[EXP] Peak District Farm Holidays, a group of farming families providing quality holiday accommodation
Rural topic(s): (Agri)-tourism and rural heritage
Type: Success story
Date of writing: May 1, 2011
Author(s) of this page: Delia Sambeteanu, Michael Dower
Organization(s): Peak District Farm Holidays
Peak District Farm Holidays is a group of about 35 traditional working farms offering varied types of quality-accredited holiday accommodation within or (in some cases) just outside the Peak District National Park. It was created in 1976 and was among the first such groups in the United Kingdom. The group members have worked together to publicise the accommodation that they offer, and to share ideas on how to serve their visitors.
Background / Objectives / Region
Peak District, the Britain’s first National Park (designated in 1951), is in the centre of England. It is surrounded by some of Britain’s largest cities – Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent. A third of England’s population live within an hour’s travel of it.
The National Park covers 1438 square kilometres of beautiful countryside - gentle limestone dales, dramatic gritstone edges and wild heather moorlands. It is a ‘living landscape’, largely in private ownership, including over 2,000 (mainly livestock) farms. It has a resident population of over 38,000, in about 100 small towns and villages. Its landscape has been shaped by thousands of years of human activity in the form of farming, settlement and mineral extraction. These activities have created a rich and varied heritage of landscape, wildlife and cultural features.
The purpose of the National Park is to protect this rich heritage, to promote public enjoyment of the Park, and to sustain the well-being of the resident population. These three purposes, which need to be kept in balance with each other, are all well served by the Peak District Farm Holidays group, for the following reasons. A landscape that is largely created by farming must be sustained by continued farming. But upland farming is economically fragile, and small livestock farms need supplementary income. Tourism, of a sustainable form, can bring that income, promote public enjoyment and help to sustain the resident population.
Peak District Farm Holidays is a group of about 35 traditional working farms offering varied types of quality-accredited holiday accommodation within or (in some cases) just outside the Peak District National Park. It was created in 1976, on the initiative of an officer of the Government’s Agricultural Advisory Service, and was among the first such groups in the United Kingdom.
The Group cooperates in running a joint Website, with links to the individual websites of member farms; in referring enquiries for accommodation on to each other, so that all who enquire can find accommodation; in training programmes; and in other activities.
The Group is run by a Chairman and a Committee of about 10 active members. Its activities are funded by an annual subscription from each member.
Aspects of sustainable development
Supplementary income for farm families.
In uplands like the Peak District, small livestock farms (typically between 25 and 50 hectares in size) do not yield much income. Even with Less Favoured Area support and agri-environment payments, it is difficult for farmers to sustain a livelihood and very difficult for young people to stay working on the farm. For this reason, most farm families in the area do have supplementary income, for example as contractors or through jobs in neighbouring towns. Farm-based tourism, as offered by members of this group, enable farm families to earn extra money on the farm, and in the larger enterprises to provide jobs for younger members of the family. For example, at Beechenhill Farm, two generations work together to run the dairy farm and the tourism business.
Promoting sustainable tourism.
The farms in the group offer a variety of holiday accommodation including farmhouse bed and breakfast, half-board, self-catering cottages, log cabins, traditional camping sites, new static caravans and even a Mongolian yurt !. Some farms have facilities for disabled guests; some can accommodate large groups; and some provide conference or wedding facilities.
Visitors can experience the farming way of life, and taste the farm-fresh food. Some farms feed their visitors mainly with products from their own organic, mixed farms; others supply them with local foods or with ready-made meals from other local farms. They use local suppliers and contractors when needed.
All the farms provide information on the Peak District’s attractions and activities that can be undertaken by visitors, such as walking, cycling, fishing, sailing, horse riding, rock climbing and hang gliding. Some provide stabling for horses passing through on the Pennine Bridleway, or bicycles for hire so that visitors can use the network of cycleways in the Park. Some offer educational holidays or theme visits, provided by the farmers themselves or developed in partnership with the National Park Authority or other organisations.
Sustainable use of resources.
Much of the tourist accommodation on the farms has brought new uses to redundant traditional farm buildings, which helps to sustain this architectural heritage. Many farmers use local stone or timber in their buildings, sheep’s wool for insulation, ground-source heating or solar or firewood energy in the accommodation. Many of the farms are organic.
Mutual support among the group members.
From the beginning 35 years ago, the group members have worked together to publicise the accommodation that they offer, and to share ideas on how to serve their visitors. This mutual help was greatly strengthened in 1995-6, when the group secured grants from the EU and UK government towards a £420,000 (c.500,000 euros) project with three purposes – marketing, improvement of accommodation, and IT. The most significant output of this project was the group’s website, plus an e-mail or fax link to every farm in the group, and training in use of this equipment. This IT linkage between the farms in the group facilitates good marketing and visitor management. If a farm has no vacancies, visitors can find an alternative on the group’s website.
Sue Prince, of Beechenhill Farm who managed the use of the grants, comments, “This was a difficult process, because of the complex rules and the varying levels of interest in IT among the group members. However, the Website and the IT link between members gave a great boost to our marketing. Nowadays, most of our trade comes through the group Website or (for those who have one) the individual farm websites, plus much repeat visiting by urban families who have become good friends of the farm hosts. Personally, I now do much of my marketing through Twitter.”
Challenges / perspectives
Tourism is a vital element in the farming economy in this upland area, as it is in very many upland and mountain areas in Europe. Farming communities in such areas face a double challenge – to maintain the viability of farming itself, and to continue to attract visitors in a changing and competitive tourism market. Success in these tasks will require continuing hard work by, and cooperation between, the enterprises involved. It will also depend upon effective agricultural support from the EU and governments, and upon timely innovation and gradual raising of standards in the tourism offer. Two neat examples of innovation are the recent installation by two of the Peak District farms of ‘hot tubs’ for the warm outdoor relaxation of their guests, and the offer of electric bicycles to those older visitors who cannot manage unaided the steep hills in the National Park.
Peak District Farm Holidays, which was a pioneer group in the 1970s, is now one of many such groups throughout Europe, linked at national level to Farm Stay UK and at European level to Eurogites, the European Federation of Farm and Village Tourism. Its significance for Forum Synergies is that it plays a key role in sustaining the economic viability of an upland farming community, and (by that means) in sustaining the natural and cultural heritage of a National Park. It provides a very human link between farmers and urban visitors, and offers benefits in other aspects of sustainability.
Source of the information
Peak District Farm Holidays : www.peakdistrictfarmhols.co.uk/index.php
Peak District National Park Authority : www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/index.htm
Beechenhill Farm: www.beechenhill.co.uk
Hoe Grange : www.hoegrangeholidays.co.uk
Discussion with Sue Prince, Beechenhill Farm; and David Brown, Hoe Grange
National and European networks of farm and village holidays :Farm Stay UK, www.farmstayuk.co.uk
Eurogites, the European Federation of Farm and Village Tourism, www.eurogites.org
David Brown, Chairman of the group - firstname.lastname@example.org
Scale of intervention : Regional
Keywords: ecotourism, agritourism, diversification of economic activities, family farming, collective approach, rural heritage, rural-urban relationship, organic farming, traditional products, renewable energy, internet -IT, higher added-value products, livestock farming