Recipe for success on the farm near Ripon

Lindsey Hitchen is hosting a 'Sparkling Tea Party' at Old Home Farm, Grantley.  Pic: Steve Riding

Lindsey Hitchen is hosting a 'Sparkling Tea Party' at Old Home Farm, Grantley. Pic: Steve Riding

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THEY MAY not have taken their kit off for an undraped set of photographs but another group of rural-based ladies have also raised funds through print in recent times.

Farmstay UK promotes holiday accommodation in the countryside and Yorkshire has always been one of its most active areas. Lindsey Hitchen is the treasurer for the region and runs her own bed and breakfast holiday accommodation from Old Home Farm, Grantley, near Ripon. On Tuesday, May 12 she will be hosting a Farmstay ‘Sparkling Tea Party’ that she hopes will see their latest fund raising effort exceed the £10,000 mark.

Will and Lindsey Hitchen at Old Home Farm.

Will and Lindsey Hitchen at Old Home Farm.

“I don’t think we’d have had many volunteers for a nude calendar but we wanted to do something that would help advertise and market Farmstay, which celebrated 30 years two years ago, and also raise funds for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

“One of our members Lorraine Allanson of Pickering came up with the idea of producing a Farmstay cookbook that would include a page from each participating accommodation and a recipe from each, mine was chicken liver pate.

“Our initial print run of 500 went very quickly and to date we have sold 3,500 copies raising over £9,000. The reason for the Sparkling Tea Party is to get that figure through to £10,000.”

It will also be an opportunity for many to see the farm that Lindsey and husband Will are expanding and to take a look at the work they’ve done to turn St George’s Court, the name given to the holiday accommodation, into the up-to-date rooms they offer now.

The couple are both from farming stock and have four children. Lindsey is the daughter of cattle breeders Mike and Margaret Atkinson and Will’s background was dairy farming in Cheshire but his family moved into the caravan holiday park world.

“My mum Alison and brother Edward handle the day-to-day running of the site and restaurant,” says Will. “I’m a partner and still very involved there as well as running my groundworks business and building up our farm here. I handle all the development of the caravan and camping site. We have statics, tourers, tents and camping pods on site.

“I’d started off as an apprentice with Chris Jackson in Ripon working on Lamborghini tractors but I didn’t want to be a mechanic. The development work at the caravan site ballooned and then I started taking on jobs for others - everything from dairy cubicle houses to development of commercial business units.”

Cattle, sheep and pigs make up the farming side of Will and Lindsey’s set-up.

“We have 130 breeding ewes, predominantly Mules with a few Texels. We put the flock to either the Texel and Suffolk tup. We sell nearly everything fat at Leyburn Livestock Market with a few lambs going into the restaurant on the caravan site and sold as home-produced lamb.”

Will also produces barley bull beef.

“I buy dairy bull calves from Sue and Neil Clark’s herd at Brimham Rocks. The calves come here at eight weeks and I rear them on our land until 20-25 and then take them to a beef unit at Ripon where I work with another farmer Mark English who takes them through to 18 months. Our first finished cattle will be going to ABP in York within this next month.”

Will also looks after pigs and makes haylage for the horse market.

“We had our own breeding sows at first but we now have 350 pigs on a bed and breakfast arrangement with Warwick Bailey of Winksley.”

Lindsey has all the credentials as a Farmstay host. A farmer’s daughter and farmer’s wife, she also runs a catering business and ran the restaurant at the caravan site.

“I trade under the name Fawcett Caterers as I bought the business and have supplied everything from weddings to christenings and funerals. Since moving here and running St George’s Court, as well as having a young family, I’ve put that a little bit on the back burner, but having said that I’ve done a christening and a funeral this week!

“We’ve done such a lot here in our ten years. We completely gutted all four of our letting rooms and they’re all now as you would expect for today’s holiday market.”

Fundraising on the farm

The Farmstay Sparkling Tea Party will take place at St George’s Court, Old Home Farm, Grantley on Tuesday, May 12, 2-4.30pm.

It is open to anyone and tickets cost £15. To book a place, call Lindsey on 01765 620618.

Copies of the Farmstay Cookbook are still available to purchase from Lindsey too.

Farmstay UK was established in 1983 as the Farm Holiday Bureau to promote farm tourism and to help farming families find another source of income.

It has played its own part in Farmhouse Breakfast Week with the Home Grown Cereals Authority for many years.

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