Aldwick Court Farm

North Somerset Farm gets funding for three projects

A North Somerset farm is expanding its hospitality offering
after securing funding from an RDPE grant.

Aldwick Court Farm (ACF), based in Redhill, near Bristol, offers
corporate events and team building activities such as clay pigeon
shooting and tank driving. Grant funding through the Rural
Development Programme for England (RDPE), contributed towards a
state-of-the-art Visitor Centre/wedding venue and a working winery
processing the grapes from the farm’s vineyard, the largest in
Somerset.

Mark Fanning, ACF sales and marketing director, was keen to
propel the business forward into new areas. He said: “We are no
stranger to diversification and in the past we have successfully
explored pig farming, grass drying, dried blackcurrant seed
exporting and unique corporate team building and hospitality
events. After the economic uncertainty of the past year, we
realised we needed to invest in the business and create new
opportunities to enable us to grow. Wedding, stag and hen dos, and
corporate retreats offered huge potential for us, which is why we
decided to expand on this offering.”

RDPE funding is available to rural businesses in the South West
and is delivered by Business Link. The grants are normally match
funded, and since 2008 Business Link have helped over 400 farms in
the region receive funding. Awarded grants have ranged from £4,000
to £2 million.

Having worked with Business Link previously, calling on their
assistance when exporting 200 tonnes of dried blackcurrant seed to
China, Mark contacted the organisation to discuss the scheme. Mark
said: “Business Link outlined all the different areas that RDPE
funding can support, some of which I wasn’t aware of. I was able to
talk through all aspects of the business plans and at every stage
of application was given direction and advice on how to capitalise
on the business.”

Three separate funding applications were put forward and aimed
to reposition ACF Hospitality as a unique destination venue.

The Visitor Centre, due to be completed by January 30th before a
grand open day in April, will enable ACF to cater for evening
events and is expected to attract weddings, conferences and indoor
team building.

The vineyards will, by 2014 produce enough grapes for
30,000-35,000 bottles of wine each year. ACF recognised that
turning them into a working vineyard with onsite wine production
facilities would give clients an extra reason to revisit and plans
for a winery were put forward and accepted.

The final proposal, more in keeping with traditional farming
practices, comprised plans for a cold storage unit to aid ACF’s pig
farming venture – marketing and supplying pork to local
butchers.

Mark said: “Finalising three business plans is an extensive
process and Business Link helped with all the fine details – from
outlining suppliers to presenting market research. We needed
someone with the time and expertise to really focus on the details,
which is where its help was so invaluable.”

Chris Lyons, the Business Link Rural adviser who helped with the
application, added: The RDPE programme has enabled ACF to expand
the area of its business which proved the most fruitful – the
hospitality ventures. However, through its pig farming and winery
it still withholds traditional farming practices and is a great
example of how the funding can help a rural business diversify into
other areas.

“As well as helping ACF achieve its own growth goals, the new
ventures will also benefit the local economy, particularly hotels
and caterers who will help cater for the new 200 capacity wedding
venue.”

Mark, speaking of his hopes for 2011, said: “Fundamentally ACF
hopes to generate repeat business. I really think growth is
achievable due to the truly unique, bespoke experience we offer.
After all, where else can you have a think tank in the morning and
drive one in the afternoon?”

Contact the Business Link Rural team in Dorset, Gloucestershire,
West of England and Wiltshire by contacting 0845 600 9966 (calls
will be charged at local call charge rate) or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/southwest/rural

For more information on ACF Hospitality contact 01934 862305 or
visit www.acfhospitality.co.uk

Mark Fanning in a tank