Cambridgeshire watermelon farmer and Tesco supplier 'sets new UK record' for harvest despite rain

Nick Molesworth, manager of Oakley Farms in Cambridgeshire. Credit: PA

A British farmer has set a new UK record by growing thousands of watermelons, despite July's particularly wet weather.

Oakley Farms, in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, has grown an estimated 11,000 watermelons, doubling its record of around 5,500 in 2020.

Nick Molesworth, manager of the grower - which is the biggest producer of watermelons in the UK - said the exotic fruits could be "extremely challenging to grow".

The farm has tested different methods to be able to get more fruit per plant, and also harvests pumpkins and courgettes, which are both members of the cucurbit family, the same as watermelons.

Mr Molesworth said: "We started growing them after Tesco approached us and offered to work with us on the project and it made good sense as the crop would fit in perfectly between production of courgettes in late spring and pumpkins in early autumn.

“We have tried several different methods of growing the watermelons and are now getting more fruit per plant so the hard work is starting to pay off."

Mr Molesworth said the exotic fruits “are not that easy to grow Credit: PA

Oakley Farms is a supplier to Tesco, which described the 11,000 watermelons as “the largest yield ever produced in Britain”.

The farm worked with melon-growing expert James Cackett, who works for Tesco.

Mr Cackett has spent the last 15 years working with both seed houses and British growers on developing varieties that are right for the UK climate and soil.

He said: “This is a massive achievement by Oakley Farms as their previous production record was around 5,500 watermelons a few years ago so to double that inside two years is fantastic work.

“Growing watermelons in Britain is still a small and developing industry with just a handful of producers scattered around the UK."

Oakley Farms said July's weather slowed production, but the crop was still record breaking in terms of volume.

The farm called in the help of an expert to achieve the record-breaking yield. Credit: PA

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