Ian Symington: West Norfolk farmer, countryman and sportsman

Ian Symington

Ian Symington - Credit: Archant

A champion of land drainage for more than 40 years, West Norfolk farmer and countryman Ian Symington has died suddenly at home aged 79.

For a quarter of a century he ran one of the country's most northerly vineyards in Britain at his home in West Winch, near King's Lynn.

In a good summer, helped by his family spending a day harvesting the grapes from his half an acre of vines, he would expect to make about 1,000 bottles of dry wine each season.

Mr Symington, who established his vineyard in the mid 1970s, was a highly-regarded arable farmer at Terrington St Clement.

Ian Thompson Symington went to Eastbourne College and then did his two years' National Service in the Royal Artillery – including an 18-month posting to Gibraltar. On his return, he did a year's course at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. As he learned so little, he refused to allow his sons to follow in his footsteps and study there.

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His grandfather helped him to take his first steps in farming near Louth, Lincolnshire, in the late 1950s.

Prone to flooding and often underwater, he struggled to farm this very heavy clay land but it sparked his lifelong interest in drainage issues.

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In 1967, he had the chance to return to Norfolk at Terrington.

He invested heavily in drainage in the early 1970s and the farm was drained at chain (22 yard) intervals when it was official policy to boost food production by making substantial grants.

By the mid 1990s, he was farming about 1,500 acres. Over the years, the enterprise expanded to about 5,000 acres.

An enthusiastic sportsman, he was a founder member of West Norfolk Squash Club and had represented his county.

A long-standing member of West Norfolk Rugby Club West Norfolk Squash Club, he was a good tennis player. He also played Real Tennis at Newmarket, was a good shot and loved salmon fishing too.

Always a passionate farmer, who was happiest on the land, he enjoyed sailing and skiing.

But his garden and his vineyard, were central to his life.

He leaves a widow, Mo, and four sons, Alistair, James, Dominic and Hugh, and 10 grandchildren.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Terrington St Clement Church at 11.30am today.

Michael Pollitt

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