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Agricultural Diversification. An Essential Business Tool?

‘Standing still is nothing more than to go backwards’ (P. T. Barnham)

When my sister and I decided to return to the family farm five years ago, we made, together with the rest of our family, the decision that we needed to develop our business into something that was more than just ‘straight agriculture’.

We spent many hours throwing around ideas, wondering whether we had the ability to breed alpacas, create a ‘fun run’ enterprise or the strength of character required to distill gin without taste testing to excess. After much deliberation, collectively, we decided to renovate an old barn in the centre of the farm which was in a poor state of repair and provide high quality accommodation in Owmby, just on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Agricultural diversification - the old granary groundworks

How it all Began

The ‘combine shed’ as it was previously known had already been through a number of permutations. Originally used as an old granary, horse drawn carts would pull up alongside and 50kg bags of grain would be humped up the old steps to the first floor for storage. Once sold they would be thrown out of the top window (the bedroom window in The Mill) onto another cart to be taken to market. The floor has always remained in good condition, testament to the way it was constructed all those years ago, ready to hold tens of tons of grain for months on end. The arrow slits ensured regular movement of air to prevent damp grain and some of the original beams (in the kitchen in the Mill) show marks where farm staff used the wood to count sacks of corn.

When modern machinery began to make its way into agriculture following the Second World War, the grain dryers were installed. A large pit held all the grain tipped from a trailer, where it was fed through to a slow conveyor system through high temperatures to dry the grain to a specific moisture. The pit was behind the east end wall of the Gables and the grain was fed up the wall of the living room in the Gables into the adjacent shed which stood where the patio now is. Access out of the main door in the Gables used to be difficult, as a large metal pipe cut straight across the centre of it.

Once the more modern drying system at the rear of the farm was installed in 2002, the apparatus in the granary was removed and the ‘combine shed’, too small for modern machinery became a general storage area.

The Build

We started the renovation in November 2017, and it was completed just over a year later, in December 2018. We have been extremely lucky as the whole team of people working on the build have been incredibly supportive, creative and above all patient.

Throughout the build we focussed on three main areas.

  1. Creating exceptionally high quality self- catered accommodation in northern Lincolnshire
  2. Using renewable energy where possible
  3. Retaining the heritage and history of the barn

The main thread that has run through this whole project has been about quality: quality of design, craftsmanship, products, atmosphere. Every decision has been taken with the end result in mind; we have considered our guests at every stage, whether that is someone working in Lincolnshire looking for business accommodation, or using the barn as a base whilst moving house or for a few days away on a rural retreat for a walking and cycling holiday in the country. We want to provide a warm, relaxing place to stay with all the modern technology expected in high quality accommodation. Somewhere you can control the lighting levels, integrate personal accounts (e.g. Netflix) with the Smart TV and enjoy little luxuries, such as the Nespresso coffee machine, at the touch of a button. We aimed to provide a modern space, with clean lines and as much light as possible in the apartments. We chose floating sinks and large, spacious open showers, and created a balcony in the Gables which, above the living room has a unique view of the lighting installed. We retained the height in the open roof and refurbished the rafters. All the walls have been decorated in muted tones to ensure a relaxing atmosphere, perfect when working remotely in contract accommodation.

Sustainability

Our farming business installed solar panels in 2013, which help to supply green energy to the large cold store which houses our potatoes from October until May each year. The recently renovated farm office is heated efficiently using an air source heat pump, so we were very keen to continue ensuring our businesses run as sustainably as possible. To complement this, we also installed an air source heat pump to provide the heating and instant hot water to all three apartments. We use a Mitsubishi EcoDan pump installed by Pure Renewables based in Yorkshire. We have used high spec insulation throughout the building on all external walls as well as between flats to maintain an efficient heat loss, this is combined with a special sound reducing insulation and Stadip Silence Glass to ensure the internal environment is as calm and quiet as possible, however much farming machinery is in use outside.

Heritage

Our family have been based here for three generations and it is important to us that we retained as many of the original features as possible. In order to conserve as much heritage and history as we could, we knew we needed to use a specialist builder and window company to protect and replicate the original features of the barn. We have worked with Homecrafts a number of times before and have been so pleased with all of their work. Carl and his team arrived in November 2017 and hardly had a day’s rest until the project was completely finished! They used traditional materials including lime mortar for repairing walls, to mimic the original processes, and worked closely with our architect (Flynn Architecture Ltd) to fulfill all the agreed requirements.

