My Brighton: David Cross

July 3, 2017

Farmer at Mile Oak Farm



Are you local?


Very, I think. I’ve never lived anywhere other than Mile Oak Farm. I’m the third generation on this farm. My family originally came from the West Country, and my grandad and dad moved up in the 1920s to Hangleton. They had two or three farms around here before ending up at Mile Oak.

Have you always worked on the farm?


I’m a bit mechanically minded, so I worked for a while at an engineering firm in Arundel, fixing farm machinery. I took over the farm about 25 years ago. It’s 1,500 acres, and mainly arable. We grow wheat, barley and oilseed rape. We’ve got a small sheep flock, which my daughter runs, and a herd of beef cows.

Do you go into town much?


It has been known, but rarely. We do donkey rides for charity, and we were at Hove Park the other weekend for Martlets. We had queues all day long. The time before that was Christmas Eve, when I took Albert the donkey to St Luke’s Church for the nativity. It’s ever so popular. The place was crammed full, and we had to walk down the centre aisle. I worry that Albert might have a funny turn, but we’ve been doing it some years and so far, so good.

What do you like to do on a day off?


I like tinkering and playing around with old tractors and machines, if you can call that a day off. We
go to shows. The next one is a steam rally at Wiston. As part of my playing around with old
machinery, we bought an old belt-driven flour mill and we’ve been milling some of our own
wheat. The baker’s in Valley Road makes bread from the flour which we sell in the shop. It’s quite
satisfying. We normally grow the stuff and ship it out in lorry loads. Mind you it’s quite slow…
I spent yesterday afternoon doing it and ground one sack full.


Do you have a favourite place to go out to eat?


We tend to go down to Shoreham if we do go out. There’s some nice eateries and pubs there. I like the Red Lion by the footbridge. It’s very old, and they do very good food and craft beer. How has the farm changed in your time here? Terrifically. We used to be dairy farmers - dairy and arable - but milk prices and pollution regulations put an end to it. When the cows went, I started selling a bit of horse feed, and it’s grown from there. We’ve got the farm shop, tea room and some animals for people to visit. We’ve also let a few units. There’s a blacksmith, a chap that makes ginger wine, and a couple of lads who make furniture. It used to be so peaceful before the A27 was built. The back of Mile Oak was all market gardens, and my wife’s family had a farm there, which is now houses and the road.

What do you think of the i360?


It’s a clever bit of engineering, but it’s not exactly pretty. We can see it from here. I don’t know… just to go up to come down again… when you go up on top of the hills around here you get a pretty good view.

When did you last swim in the sea?


Oh my goodness… twenty years ago. I used to do a bit of sailing and motorboating. We’ve recently come by a little boat, and we’re thinking of putting it on the water. Whether we shall venture out to
sea, I don’t know, but we might go up the river.

Mile Oak Road, Portslade, BN41 2RF


Photo by Adam Bronkhorst

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