As the clipboard-carrying Pied Piper rang his bell and strode purposefully across the grass, hundreds of farmers, growers and other interested parties followed him to the start of what was to be a long session for Ashford auctioneers Hobbs Parker.

It was auctioneer and Hobbs Parker director John Rossiter who kicked off proceedings at the former Chartham headquarters of Bardsley England, where everything from hydraulic hoses to John Deere tractors, mobile homes and bare-root fruit trees was up for sale.

There was almost a festival atmosphere at the site, with portable toilets and a burger van there for the convenience of what looked like most of the South East’s fruit growing community.

With 800 lots to get through, John made the rules clear, with minimum £5 bids, a warning not to wait too long before bidding and a request for bidders to keep a path clear ahead of him. “We’re going quickly – and mind the holes in the field,” he commented, before starting the bidding on a random box of fittings.

The sale, which went on despite a huge downpour within the first half an hour, followed Bardsley England’s decision to cease trading after a number of attempts to sell the business as a going concern with its assets included.

Despite John and his fellow auctioneers’ speedy, well-practised sales patter and what was close to a sprint as the huge crowd moved from one lot to the next, the sale took all day and was described by John as “very busy and very successful”.

While not prepared to reveal any figures, he said the auction had realised roughly as much as he had anticipated and described it as “probably the biggest fruit sale ever held in Kent”.

Alongside what he described as a “huge attendance” at the site itself, the sale attracted more than 600 registered bidders online, allowing growers from all over the country to attempt to pick up a bargain.

Lots on offer included fruit storage crates, posts, tractors, telehandlers, trailers, pick-up trucks, spares and tools, along with a large amount of orchard spraying equipment by the likes of Orvin, Munckhof and Votex.

John said more than 200 individual customers had purchased items in the auction. A quarter of all the lots on offer received an online bid and 11% of the items in the catalogue were bought online. The average lot price was £1,500.