Homecrafts are also traditional joiners and talented window makers and provided solid wood windows in the original style of the building. They also designed, built and installed an internal hard wood staircase and solved the problem of blocking out light from the small arrow slits at night time around the building, by designing some fabulously stylish ‘hobbit doors’! More than all of this, they made a challenging project a very enjoyable one.

Agricultural diversification - the old granary groundworks

Spinning Plates!

We have found that diversification in farming can be a challenging prospect, and although we expect it to prove important as a business decision, it has been a valuable exercise to travel this road together as a family. I’d recommend anyone considering a business change or addition to your farming portfolio to go for it, enjoy the bumpy path and focus on the end goal. Work together, compromise and listen. Its all worth it at the end.

As a family we have developed this project at the same time as running a farm, going through a house move, a pregnancy, the welcoming of a newborn, having three older children in the mix and the usual chaos that life usually brings. It would be safe to say that it has not been an easy task, and there have been ups and downs, tough decisions and many changes of plan. But now that we have completed our three beautiful self-catering accommodation apartments we are delighted to have welcomed our first guests to The Old Granary and are really looking forward to the next year providing many more people with a warm ‘home away from home’, a place to relax, work or entertain.

We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in finding out more about the barn renovation, or if you would like to stay in any of the three apartments that are the finished (fabulous) result, please contact us

The Viking Way – 140 Miles of Beautiful Countryside!

Nestled in North Lincolnshire’s remarkable countryside tucked just outside the hamlet of Owmby, you’ll find The Old Granary, a recently converted barn tucked away on a family-run potato farm. Made up of three bespoke holiday homes, the barn’s authentic features have been restored creating an idyllic countryside getaway, perfectly suited to your every need whether it be a long or short stay! Located within easy reach of Lincolnshire’s buzzy towns, east coast seaside and the rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds, The Old Granary is the perfect base for exploring, by bicycle, car or foot, all that Lincolnshire has to offer.

Following in the footsteps of our invading Norse Ancestors, the Viking Way is a long distance footpath that runs from the Humber Bridge, through the gentle rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds to Oakham in the landlocked country of Rutland, passing through 140 miles of quaint villages, water-side walkways, contrasting landscapes, quintessential countryside… and the top of our potato farm! The start of Viking Way walk is close by to our cosy base and the perfect trail for those hoping to immerse themselves in the undisturbed beauty of Lincolnshire’s landscapes.

Waymarked with posts that feature an imprinted Viking helmet, the undisputed high points of the Viking Walk consists of stunning views of the Humber Estuary, mooching around the former Roman towns of Caistor and Horncastle, where original Roman architecture rests undisturbed, wandering water-side along the River Witham into Lincoln, and strolling alongside Rutland Water as you nearer the end of the Viking Way. If taking in fresh country air and exploring new areas is for you, the Viking Way takes you on a journey through time, celebrating both the buzz of urban life and the rural hideaways of the East Midlands. A widely-regarded Area of Natural Beauty, the Lincolnshire Wolds’ countryside splendour changes with the seasons. Throughout spring and early summer, fields glow with oilseed rape flowers, stretching beyond the horizon, before autumn arrives and tree-tops turn to red as crisp nights begin to close in. The best part about Lincolnshire? Such few people are aware of its beauty! The countryside has remained very much undiscovered over centuries, and with controlled farming and skilled agricultural methods, the surrounding wildlife and environment has been left peacefully undisturbed.

The Old Granary is truly the perfect spot to rest up ahead of walking and with a comfy bed to rest your head and with your own to kitchen to whip up a plate or two of something hearty, we’re quite sure you’ll be off walking at a steady pace to your heart’s content!

The Rise and Rise of Lincoln Christmas Market

At The Old Granary, we love Christmas. From the tinkling of bells to the endless pouring of spiced mulled wine, the flowing of festive cheer is guaranteed at ours! Why not start the countdown to Christmas at The Old Granary? We’re just a short drive away from the crisp Lincolnshire countryside and the sparkling lights of the city of Lincoln, meaning there’s plenty to get up to and celebrate the December festivities, so be sure to button up and explore the wintery wonders of The Old Granary’s surrounding beauty.

