In the 1950s, when rationing was still a fact of life in the UK, efforts were made within the New Forest to improve crop production capabilities. With this aim in mind, various initiatives were implemented to help enhance potential yields.

For many years, the Efford Experimental Horticultural Station was a leading figure in the evolution of contemporary agricultural practices.

The centre, once located on the south-western outskirts of the New Forest, undeniably left its mark on contemporary farming. Initiatives undertaken at the station are reflected in today’s agricultural practices.

In July 1953, Daily Echo reporters were granted exclusive access to observe the centre in its early stages. They were welcomed to the site to witness first-hand all that was happening at the new facility.

By the  mid-1960s, many of their remarkable achievements in agriculture had become commonplace. These successes were spurred by experiments which resulted in incredible gains such as disease-resistant brassicas, virus-free strawberries, and improved varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, apples and bush fruits.

At one point, it looked as though a station would not be built close to Lymington due to plans by Ministry of Agriculture to establish their centre at Brownwich Farm, near Titchfield. However, because an oil refinery was expected to be built in the area, another site had to be sourced.

Bournemouth Echo:

Moving to a new location posed some major issues as there were specific soil requirements and proximity to the sea was a necessity.

Five centres had been placed strategically across the country with the intention of observing a diverse range of soil and weather conditions throughout. Every facility had been selected with great thought and consideration for the purpose. Although it wasn’t perfect conditions, Efford was an integral part of horticultural research.

Hard work was put in to drain some of the land, but there were also stream-side meadows which were not suitable for farming.

More than 170 acres of the farm were utilised for horticultural research and the remaining area was devoted to raising beef and pigs - an essential part of the primary endeavour.

Given the scope of the project, several measures had to be taken in order to ensure its success. This included installing drainage systems, constructing new roads, restoring fencing, establishing water sources and reviving woodland areas.

Bournemouth Echo: Efford Experimental Horticultural Station. June 10, 1953.

Dating back to the 14th century, two of the fields on this farm were used to financially support the mayors of Lymington. Records indicate that these fields provided necessary resources to help with this in around 1350.

Fruit, vegetables and glasshouse cultivation were all covered - but the potential was there to shift into a greater variety of experiments.

A Daily Echo reporter wrote: “The impressions I gained were of orderliness and a workmanlike approach to a well-conceived programme of research. A large area of the farm has been divided into areas of 8-10 acres, each served by a roadway and each sub-divided into experimental plots.

“On the north side, experiments in top fruit cultivation are going well ahead on land that had, if the work was to stand up to the tests of time, to be drained. South of the Lymington-Christchurch road is the area of intensive cropping, with its Dutch lights, and further south are vegetables growing in conditions of stable fertility - the fertility being maintained by a crop rotation in grass leys.

“Grown under conditions both natural and artificial, plants are watched and checked and eventually are preserved only as statistics on paper or line on a wall graph.

Bournemouth Echo:

“On the southern side of the farm, exposed to the prevailing SW wind, small plots have been used for the cultivation of brassicas, each plot being sheltered in a different way - some with wire netting, others with shelters of straw bales. The protective screen is arranged along the sides of a square and inside the “box” are growing healthy broccoli plants which are exposed to infection from unhealthy plants growing outside the “box”.

“Work under glass had been underway only a little over two months. Even so, the progress of research into propagation and cultivation pitfalls affecting tomatoes, cucumbers and marrows has been very satisfactory.”

With the area’s prominence in strawberry growing, it was only logical that the little red fruit would garner some attention.

“In other parts of the station, strawberry variety tests are in full swing,” continued the reporter.

Bournemouth Echo: Efford Nursery at Pennington near Lymington .

Given the success of the Echo at Efford, horticulturists were soon invited to witness what was being done firsthand. Subsequently, they had the same chance to explore as the Echo did.

The centre remained open for more than 50 years, closing down almost 20 years ago in April 2004.