AN equestrian business in Staffordshire which was supported by a county council administered growth programme has been recognised nationally as being the best in its field.
Court Bank Farm is a livery with a long waiting list of people from across the Midlands wanting to accommodate their horses at the Cannock Wood site.
Husband and wife team Andy and Viv Newton set up the business six years ago, utilising Viv’s passion and knowledge of the equestrian world. They were recently awarded first place at the British Horse Federation awards in the DIY Livery Yard of the Year section.
The couple were supported by a grant of just under £40,000 through the Staffordshire LEADER programme, which is administered by the county council from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The funding grants of between £2,500 and £100,000 have been available to businesses with ambitious growth plans to stimulate the rural economy.
When Andy and Viv took over the old livery premises it needed a complete overhaul. Over the past few years works have been carried out to bring it up to nationally recognised industry standards. The couple also run another business on site – UKAA, which sells high quality architectural antiques
With support from the LEADER programme and using the couple’s own investment, Court Bank Farm has been able to build a livery with state-of-the-art facilities including a floodlit all-weather menage (riding area), CCTV operation throughout, barns, individual tack rooms, automatic water drinkers and miles of off-road trails. The livery is next to both Cannock Chase and Gentleshaw Common, both offering extensive networks of bridleways.
Andy said: “It has taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are now and we are still investing in the business. We needed a complete overhaul of the site in order to provide the facilities we have in place today and the LEADER funding has helped us to do that.
“We are a DIY livery meaning people keep their horses here and look after them themselves. Some full livery yards don’t have the facilities we do and so we have a long waiting list. We have around four miles of grassland roadways, three areas of woodland and are in close proximity to Cannock Chase and Gentleshaw Common.
“We pride ourselves in how the livery is run, from the facilities we have to our effective land management. We also consider ongoing inspections by the British Horse Society as an important part of the industry to ensure high standards are maintained.
“Viv and I were thrilled to receive the best DIY livery award, particularly with the quality of the other finalists who should be commended. We hope that our business contributes to this area’s reputation as a great location for outdoor recreation across the Midlands and beyond.”
LEADER aims to support projects which will create jobs or help rural businesses grow; with grants available to support farm productivity, micro and small enterprise, farm diversification, tourism, rural services, heritage and forestry schemes.
Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “It is great to see Andy and Viv’s business doing so well and to be considered the best in its field nationally by industry experts is excellent.
Court Bank Farm is a superb example of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication and ambition. We’re pleased that through the LEADER programme the business has grown both in terms of its first-class facilities and national reputation.
“LEADER has made a real difference to small businesses across the county which play a vital part in rural communities and our ongoing economic growth. We now want to make sure the remaining money is fully utilised. People can find out more by visiting the programme website or contacting a member of the team.”
Other approved LEADER schemes have included a butchery training centre, a fledgling company producing cured meats, a restaurant’s fine dining kitchen, a new mill to process alpaca fleeces and support for a business to purchase specialist equipment to produce real fruit ice cream.
LEADER is part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
People can find out more about Court Bank Farm by visiting: www.courtbankfarm.com