An 860-acre sheep farm in Northumberland is expanding into the staycation market as part of ambitious growth plans by converting old stone barns into self-catering homes.
RJ Coulson & Son, owned by Robbie and his son Paul, has been raising sheep in Hexham since the 1930s.
Over the past two years, rising farming costs have put pressure on the company’s cash flow, leading it to explore new ways to secure its income.
The company has decided to convert three of its original stone barns into seven, four and two bedroom gites for holidaymakers. The perks of the houses include a hot tub, pool table, luxury furnishings and an outdoor BBQ.
In 2020, lockdown restrictions forced all three barn conversions to close two weeks after opening.
However, once the restrictions were lifted, bookings for accommodation soared with 144 bookings made in eight months.
Transformation of sheep farming
Due to demand, the business decided to expand further by converting a large eight bedroom property on the sheep farm.
The farm approached Lloyds Bank, securing £750,000 funding to support the redevelopment of the property.
The new holiday home is due for completion in April 2023 and will have its own electric car charging station and a wind turbine that will provide electricity to the house.
Paul Coulson, co-owner of RJ Coulson & Son, said: ‘Our first three holiday homes were only open for a fortnight when the lockdown forced us to close our doors. However, when the restrictions were lifted, we saw bookings skyrocket.
“We decided to act on the success and convert another of the farm buildings so that we could provide accommodation for larger groups.
“Thanks to Lloyds Bank, we have been able to continue to diversify the business, while maintaining our tradition of raising sheep on the hills.
“Over the next few years we will be looking at how we can introduce more energy efficient solutions and eventually I would like to see the whole farm and houses running on 100% renewable energy.”
Michelle Story, Agricultural Relations Manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “RJ Coulson & Son is based in an area of outstanding beauty, so it’s fantastic to see the changes to the land complementing its surroundings so well.
“Paul and his father have worked on the farm for many years and despite recent challenges, they have found new and innovative ways to diversify and ensure the future success of their business.
“We will continue to stand by companies like this as we help them overcome obstacles and provide them with the tools to realize their ambitious growth plans.”