A FARMER has spoken of a dreadful start to the New Year after his entire hay barn went up in flames.

The blaze broke out at Court Farm in Barrow Hill, Wick in the early hours of Monday morning. All 420 hay bales being stored in the barn were affected leaving owner Gary Brain around £15,000 out of pocket.

“I sold the bales for £35 each last year so it works out at more or less £15,000,” he said. “I run two equestrian yards and the hay was feed for about 50 horses plus I would have sold a few. Now I need to buy it all back in and will have to get small loads because I have no barn to keep it all in."

He added: "My phone started ringing at about 3am and I thought there is no point getting there until it is light but then I had a puncture in my tractor.

“It has been a dreadful start to the New Year. I hope it doesn’t mean the rest of the year is going to be bad.”

The fire started shortly after 1am when two fire crews, from Speedwell and Kingswood, were called to the scene.

Because hay reignites very easily, they made the decision to allow a controlled burn of the bales as there was no risk to anyone nearby. Avon Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Stephanie Mounsey said: “On arrival firefighters found a Dutch barn and between 70 and 100 tonnes of hay well alight.

“As there was no risk to life and no other buildings or animals close by firefighters are allowing the hay to burn in a controlled manner.”

Mr Brain, whose main farm is in Beach, on Lansdown Hill, keeps his hay at his barn at Court Farm which is owned by his mother. Although an investigation into the cause of the fire is underway, he said there has been evidence of young people gathering near the barn before.

“The barn is in full view of Wick High Street,” he told the Gazette. “I have often caught young people up there having a cigarette or whatever.

“Someone had moved some pallets to make a ladder and had climbed up to the dry hay.

“It certainly went up like a good ‘un. The whole thing has completely gone.”

Mr Brain said he hoped to replace the barn through his insurance company and was hopeful the weather would not turn too cold to prevent him from storing replacement hay bales outside.

No-one was hurt in the fire. The fire service received more than 40 calls about the blaze and remained on scene until 10am on Monday.