Rural Enterprise and Modern-day Estates
For centuries much of Britain’s countryside was dominated by large estates managing farms, forestry and vast areas of landscape. Today, rural estates still manage a significant land area, but have developed new strategies and revenues to survive and strengthen their traditional farming businesses. Our visits on June 6th will converge on rural estates demonstrating a variety of dynamic land-based and rural businesses.
Great Tew Estate
The Great Tew Estate encapsulates much of what might be considered to be the archetypal English Country Estate - rolling grassland, oak woods with a carpet of bluebells and chocolate box cottages centred around one of the prettiest villages in England. Nonetheless, today the Estate also represents the very modern image of a highly progressive, rural business running numerous diversified enterprises - from state-of-the art grain storage and processing to the quarrying of ironstone, from residential property rentals to the hosting of popular public festivals and events. The Estate has been managed by the Johnstone Family since the 1960s and includes 4,000 acres of arable land and lowland grassland farmed in-hand. (www.greattewestate.co.uk)
Lunch and visitor tour at the Hook Norton Brewery - a family business producing award winning real ales. (www.hooky.co.uk)
Upton Estate is a family-owned rural estate in an area of outstanding natural beauty, straddling the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire boundary between Banbury and Stratford-upon-Avon. Comprising 2,000 acres, the Estate is involved in a diverse range of rural activities - from farming to wildlife conservation, from the rental of high-spec office and light-industrial spaces to the provision of renewable energy. The Estate is also home to a stud and racing yard for National Hunt and Point-to-Point horses and has successfully produced and trained many winners. (www.uptonestate.co.uk)
Centred around the glorious Cotswold village of Overbury, Overbury Enterprises is a vibrant, forward thinking rural business, comprising 3,800 acres of farmland (arable and sheep), a range of high quality houses, cottages, offices and workshops, a purpose-built nursery and an IT hub, supported by its own high-speed fibre-optic broadband. Today, the partnership provides a focus for the local community, where a wide variety of independent businesses are based and where many people live and work. Overbury Enterprises has been in the same family since 1722 and is energetically run by family member, Penelope Bossom. Scholar, Jake Freestone, is the Farm Manager and strives to combine the best of traditional estate farming with modern technology, whilst also following the highest standards of environmental stewardship. (www.overburyfarms.co.uk)
Springhill Nurseries + Vale Green Energy
Innovative and sustainable growing methods are two of the priorities of family-owned R & L Holt, who grow high-tech speciality and classic tomatoes hydroponically for supermarkets and farm shops. Located in the Vale of Evesham, the business has 22 acres of glasshouses on three sites, each of which uses sustainable and energy efficient systems for heat and energy. The largest, 12-acre site at Springhill is the most recent commission undertaken by renewables company, Vale Green Energy, and comprises a 500KW CHP engine and a 1.5MW AD plant capable of exporting 7,800 cubic metres of bio-methane per day to the national grid. It was the first gas-to-grid plant in the UK and uses a feedstock of grass, maize, sugar beet and wheat grown on over 2,000 acres of local land, plus plant waste from the glasshouses. The CHP engine produces heat for plant operations and for the tomato glasshouses. (www.valegreenenergy.co.uk + www.randlholt.co.uk)
For those of you who fancy a quieter day and a break from farm visits, you can spend the day in Stratford-upon-Avon. Steeped in culture and history, Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the most important tourist destinations in the UK and home to England’s greatest writer of comedy and tragedy, William Shakespeare. You will be able to experience a behind-the-scenes theatre tour, along with lunch in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre restaurant overlooking the River Avon. Then onwards to visit the birth place of Shakespeare in the heart of Stratford, take a seat on an open top bus to Anne Hathaway’s thatched cottage, Mary Arden’s house, for all the sights, smells and sounds of a real Tudor farm, before visiting Shakespeare’s final resting place at Trinity Church. (www.shakespeare.org.uk + www.rsc.org.uk + www.countessofevesham.co.uk)
British Motor Museum
The iconic British Motor Museum at Gaydon is the anticipated venue for the evening’s meal and activities. Home to the world’s largest collection of historic British cars and an extensive motoring archive, it boasts nearly 300 cars in its collection which span the classic, vintage and veteran eras. The Museum building itself is a spectacular piece of art deco architecture and was purpose built to keep the memory of the British motor industry alive.