The home of Lower Hope fruit growing is at Sidnall Farm, Pencombe. Sidnall Farm was mentioned in the Doomsday Book and so a farm has stood here for over 1000 years. The current farmhouse is a listed building from the 18th Century. An impressive history and one that has been expanded on in recent years.
The Lower Hope Estate has been owned by Clive Richards since 1985. The fruit department has grown blackcurrants, raspberries, apples and strawberries over this time. In 1994 the first cherry tree was planted on the farm. Since that day we have never looked back!
Both fruit growing methods and the workforce have changed greatly in the last 30 years, but at the heart of the business our core values of growing exceptional quality fruit with professional expertise have lived on.
Until the mid 90’s fruit growing remained reasonably traditional. Each year the crop would be grown uncovered and at the will of the elements, harvested and sold. Picking was done by local ladies from the Bromyard area alongside a colourful array of travellers who would come and stay for the season.
In the late 90’s, the Spanish Polytunnel was introduced into the UK by Haygrove (based down the road in Ledbury). This changed the face of berry production in the UK. As the big supermarkets developed they wanted a guaranteed crop each year regardless of the weather. The polytunnel enabled us to predict and then pick the tonnage we had promised and so the UK fruit industry was able to fight back against imports.
Lower Hope have a completely covered cherry crop and our fruit is grown to the specification of the supermarkets. Once we had a cherry crop that was guaranteed, this meant another big change on the farm. We now had to pick the exact amount of fruit we had promised each day. This meant we needed a reliable and large workforce.
Gradually the workforce grew from 20 to where it stands today at 250 seasonal workers. To find out more about today’s seasonal workforce click here.