Wife's farmhouse gift delights villagers

Elaine MaslinWhen it comes to presents, a dress and a couple of new pairs of shoes are about the best most wives can expect from their husbands - if that.Elaine Maslin


When it comes to presents, a dress and a couple of new pairs of shoes are about the best most wives can expect from their husbands - if that.

After nearly 35 years of marriage a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates is welcome.

However, yesterday Julie Dacre was bought much more than that by her entrepreneur millionaire husband Graham Dacre - he signed on the dotted line for a 270-acre farm at Lenwade, north west of Norwich, for his wife.

The icing on the cake is that Clay Hall Farm was Mrs Dacre's parents' farm, where she worked, alongside her three brothers, Alan, Trevor and Bud, and mum and dad, Sedley and Mildred Pimlott, rearing pigs and then cattle, until she married Graham in 1975.

And it is not just Julie, who breeds sheep at the couple's Attlebridge home, who will benefit from the purchase.

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Residents of Lenwade and Great Witchingham have been fighting a bitter battle for the past two years to stop a rendering plant on the site.

Clay Hall Farm has been the subject of at least three planning appeals and an enforcement notice since now former owners Banham Compost built a rendering plant there without planning permission.

They had bought the farm off the Pimlotts in 2005.

Mr Dacre last night said his purchase will put an end to the sorry saga and that Julie, who manned the farm office and drove tractors and combine harvesters there as a teenager, was 'tickled pink' to have the farm back in her family.

Her father died in 2006, aged 86, but her mother lives at Frettenham.

She said: 'I'm really pleased we have been able to buy the farm back again. My dad would be really happy and I'm really looking forward to having a good look around; it seems ages since we were able to do so.'

Mr Dacre has promised the plant will never be used again for rendering. A more suitable use will be sought for the building, the farmhouse will be restored, meadowland improved and the surrounding land let for agricultural use to someone who will improve it.

Mr Dacre said: 'Over the years my wife and I spent many a day at Clay Hall and it holds many happy memories for our family.'

It was where Julie worked while courting Graham. Their children went on to join them on family visits to the farm.

Banham said last night that the internal equipment and the chimney have been sold to renderers JG Pears, who have plants at Newark and Sheffield, and will be removed.

A spokesman for the firm said: 'I hope our nightmare will become Graham and Julie's dream.'

He said rendering there had become no longer strategically necessary for the firm because people now paid to take away offal for rendering, whereas before it would have cost, so it made sense to do it in-house.

Before Mr Dacre showed an interest in the site, he said the firm had been considering a change of use of the site.

However, up until the last, Banham had been continuing with its planning appeals against refusal of planning permission for the site and had appealed an enforcement notice lodged against them to have the building knocked down.

John Martin, a leading campaigner against the plant, said: 'We greatly welcome the stewardship of Clay Hall Farm by Mr and Mrs Dacre and look forward to a non-rendering future there.'

He added that the enormous disruption to local residents' lives for so long had been unacceptable and it could have been avoided if enforcement action had been sought earlier.