Dennis Long: Innovative Norfolk farmer with musical talent

An innovative south Norfolk farmer, Dennis Long, who has died aged 86, also enjoyed sharing his great musical talent with others.

From musicals, pantomimes, weddings and even funerals, he had the gift to play any piece of music even after hearing it just once.

A founder member of Wymondham Young Farmers' Club, the first meeting was held at his home, Fir Grove, Wreningham, where the family has farmed since the 1880s.

Mr Long, who went to the City of Norwich School, took over the family's 300-acre arable and dairy farm on his father's death in 1953, shortly before he married Pauline.

In the early 1960s, he was one of the first to erect 'tower silos' to store rations for an automated feeding system for a barley beef enterprise, which had replaced the dairy herd. The distinctive blue structures still tower over Hethel.

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As the profitability of arable farming declined, Mr Long put the farm into set-aside in the late 1980s. And it led to more than a few raised eyebrows among the farming community especially when he entered the Ministry of Agriculture's farm woodlands scheme with a typically bold project.

He planted 40 acres of traditional species of trees, now known as Long's Wood, and also another 30 acres on other areas on the farm.

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He was proud to win the Royal Forestry Society's award in 1998 for the best farm woodland planting scheme in eastern England. This was recognition for Long's Wood, then the most extensive example of a tree planting scheme in Norfolk.

Mr Long was the first producer of the long-running Wymondham YFC pantomimes, which have been staged almost every year since 1963.

After almost 20 years, he became musical director.

He became club leader in 1947 and started the annual fund-raising muck auction, which was imitated by clubs up and down the country. Later, he was elected president and continued to support YFC activities.

He had played the organ at his church from an early age and was in demand to play across the county.

In Wreningham, he helped to steer the project to build the new village hall and fostered close links with the primary school.

His love of music was probably the driving force of his life but another passion was family history and genealogy.

He maintained links with branches of the family in North America, where many ancestors had emigrated in the 19th century.

He leaves a widow, Pauline, four children, Vic, Mary, Sally and Rachael, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at All Saints, Wreningham, on Thursday, May 19 at 11.30am.

Michael Pollitt

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