Farmer counting cost of blaze

CHELMONDISTON: The owner of a farm devastated by a major blaze has told today how it is a “huge blow” to his business.

Firefighters are today still expected to be at the scene of the blaze in Hill Farm, off Main Road, where they will be dampening down the flames still smouldering in the dense woodland of Cliff Plantation, adjacent to the River Orwell.

The 25-acre fire, which gave off plumes of smoke visible from Ipswich and Felixstowe, started in a baler shortly before 1.30pm on Tuesday. But the flames quickly spread due to the wind and engulfed standing crops in nearby fields before reaching the woods.

Farmer David Cordle, 65, said: “I was actually combining behind the house at the time. It frightened me to death because I was going down the field and when I turned around to come back up, there was a mass of thick black smoke which looked as if it was coming from the house.

“I knew my wife and the three dogs were in there so it was horrible, but I’m very thankful to say it wasn’t the house.

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“The contractor, who has been doing all the large baling on our farm for years, pulled the baler off the tractor and onto the field, and the thing just went up in a matter of seconds.

“But as he came rushing out, bits of straw were dropping off the baler and onto the field. It’s tinder dry and with the strong wind, it just went up like a match and swept across the field.”

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Mr Cordle’s son, Simon, 30, who works on the farm, tried to form a barrier by ploughing up earth but the fire continued to spread on the wind.

The farmer added: “We have lost about 36 acres of straw, which is a huge blow because with this year having been so dry, straw is in short supply. We have got some very helpful neighbours who have agreed to let me have some straw to replace it, but it is still a big blow.”

But it was not all bad news for Mr Cordle and his wife, Daphne, 66. Simon and their daughter-in-law, Nicky, 30, were at Ipswich Hospital last night expecting the birth of their second child.

Nicky, who is due to give birth on Monday, had rushed over to the farm from the couple’s house on Main Road, Chelmondiston, when she saw the flames shooting into the sky to make sure her husband and father-in-law were safe.

A spokesman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said two fire engines were remaining on the scene. He added: “There is a lot of rain at the moment so that is helping them out somewhat, as they are just continuing to dampen it down.”

There is still a water bowser at the farm as part of the effort to contain the fire, which is still alight in dense woodland.

n Do you have any messages of support for Mr Cordle and his family? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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