Len Tomlinson has been growing and cutting daffodils at Whitegate all his life, and the farm has many acres of daffodils with hundreds of different varieties, which flower during March and May each year.
Len has appeared on BBC Gardeners World, talking about various varieties of daffodils and the many changes he’s seen in farming and techniques for daffodil growing. An expert in many areas of horticulture, Len has endless entertaining stories about his life growing up on a busy farm and his lifelong passion for daffodils. Visitors often politely describe him as “colourful!”
The farm is located in the heart of the Vale Royal in Cheshire, just on the outskirts of the village of Whitegate, at Foxwist Green. Although the fields are planted with various varieties of daffodils, much of the 20+ acre farm is wooded and hedged, so it is always bustling with wildlife. You’ll likely see and hear plenty of birds including pheasants, jays, woodpeckers, wrens (if you’re very observant!), and if you’re particularly eagle-eyed you might spot birds of prey circling the fields and woodland.
The Cheshire farm land is some of the most fertile in the country, and while it is particularly good for dairy cattle with lush grass, it has perfect growing conditions for daffodils. The area around Northwich and Winsford has long been associated with the salt industry – and the farm has been affected by this with salt-subsidence causing a number of holes in the late 18th century – some of these have formed lakes, and some smaller holes that we’ve been recently working to fill and level and plant new woodland.
We’ve had friends and visitors for generations coming to see the daffodils, but as a commercial farm it was hard to accomodate anyone who wasn’t willing to get muddy and be prepared to slide down the occasional slope!
After losing a close friend to cancer, and seeing the tremendous support provided by Macmillan, Len ran a one-off event in 2007 taking a small party around the daffodils to raise some money for this worthwhile charity, which was so well received that it was run again the next year, and the next… and since then we’ve been organising guided walks each year around the fields in aid of Macmillan.
Bit by bit each year we’ve improved the walk by adding in extra areas as we’ve made them easier to get to, and put down paths that are easier to walk on, and even a bridge across the small stream. As word-of-mouth has spread from recent delighted visitors, the number of walks has been increased – though we’re still limited by the growing season of the daffodils!
Over the past couple of years we’ve had visitors ranging from further and further afield, with some travelling the length of the UK to visit, and even some visitors from Europe and USA making time in their journey to come and see something entirely different!