Country idyll marks 25 years of
helping managers mean business

IT takes special skills to persuade the Chinese ambassador to trek out into the wilds of Malhamdale.

High Trenhouse near Malham

Entrepreneur John Varney and the team behind High Trenhouse have achieved this feat, and they have also persuaded a host of other big corporate names to devise their long-term strategies in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

The centre, which stands high on Malham Moor, is marking 25 years as a corporate destination.

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It’s home to the Centre for Management Creativity, a place where big hitters can unwind and think clearly, away from the pressures of the daily grind.

In 1976, academic John Varney was doing an architectural thesis about the national park study centres being established at that time. He discovered High Trenhouse and decided to start a project of his own.

When Mr Varney bought High Trenhouse at auction, the building required a large amount of renovation work to make it habitable.

He had given up a comfortable existence as an architect in Kingston-upon-Thames for a life in one of the remotest parts of the Yorkshire Dales. Many of his contemporaries must have thought he was mad.

But he was a man with a vision – he wanted students and disadvantaged groups to learn from experience.

He wanted to take people away from the their working lives into a more reflective environment. Mr Varney and his family had a herd of cattle with two milking cows, from which they started a small dairy business producing Malhamdale cheese, cheesecake and Jersey ice-cream.

A range of people, including “dysfunctional” adolescents, visited High Trenhouse and learned about the virtues of teamwork.

In 1990, he founded the Centre for Management Creativity with the aid of long-term friend and new partner Bernadette Schutte.

High Trenhouse and the Centre for Management Creativity have operated alongside each other ever since and the premises have developed to suit the clients.

Guests don’t have to worry about milking cows, or gardening or building work, so they can focus on creative thinking.

A spokesman said: “Clients come back time after time.

“Facilitators bring their clients, directors bring their managers, managers bring their teams, that’s how it works.”

Mr Varney said of his centre: “Recessions come and go but there’s a strong sense of purpose about the place, and in tough times busy managers do well to stop and think.

“We have planning permission for further growth, and if we can get the business, it would be good to see it expand a little more.

“Altogether, we can employ about 15 people full-time.

“In the madness of the modern world it’s important for those taking executive decisions to remember that we are part of the natural world.”