Christmas time in the city of Lincoln is not to be missed, as stalls, performers and elegant fairground rides take to the Cathedral Quarter, bringing festive cheer to the city streets! There’s nothing quite like the sight of light-strewn wooden huts, smoky bratwurst sizzling in sauces and the warming scents of roasted chestnuts and spiced mulled wine to get you in the mood for the winter festivities. Set within the walls of Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter and with over 250 bustling stalls to mooch around, Lincoln’s Christmas Market is one of the oldest and first of its kind, making it undeniably one of the best. With traditional alpine chalet huts lining the ancient Castle walls and soft twinkling lights blinking above, step into Christmas right in the heart of Lincoln’s old city walls.

Let’s not beat around the Christmas tree, the mouth-watering offering of munch is what makes a Christmas Market what it is! Cinnamon sugared churros dipped in hot chocolate, delicately decorated gingerbread homes, and of course, smoky German delicacies that are left sizzling away to perfection. Famous for its wide-ranging variety of food stalls showcasing Lincolnshire’s finest local produce, there’s plenty of food and drink to tuck into whilst you wander through Lincoln’s very own winter wonderland. And, of course there are lots of delicious samples to tickle your taste buds, with a mixture of sweet treats to pick and choose from; little treats that make tip top stocking fillers!

For those seeking a taste of Lincolnshire’s gold, be sure to find The Lincolnshire Larder, a once hidden gem of Lincoln’s Christmas Market that now booms each year. The Lincolnshire Larder is a space for Lincolnshire’s very own hand-picked artisan bakers and makers to get together and show off their bespoke crafts. From creamy, hand-made cheeses and chunky chutneys to locally brewed ales and ciders, The Lincolnshire Larder is definitely something not to be missed!

As well as the many stalls to mooch around, traditional fairground rides line the market grounds, so after a stein or two why not whizz down the helter skelter or have a spin on a classic Victorian style carousel! A much recognised highpoint of the fairground, take to the tops of the Big Wheel for an exclusive gaze at the breath-taking views of Lincoln and the rolling hills of the surrounding Lincolnshire Wolds. Whilst a day-time viewing promises clearer skies, the flickering lights of the city awaken as the sun goes down, leaving you feeling as though you’re just another star in the crisp winter sky.

Whilst you can fully immerse yourself in the bustling festive cheer of the Christmas Market, why not take a step back and head over to the Lincoln Cathedral, where the soft sounds of the Cathedral City Choir are more than enough to entice you in. The magnificent building peacefully stands just around the corner from the Christmas Market and whilst the market is the epitome of festive cheer, the Cathedral truly is a hauntingly beautiful spectacle like no other. Pine trees line the iconic city landmark, as dimly lit lights shine warmly upon the exterior of the Cathedral, as the angelic notes of carolling gently fills the air, and what more, you can step inside and marvel at the truly breath-taking interior.

There’s no denying that the city of Lincoln is a spectacular sight over the course of the winter festivities. But of course, Christmas Markets pop up from city to city and there’s nothing quite like exploring new places with bright lights to guide the way. The Old Granary is just over an hour or so from the city of York, another urban spot that glows with festive cheer and not too far a drive from our Lincolnshire base. Voted the UK’s Most Festive City in 2017, venture over to York Christmas Market and soak up the city’s medieval charm, as alpine chalets and festive flavours come together to create an urban winter wonderland perfect for some family-fun! Like any good old-fashioned Christmas Market, you’re never too far from something delicious roasting, frying or being smothered in cinnamon sugar and dipped in chocolate. Feel that little bit more festive at St. Sampton’s Square and stumble across the rustic Yorkshire Barn, a festive spot favoured for pairing freshly roasted hot chestnuts with spicy mulled wines and ciders. Perfect nibbles for tucking into!

The perfect rural retreat, at The Old Granary we know how good it feels to escape the hustle and bustle of life and hideaway where the air is crisp and the blankets are cosy. Being situated within close reach of Lincoln’s city centre and the countryside backdrop of the Lincolnshire Wolds, we’re the perfect base for exploring all Lincolnshire and surrounding areas have to offer. As leaves turn from red to brown and the sun begins to feel colder, what better way to warm the soul than jumping feet first into the winter festivities before cosying up at ours with a hearty plate or two and a mug of something hot?