed The Wye Sustainability Institute (See Appendix 2).


However, while these proposals did not appeal to either Imperial College, Len Budd (Phoenixwyecollege) nor Damian Green MP, we did run a website specifically to guage interest. To our great joy it attracted attention fro all over the world but when we saw that local interest was less than warm we closed the site down.

Chicory SummerSustainability – An Inspiration for All

However, to my great pleasure an Institute for Sustainability has been formed and has been running quite successfully for several years. http://www.instituteforsustainability.co.uk/

Meanwhile we know that the farmland has been leased to farmers, one of whom is sincere about his interest in sustainable farming; the college buildings (WYE 3) on the other hand have been sold to a commercial developer and some devoted to the Wye Free School.

Ripple Farm Poughed field against Crown Easter 2016Ripple Farm Organics


Sustainability Institute

The Sustainability Institute was founded in 1996 by the late Donella (Dana) Meadows to apply systems thinking and organizational learning to economic, environmental and social challenges.

We believe that unsustainability does not arise out of ignorance, irrationality or greed. It is largely the collective consequence of rational, well-intended decisions made by people caught up in systems – ranging from families and communities to corporations, governments and economies – that make it difficult or impossible to act in ways that are fully responsible to all those affected in the present and to future generations.

* Shift mindsets – values, attitudes, and beliefs – when they are out of step with the realities of a finite planet and a globally powerful human race.
* Restructure systems when the rewards and incentives of the system are inconsistent with long term social, environmental, and economic goals.
* Build the capability to manage and learn in complex environmental, social, and economic systems.

The Sustainability Institute works for change in three ways:

* Through workshops, leadership development, and consulting, we provide tools of systems thinking and organizational learning to clients and partners working on issues of sustainability, helping them to be more strategic, engage multiple stakeholders, and learn continuously.
* We target specific systems and issues, including natural resource economies, climate change, energy, and regional development, where our tools and research can help with the transition to sustainability.
* We draw insights from our consulting, workshops, and research to develop conceptual frameworks for large-scale change toward sustainable systems.

Sustainability Institute • 3 Linden Road • Hartland, VT 05048 • Phone 802-436-1277 • Fax 802-436-1281 • © 2004 Sustainability Institute



Sustainable Development – “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” – Bruntland Commission

Wye College has a world renowned reputation as a centre of excellence for education, built up over the last 100 years. The principle behind the WSI is to build on this reputation and establish a new vibrant future. The college was always pragmatic in nature and rose to the challenges presented to it; this is needed now more than before. The past cannot be re-created and any new institution must answer the educational needs of the present.

The principle would be to establish an institute to research sustainability in the broadest possible sense. Covering a wide number of areas:

  • Economic
  • Sociopolitical
  • Agriculture / Horticulture
  • Renewables – Energy / Raw Material
  • Technology – GM ??

The world is facing a looming crisis in terms of scarcity of energy, food and raw materials. These resources need to be used and managed in a sustainable way. New innovations are needed to promote the efficient use and re-use of resources. Not only in industry but also at the domestic level.


Centre for European Agricultural Studies- CEAS Consultants

  • Socio-Political

Development of sustainable communities

SOAS- Distance Learning

  • Agricultural

Conventional & Organic, combine the best of both.

Agrarian Movement

Soil Conservation

  • Renewable Energy & Materials

Wind & Water Power

Production and use of sustainable materials

Bio-fuels – oilseed rape, willow coppice, increase efficiency of use.

  • Technology

Cross disciplinary use, transfer between sectors



What do Imperial want to do with their asset, ultimately seems they wish to hold it purely as an investment. Will they cash in at any stage, already in process of doing this with Withersdane and letting out college buildings?

What sort of rent will be required for a small proportion of the campus?

Where can funding come from ? Carbon Trust

What will appeal to students, why would they want to come to Wye ?

What sort of students to attract: residential, short term, adult education.

Need to identify new uses for majority of village campus, how easily could they be adapted?

Kempe Centre – Establish as a Stour Valley Arts Centre, Rural Archive, Agricultural Research Centre.

May need to offer some courses to get people in the door- garden design, upholstery, rural crafts.

How to maintain an income stream – weddings, conferences? Could Student Union / Pool and Gym be open to general public ?

Link with EU ?

Need to get someone influential on board – Prince Charles, , Jimmy Doherty.

Dame Ellen McCarther has just announced that she will be now working on sustainable development:

“One big challenge which I’m really driving forward, overlaid on all our projects, is one of trying to figure out how to live and work in a more sustainable way.”

News site for Wye – who we are, where we live, what we do, what we like and dislike.