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Cumbria: A Jewel in the Crown of UK Agri-Tourism

Tracey Jackson, Head of Land Agency North Lakes with H&H Land & Estates, celebrates the opportunities that Cumbria’s ranking in the top ten UK Agri-Tourism destinations brings to the farming community.

“A recent survey quoted within Farmers Weekly, has put Cumbria in the top ten best places for UK Agri-tourism. Our Cumbrian farmers have always been innovative and grasped opportunities and it is fantastic that this has been recognised. For anyone who has visited the area, this is probably not a surprise, as the Lake District’s beautifully curated landscape has always attracted visitors from Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter and continues to be as popular as ever today. Lots of farmers have to diversify to survive, many farms are in stunning rural locations and have the advantage of buildings suitable for conversion to holiday accommodation, and for letting or land that could be used for caravan or camp sites for example. 

At H&H Land & Estates we have represented many clients in obtaining planning consent and grant funding in the past, through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which made awards for schemes which provided money to improve agriculture, the environment, and rural life. One of my colleagues has converted a barn on his small farm into two holiday cottages which have proved very popular, and we have helped several of our clients navigate the planning system to upgrade facilities at their camp sites or for the installation of glamping pods.

Whilst this scheme is now closed it is still a really good time for farmers to take a good look at the tourism market. With the decrease in the Basic Payment Scheme now starting to hit home and the vast increase in input prices, it is vital that farmers take stock of their businesses and look outside the box for alternative sources of income. One positive outcome of Covid is that it has really helped increase public awareness of the beauty of our own British countryside and consequently the popularity of staycations has soared.  

Glamping in particular has become increasingly popular as an affordable and fun way to experience the great outdoors. Caravan holidays too have seen a surge in uptake and the good news is that up to five caravans are permitted on a site without planning permission for a maximum of 28 days during the year. Pop up campsites give farmers the chance to dip their toe into the market without any commitment and see if they are cut out to become hosts. The great thing about branching out into tourism is that it can operate alongside the normal running of the farm, although it is important to realise that visitors can be demanding and expect a high level of service, so may not be for everyone.

However, the increasing number of visitors to Cumbria provides other opportunities for diversification such as farm shops. In 2020 we helped one couple, Ross and Elaine Pattinson, of Temon Farm, near Brampton, to renovate a traditional stone barn, to make a retail outlet housing a milk vending machine and a range of local produce including dairy products, free range eggs and bacon. This has proved a great success and they are constantly developing new ways in which to expand their offering.

So, I urge all farmers, particularly those who are worried about their future, to get some expert advice and really explore what options are available to you. We are all blessed to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and offering to share it with others, may just prove to be the best decision you ever made.”