Feather Down Farm

Former Dorset dairy farmer opens farm glamorous camp site

A Dorset farm has experienced its first successful season of
trading, after applying for an RDPE grant to create an onsite
‘glamorous camping’ facility.

East Shilvinghampton Farm, on the Jurassic Coast near Weymouth,
opened its ‘glamorous camping’ facilities – otherwise known as
‘glamping’ – in June this year, after applying for funding from the
Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), through Business
Link South West’s Rural Team.

The campsite is run by family partnership T W G Bartlett &
Son, as part of a national chain called Feather Down Farm Days,
which specialises in bespoke camping holidays on farms across the
UK.

Martin Bartlett, who runs the farm with his wife Joby and
parents Tom and Sheila, said: “The farm has been in our family for
three generations and has always focused on dairying. But, in
recent years the level of return through the industry has made us
carefully consider all our options – including the pros and cons of
expanding the herd. However, in the end we took the incredibly hard
decision to give up dairying, and researched new ventures.”

Due to its location, creating a tourism strand alongside its
farming was a natural progression, and partnering with Feather Down
Farms meant it was be able to diversify whilst having the help and
support of a national chain – which has led to a very busy first
season.

Martin continued: “One of the main things that we wanted to
ensure was that the farm remained a working farm – the tourism
facilities we now have onsite are just part of our business.
Although we no longer have milking cows, we are still a working
farm with a beef suckler herd, heifer rearing for another dairy
farmer, and crops including wheat, oil seed rape and maize. We also
now have a private B&B and holiday let.”

Business Link rural adviser Tim Bowden helped the farm assess
its diversification options, as well as looking at various grants
which could help fund the project.

Tim said: “The RDPE was a natural fit for East Shilvinghampton
Farm. The grant funds diversification in the farming industry and
there is over £150 million of funding available across the South
West region.”

The grant, which was match funded by the farm, paid for the
infrastructure for the camping facilities, including adapting a
field, planting trees, adding mains water and treatment plants, a
shower room, and an ‘honesty’ shop, which stocks local produce, and
beef from the farm which visitors buy by writing down what they’ve
taken and paying at the end of their stay.

The RDPE grant can not fund accommodation, but Feather Down
Farms provided the luxury tents – which it does for all its
farms.

Martin said: “The process of applying for the grant can seem
quite daunting at times – there is a lot of paperwork involved,
which is one of the reasons why we hired a consultant – who
Business Link helped us find. But it’s only paperwork – and the end
results are more than worth it.

“Giving up the dairy was the hardest decision we’ve had to make
– especially as the farm has always prided itself on having
high-yielding pedigree animals. However, we are very pleased with
the end result of the project and would highly recommend both the
RDPE programme and Feather Down Farms.”

Since 2008 Business Link have helped over 400 farms receive
funding, with awarded grants ranging from £4,000 to £2 million.

Tim said: “Farmers across the region have been awarded funding
for projects as varied as green burial sites, farm shops, cheese
making machinery, worm farms and converting disused farm buildings
into offices. The programme is a fantastic opportunity for farmers
of any discipline.”

Feather Down Farms has 25 farms across the UK, including eight
in the South West.

Mark Gordon, managing director, said: “Martin’s farm has enjoyed
one of the most successful opening seasons of any Feather Down Farm
in our six year history. This is due in no small part to the
support they received from Business Link and the RDPE programme. We
would heartily recommend that any prospective Feather Down Farm
take a good look at what Business Link can do to help them set up
in the leisure industry.”

For more information, 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