Willow Farm down the years


In 1972 Welsh farmer Haydn Evans bought Willow Farm with a view to farming it in partnership with, and leaving it to, his son Gwyn. At that time it was a single dwelling, with outbuildings and a hundred acres of land. But in April 1973 Gwyn eloped and went away to Vancouver with his now-wife Angela (Cooper) and Haydn was left with too much land for him to farm alone.

Later in 1973 Tony Archer, who was engaged to Haydn's niece Pat, went into partnership with Haydn.

In 1978 Pat and Tony had the opportunity to rent Bridge Farm and left, and Mike Tucker took over the partnership from them, living in the farmhouse with his family: his children were born there in 1978 and 1981. Haydn had more or less ceased to farm the land after his son Gwyn left, so he was happy to allow someone else to do the work and get the greater share of the profits. He bought the village garage from Ralph Bellamy and ran that instead, living in Martha Woodford's old cottage in Penny Hassett.

In late 1981 Haydn sold up at Willow Farm and moved back to Wales, and the farmhouse with the outbuildings and fifteen acres was bought by Bill Insley, with the remaining eighty-five acres being divided up between Brookfield and Home Farm. The Tuckers had to move out.

Bill rented out the barn and outbuildings to Neil Carter, who kept pigs and hens there, and when Bill died in 1986 he was found to have left Neil those buildings and eight acres of land. Matthew Thorogood bought the house and the remaining seven acres of land as an investment, and in 1988 let the farmhouse to the Tuckers.

In 1993 Matthew Thorogood had had enough of living in Ambridge: though he was much loved as a doctor, his private life was a mess and he wanted a new start. So he tried to sell Willow Farm, and found it difficult to do so; eventually he sold the farmhouse to Mike Tucker at a knockdown price, and the land to Phil Archer. Mike then rented land from Neil and started a market garden there, which was granted organic status on 22nd July 1993.

Unable to find anywhere to live in the village, Roy Tucker and his wife Hayley were also living there from the end of August 2003 after Marjorie Antrobus moved into the Laurels and they had to leave their flat in Nightingale Farm.

In 2006 Roy and Hayley had still been unable to find anywhere to live and stayed at Willow Farm after Betty's death on 16th December 2005, but Hayley didn't really want to have her child in someone else's house and in 2007 they started to look seriously for a place of their own, which worried Mike. When their offer on 1, The Green was beaten by Will Grundy's in early 2008, Caroline Sterling suggested to Mike that an obvious answer would be to divide Willow Farm, giving the major part of it to Hayley, Roy, Phoebe and Hayley's expected baby, and keeping a smaller share for himself to live in. This was agreed, over Brenda's protests, and Willow Cottage was created within the original farmhouse walls, with Lewis Carmichael in charge of the planning and making sure the dividing wall between the two dwellings was of commercial standard so that they could be sold separately if this became necessary. The work started in September 2008, well after the premature birth of Abigail (Abbi) on 7th March 2008, and was completed in February 2009. Three bedrooms remained with the farmhouse, and two went with the cottage, one of which Mike used as an office; a new kitchen and bathroom were added in the cottage, which also had a living-room downstairs.

When Mike married Vicky in July 2009 she moved in with him and they settled into Willow Cottage together and lived there happily for a while, but after the birth of Bethany in 2013 Vicky became progressively more unhappy about living in Ambridge and in 2014 told Mike that he was retiring so that they could sell up and move to Birmingham. They did eventually move out in June 2015, though selling Willow Cottage took a few months. It was bought by a couple called Alison and Ralph Kemp.

After the collapse of his marriage with Hayley in 2014 Roy Tucker continued to live alone in Willow Farm, with Phoebe as an occasional visitor, and in November 2015 Kirsty Miller moved in as his lodger.

In December 2018 the Kemps put Willow Cottage on the market for six months' rental because Alison had six months' work in Strasbourg, and although Tom Archer tried to rent it, Jennifer and Brian Aldridge were successful in their application and moved in at the end of December 2018.


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