Case Study

Diversification - Holiday Accommodation and Events

Olivia Hatch, joint owner of Talton Lodge and Talton House, Warwickshire.

Talton Lodge and Talton House are set amongst 34 acres of parkland, woodland, orchard and gardens in South Warwickshire, 10 minutes from the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon. Brimming with quirky places to stay, activities and great hospitality, the venue is unusual in that it combines a private festival offering alongside a country manor house offering. It can cater for business events, parties, hen nights, weddings, holidays, school trips. It even offers sausage making or cookery courses.

It is also home to Olivia and Barney and six other family members. The enterprise represents the family’s desire for quality time together, and the opportunity to run a business that has a low impact on the environment and supports local food producers.

What made you decide to diversify?

It was the opportunity to create a business that we would both enjoy and that would give us a much better work/life balance.

I used to be a chef so the starting point was that we wanted to do something where people came here and we would cater for them. We did it on a small scale to start with, using produce from our kitchen garden and a small number of pigs.

Was the diversification enterprise something that slowly emerged from your farming activities – or did you take a conscious decision to set it up?

With 34 acres and lots of buildings it is a different prospect to a typical farm. Historically, the parkland belonged to a larger estate that included Talton Farm, but Talton House and Lodge were later split off from the rest of the farmland.

We keep a kitchen garden, pigs and have planted 5 acres of woodland as we wanted a setting where people could enjoy nature. We aim to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, recycling and sourcing everything locally, using rooftop solar and generally being as energy efficient as possible. Our natural setting appeals to businesses and private parties.

We did it quite organically, starting with one yurt and one tepee and now we can sleep over 20 guests in the kitchen garden and over 20 in the manor house. We took over the big house five years ago so it has been a gradual process over 10 years.

Do you find working with other people rewarding now that farming has become a pretty solitary occupation?

We like the social aspect of working in a hospitality-based business and also have seven people working for us, two full time and five part-time.

What is the paperwork like – rather a burden or not too different from the form-filling you have to do as a farmer?

We now have someone helping us with paperwork which makes it less of a burden.

How does running a diversification enterprise alongside the farm affect family relationships?

It provides us a living and has delivered everything we need it to.

The main thing is having our parents here, close by. It is a real bonus that we can all be together but that there is enough space for everyone to live independently as well. Leaving the business intact for the next generation would be amazing.

What tips would you give to other farmers thinking of diversifying?

If you are thinking of going into glamping, do a lot of research, as it is quite a saturated market. You have to think about what people are going to do when they come to stay. You need to lay on food and activities, so think about the whole package and what you can do to make it better than other places so that people want to keep coming back.