One of the first fully residential sheepdog training facilities in the country is opening this month at Lee End Farm in Quernmore, Lancashire - the original location for the opening sequences of the TV series 'One Man and His Dog'. A grant from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES) helped fund the accommodation for dogs and their owners attending the training.
Farmer Thomas Longton - who often fronted the BBC programme - is an internationally renowned authority on sheepdogs and is in great demand as a trainer, having bred and trained many champions himself. He and his wife Anne decided to provide co-ordinated lodgings for dog owners and their canine companions after hearing of the problems that his students encountered while visiting the farm - staying in hotels and B&Bs with no accommodation for their dogs.
The Longtons successfully applied for a grant of £70,000 from RES, delivered by the Rural Development Service (RDS), to convert a redundant farm building into luxurious accommodation for visiting sheepdog trainers - with eight equally well-equipped kennels next door for their canine companions.
During the conversion a disused barn was transformed into three double bedrooms with en-suite facilities sleeping up to eight people and a lounge and dining area which are also designed so that they can be arranged into a meeting / seminar room for up to 60.
Thomas is also trying to encourage newcomers to the sport by offering unique holidays where families can either see if their own dog has the ability and desire to work the sheep or learn to work one of Thomas' dogs under his supervision.
Thomas Longton says.
"Previously I was spending a lot of time travelling both in the UK and overseas, only running the occasional course here in Lancashire, because we had nowhere suitable for people to stay. We applied to the Rural Development Service for a grant to provide on site accommodation for sheepdog trainers so that we could run comprehensive courses, trialling and seminars here on the farm and were delighted to receive the funding.
"Many courses run for a few days, and most hotels will not allow dogs - especially as some attendees will bring more than one dog along. Now they can stay right here on the farm, knowing their dogs are catered for, and really make the most of the experience."
Jason Robinson, an adviser at the Rural Development Service in the North West , said:
"Thomas Longton is an internationally renowned sheepdog trainer who has run training courses in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Portugal, and now that dogs can travel to this country from the Continent many of his overseas students as well as British sheepdog trainers will be keen to use this new facility.
"The accommodation will help the Longton family to continue with their sheepdog business in a much more efficient way and eventually Thomas hopes to run the training business full time and take on staff to manage the farm.
"The project also benefits the local economy by generating income for the region from increased tourism and bringing business to local shops, pubs and restaurants."