When glamping comes to the rescue of farming
Farming incomes will come under pressure when subsidies end after Brexit. James Whewell and his family explain how they hope to improve the fortunes of their farm Wyresdale Park by diversifying.
Produced and directed by Natalie Whittle. Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Edited by Josh de la Mare.
You can enable subtitles (captions) in the video player
If you live in a heritage property of this size, with only a small estate, then you are basically broke. I guess the challenge with these small estates is to commercially develop them without losing their family soul.
Just to give you an indication of the cost of things, this lovely cobbled yard will need to be completely relaid. And that will be a minimum cost of 10,000 pounds. And effectively, it will show no commercial return at all. And obviously with Brexit, all the grants are being frozen as of March, 2019, so it's-- yeah. The race is on and it's a tough race.
Those fells in the distance there are owned by the Duke of Westminster. We're really envious. He has 30,000 acres and 10 billion pounds. And we have a fiver. But he's a good neighbour.
When we moved home, this beautiful listed barn was being used as a sheep barn. We realised it had amazing potential. Long term we're hoping this to be a gallery and an inn. At present, we're using it as a wedding venue, because of this current trend of weddings wanting kind of simple, rustic heritage spaces to tie the knot in.
So the original Victorian motto of the estate was [NON-ENGLISH], which is "fight evil," maybe not quite so appropriate for us anymore. Our new estate motto is "expect miracles."
It's a peaceful place to grow up. I think Lancashire is a warm, hospitable place. And I think sometimes it's overlooked and people perceive it as being a poor, rundown place, where people just live off gruel or hot pot. And that is not the case at all.
The cafe when I first started here was a lot quieter, a lot smaller. And we've built it up and built it up. The cafe now is important for people to be able to come. We've got the lake, the glamping site, the woods. The grounds themselves are beautiful. There's more opportunity for us to take it further as a business but not lose what we are.
Glamping is obviously a huge explosion nationally. It was a big part of the revenue mix of Wilderness Festival. And so we have used the glamping spirit here as interim accommodation for our weddings. It's interesting seeing what is current in vogue in the southeast and how it hasn't quite landed in the northwest.
So short term, our focus is very much on events, weddings, hospitality, food and drink and accommodation. This is really just the first phase of the kind of commercial business plan to get some money going through the estate so that we can start planning for more of the longer term ideas. But we're very much just at the early planning stages of the kind of grand vision, if you like, of Wyresdale at the moment.
My grandfather bought the estate in the '20s in the depression and the recession. He was a sheep farmer as well and he bought different farms and gradually built the estate together. But he didn't buy the hall. I bought the hall, and here we are today.
And hopefully James is carrying on. But the mistake a lot of people make, they think that diversification is the solution. It is not the solution. The solution is to maintain, one way or another, the viability of the traditional pursuits.
If you start to interfere, then they lose the energy. They lose the creativity. [INAUDIBLE] whenever I said to my father suggesting something, he'd say, no. And he'd no idea what I was going to ask, until one day I said, no? Well, that's a shame, I was going to give you 1,000 pound, Father.
I think why myself and Louise were happy to move back here is because my dad has had to buy it. It's not been an inherited asset. There's a commercial kind of spirit to the place.
This estate was a sleeping estate at one time. And it's quite a lot busier now than what it used to be.
Most of us ladies are-- we're the beaters. And we work our dogs and we have a really good time.
Dogs love it.
Shooting needs to keep going in these estates. It's been here for a long, long time. But they have to diversify. And the cafe's marvellous and they're doing lots of marvellous things. So we're happy still to be allowed to be here, actually.
I don't know about the weddings. I don't know. It might do well. But people don't seem to get married just the same as what they used to do.
This is an ancient woodland. We haven't been able to walk through this woodland for the past 20 years because of the rhododendron ponticum, which is highly invasive. European funding has allowed us to come into this woodland and basically flatten all the rhododendron. And then we will follow in behind them and pull this nightmarish plant up out of the ground like that to get rid of it forever. So the referendum result was a big worry for us, because this is not possible to do through market economics.
In our slightly more turbulent times, these estates, big or small, have to have a justification and other things which the small farmers and the small farms can't do. And they're really important things to do if the countryside is going to stay really viable for people to live in and vibrant.