Strawberry Fields Forever? Think Again!
One of the traditional Westcountry summer's simple pleasures is under threat from health and safety rules which have already forced the closure of pick-your-own fields at one of the region's best-known fruit farms.
For more than 40 years, the Boddington family has thrown open the gates of their farm near Mevagissey, Mid-Cornwall, for the public to pluck succulent strawberries fresh from the plant.
But after being told to install safety features including handrails on drainage ditches and to cordon off potholes in the field in case errant pickers fall in, the family has decided it cannot afford to let people on to the farm.
Phil Boddington, whose grandfather set up the farm 60 years ago and whose father helped pioneer pick-your-own in Cornwall, said it was a sad day.
"Unfortunately, it is seen to be a risk to let the public onto what's deemed to be a strawberry factory in the eyes of the insurers and the health and safety people," he said. "It's just a sign of the times.
For the last three generations, the family has welcomed pick-your-own customers.
Mr Boddington said that, during those decades, just two people had been injured in the fields while gathering fruit.
However, last year, one of them, an elderly woman, filed a claim against the farm's insurance for injuries she suffered after a fall. The claim is currently being processed, but Mr Boddington said it had caused their insurance premiums to more than double.
The family was told that if it wanted to continue with the pick-your-own element of their business, they would have to make "radical" and expensive alterations.
Mr Boddington said the alterations would have cost more than any turnover generated.
I meant to blog about this earlier in the summer, not least because the Boddington strawberry farm in Cornwall is just a stone’s throw away from where I grew up. In fact, I remember several visits to farm as a kid and the fact that they have been forced to abandon their much-loved PYO experience strikes me as a real tragedy. As any personal injury lawyer will tell you, though, you can’t contract out of negligence.
Whenever the public are let loose in an area, of course, accidents will always happen - irrespective of how ‘safe’ it is made. While the legal mechanisms in place to allow injured members of the public to claim redress are important, they can also prove something of double-edged sword. It’s a tragedy that an unfortunate slip, trip or fall by one person can go on to deprive everybody of the chance experience the simple joys of picking your own. Children particularly love the PYO experience which, for them, typically becomes a strawberry fuelled pick-one, eat-three summertime bonanza. I guess I should consider myself one of the lucky ones.