Diversifying into the Tourisim sector was for our Farm, a way of enabling others to enjoy the peace and tranquility that this slice of Rural England has to offer whilst at the same time building a sustainable business which would support our family through the years ahead.
The word sustainable is banded around many government manifesto with little insight to its actual meaning, for us in simple terms:
1. What did we have available to us?
2. Did we have something that other people wanted?
3. How could we communicate what we had?
4. How could we grow what we had and invest in tomorrow?
Well, we had a Farm with a mortgage, some sheep and a Stunning Rural Landscape, we also had a couple of buildings on the farm which had some real potential for development, so we set about converting the Coach House for Guest use.
At the time, Jamie Oliver was heading up a campaign in schools to promote healthy choices and Channel 4 had got a cottage by the river with some pigs a poly tunnel and a guy who could turn almost anything into food for the whole family. The Darling Buds of May painted a Rural Ideal of England offering a simple life enriched by nature and free from complication of our modern day lives.
All of these influences would inspire us to develop what we had to provide an experience of Rural England whether for a weekend or a week, we would give people the chance of getting back to nature and seeing where their food came from, at the same learning about our animals and their part in the food chain.
Timing was everything, the Internet was here and provided the perfect platform to set out our stall, we really could communicate what we had to the world. I had been fortunate in my career to work for a College which actively promoted The use of Technology, so soon started to develop our own website. In addition we also selected two paid for sites which actively promoted our accommodation.
Details of our two properties can be found here: OaksBarnFarm.co.uk
Sue and I both worked full time at this point, each of us following another’s objectives rather than our own, but business growth does not come cheap, it requires hard work, long days, sustained effort, tolerance and Cash.
We were green but needed to be Greener
Adding another property bears its own costs, additional water, heating electricity, lighting, maintenance all would take their toll, with one property developed and another partially converted, our electricity bills were soaring so we looked again back at the farm and what it had to offer, we had a barn roof, at the time there were many insentives to enable the generation of electricity through Solar Panels, after much searching we selected a loca firm Spa Solar who came recommended by our good friend Dave Phillips. the install was faultless, achieved on time and on budget with every attention to detail covered on getting our paperwork completed for the feed in tariff.
There really is something beautiful and somewhat obsessive about seeing your electricity meter doing nothing on a sunny day, while you have two washing machines going, all iPads and iPhones on charge and some of your own lamb sitting happily in the slow cooker all achieved from the sun while you are also being paid for every kW you produce.
The Farm Turns to Biomass
Because of this positive experience we then moved our attention to reducing our Carbon footprint further, the Farm and the two self catering properties were getting through two and a half thousand litres of heating oil per year, our Rural location does not have a Gas main, so we were eligible as a business to make use of the Renewable Heat Incentive,
The system efficiently burns wood pellets manufactured from waste wood products, delivering a sustainable heat source which is no longer reliant on fossil fuels.
We selected Intelegent Energy to supply and fit an Okofen Boiler Plant, ahead of the latest reduction in feed in tariff, The existing Barn Build was modified by Simon of Cotswold Steel Construction, a good friend and fun to work with and helped us immensely in getting the project completed on time.
To this we would later add a drying room which now allows us to dry guest laundry as a byproduct of heating the three properties.
The claiming process and associated online application should not however be underestimated, thanks to Sue for undertaking this with Intelegent Energy Support.
Surround yourself with good people to shape your future
Thank you for reading
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