Farm business diversifies with targeted support from Chamber

A north Warwickshire couple have revealed exciting plans to diversify the land around a historic hall to help keep an agricultural business alive.

Carl and Teresa Pickworth have been taking advice from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce on the potential to develop a new tearoom building at Whitacre Hall to attract a regular stream of visitors to the farm and woodland.

The couple are prepared to invest a six-figure sum in the development to safeguard the future of the farm and, after working with the Chamber, have reached the second phase of a potential £35,000 grant through the Leader Fund.

Carl, whose grandfather bought Whitacre Hall and the land in 1958, and Teresa want to create the new tearoom to attract woodland walkers, anglers and school trips to generate steady income to ensure the farm’s survival.

They will submit plans for the development later this year and believe it would be the beginning of a brighter future for the historic property, which was originally built in the 1600s and is believed to be where the composer Handel was given the words to The Messiah by Charles Jennens.

Carl said: “Farming is a struggle. There are doubts around future funding because of Brexit but, actually, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a sustainable living anyway.

“But we are not prepared to just let it all go. If that’s going to happen, we are going to make sure that we have fought for it and done everything we can to keep it alive.

“The development of the new tea room is at the heart of everything – that’s the beginning of the future for us. My father and grandfather made sure they conserved the land here and I’ve done the same, so there are wonderful woodlands that are perfect for walkers and for school trips.

“We’ve held a couple of events here to test out our idea and they have been a huge success so we believe there is really strong potential.”

Teresa said the support from the Chamber had helped to move the plans forward.

She said: “We’ve worked with Martyne Manning at the Chamber and she has been the missing piece of the jigsaw for us.

“We are effectively starting up a whole new business and that’s a very daunting task to do on your own – you don’t really know where to start or what’s available to you. Martyne not only pointed us in the right direction when it came to grant funding, she was very helpful in advising on the grant application and ensuring supporting documentation was appropriate. The applications can be quite intimidating when you first look at them.”

Martyne said: “Starting a business from scratch is never easy but the great thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. We are particularly keen to support young farmers with their ambitions to keep their traditional family businesses alive.

“The Chamber can offer support on planning, marketing, research and funding, including where grants are available. I’ve worked with five farming businesses over recent months and have seen that they are on the go through all of the daylight hours. So having someone who can support and provide coaching and advice on how to diversify is a big help to them."

If you are a rural business looking to diversify or are planning to start a new business then please email martynem@cw-chamber.co.uk.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber Business Support Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, in partnership with Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and the District and Borough Councils.

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