Farmer and brewery founder Steven Urwin and his wife Sally are
hoping to make their mark on the Hadrian's Wall tourist trail with
the help of Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES).
A fourth generation farmer, Steven's family has been farming
in Northumberland since 1891 and in the late 1960s they moved to
Matfen High House where they run a mixed farm of beef cattle and
sheep alongside arable crops of wheat and barley.
In 2002, Steven launched the High House Farm Brewery with the
support of funding from RES, delivered by the Rural Development
Service, and his three beers have already won several awards
including the CAMRA Regional Awards and SIBA Regional and National
Now Steven and Sally plan to expand the business as a tourist
attraction, with a new visitor centre, shop, cafe, bar and function
room with further support from RES and have also signed up to
Defra's Entry Level Stewardship scheme to help enhance and preserve
the farmland and wildlife habitats which surround the site.
"The farm is managed in a traditional, non-intensive manner
and we want to do all we can to preserve the wonderful environment
in which we work.
"We're unique in the area as we use the farm to provide
ingredients for our beers and we help the environment by returning
all brewery waste products and water to our land.
"The brewery business is going very well and the beers
are proving very popular. We already welcome small groups for
tours and as we're so close to Hadrian's Wall - just half a mile
with a direct footpath for walkers - we thought we could offer
something different for the tourists."
"We've always been committed to looking after our land
and livestock and we signed up to ELS to help sustain the fantastic
scenery on the farm and protect the wildlife habitats.
"We regularly see owls, foxes, bats, badgers, heron, hawks,
partridge and a host of other species on the farm and we're hoping
to sign a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement to create
new footpaths for those who come to the visitor centre to walk
around our working farm, enjoy the countryside and wildlife,
learn more about the business and how the farming year fits in
with the brewery.
"We're hoping the new attraction will bring more visitors
to the area and appeal to walkers. We'll be offering the chance
to sample our beers in the new bar, alongside other guest ales,
while the cafe will serve home-cooked local food and the shop
will stock beer-related items and gifts from local artists and
"The new function room will also allow us to welcome larger
groups for brewery tours and host beer festivals, parties and
other events. It's a big project for us but the RES funding and
support from the Rural Development Service has really helped."
Michael Patterson, an adviser for the Rural Development Service
in the North East, said:
"The Urwin's have already proved diversification has its
rewards and have successfully combined business success with
preserving and enhancing the countryside in which they work with
- activities which are at the heart of Defra's sustainable food
and farming strategy.
"The new tourism venture will not only add a new dimension
to their business but provide an added attraction for visitors
to the area."
The new visitor centre is set to open in July this year but
for those who can't wait to try the Urwin's ales, they can be
purchased at The Angel in Corbridge, which regularly stocks the
brewery 's ales.
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