“THE INVESTMENT in terms of cash and commitment for a new tourism venture is not for the faint-hearted, but when you read your glowing reviews and the bookings keep coming, you know it’s all going to be worthwhile!”
These are the words of Angharad Jones, who, together with her husband Gethin, farms a 200-acre upland beef and sheep farm, overlooking the spectacular Clwydian Range near Ruthin.
“We’ve always tapped into Farming Connect services and training to keep up to date and improve the performance of our land and livestock.
“What we hadn’t realised was that we could access a similar level of expertise and support from Farming Connect when it came to setting up a new diversified tourism business – guidance we very much needed.”
Since they bought their farm in 2001, the couple have been steadily building up their herd of around 30 beef sucklers and 600 Aberfield and Welsh ewes. In 2019, keen to find an additional stream of income, they began to consider setting up a new tourism enterprise.
Angharad attended a Farming Connect diversification clinic in the autumn of 2019. Delivered online by one of Farming Connect’s approved business specialists, Jeremy Bowen Rees of Landsker Business Solutions, the two hour-long group seminar provided important advice on every aspect of setting up a new diversified farm tourism venture.
“There is so much to think about before you even identify the farmland or spaces you want to develop, let alone apply for planning permission.”
Armed with their new-found knowledge, the couple then decided to commission a business plan through the Farming Connect Advisory Service.
“We selected Mr Bowen Rees, thanks to what we had learned at his diversification surgery. Our business plan was invaluable, because without that, we would not have received funding for the project.
“He visited the farm and gave us a lot of valuable guidance, also spotting the potential of our old disused railway carriage – which thanks to his advice, is now spruced up into a visitor hub, with a washing machine and freezer, as well as maps and information about the local area.”
Around the same time, encouraged by her local Farming Connect development officer Elen Williams, Angharad undertook training for setting up a new website, and was also invited to join a sector-specific Agrisgôp ‘tourism’ group, facilitated by leader Gwen Davies.
“Gwen was amazing, she got everybody in the group talking honestly and openly – some, like us, were just starting out and preparing to apply for planning – while others were already on their ‘journey’, and able to share advice and tips with those of us who had no experience.”
As soon as planning was approved, the couple placed an order for three locally-manufactured pods, all suitable for two adults, and also ordered three log-fired hot tubs, which they knew would be an appealing visitor attraction. These are fed by firewood Gethin sources around the farm.
“Our visitors get an interrupted view of Moel Famau and magical dark night skies. These touches all add to the atmosphere of staying at a luxury rural retreat at any time of the year, and by buying ‘local’, we are also ticking some important environmental boxes, too.”
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and funded by the Welsh Government and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. For further information about Farming Connect services and support, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect