A Northumberland farm has received national recognition after re-introducing red deer to an ancient valley and being selected as a National Park Experience provider, running unique safari tours to immerse visitors into its historic farmland.
Ingram Valley Farm, near Alnwick, has been named runner-up in the Best Rural Diversification Project category at this year’s Rural Business Awards, sponsored by Fisher German. The award recognises rural businesses that have gone above and beyond to offer something different to the rural community.
The farm, run by Rebecca Wilson alongside her husband Ross and father-in-law Johnny, re-introduced red deer to the valley in 2019, where they first roamed 10,000 years ago.
They invested in new handling facilities and now have more than 150 red deer on the farm, as well as 1,400 sheep, 1,500 prime lambs and 100 cattle.
As people became more interested in the project, Ingram Valley Farm launched its deer safaris to give people the opportunity to see the animals up close.Visitors can now board the Ingram Valley Farm Tractor and Trailer Express where they are invited to take a step back in time to hear about the history of the site and learn more about the sustainable farming methods used.
Although not currently running under government Covid restrictions, tours are scheduled to return this summer from June 22
Rebecca said that the Rural Business Awards have not only given their farm recognition on a national scale, but also enabled them to make industry contacts which have helped make their business more accessible.
She said: “The diversification at Ingram Valley Farm has been an evolving project. We began by re-introducing red deer, supported by the LEADER scheme which offers funding to rural development projects, and then launched our website to sell high-quality venison, beef and lamb.
“We then found that people were really interested in our deer and wanted to see them up close, so we began offering our deer safaris.
“All of this is alongside our work around sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint, demonstrating our commitment to operating a sustainable farming-system that can thrive in the years ahead to create jobs, help the rural economy and meet consumer demand.
“We’re thrilled to be selected as runners-up in the Best Rural Diversification Project category at this year’s Rural Business Awards.
“Although the awards were held online so we haven’t met any of the nominees in person, we’ve become very good friends with Accessible Holiday Escapes who were named ‘The Best Rural Start-Up Business Category’.
“We were so inspired by the company which meets the needs of travellers with a wide range of disabilities and mobility difficulties that they’ve actually supported us in making our safaris more accessible, so we’re now able to give those in wheelchairs the opportunity to visit areas of the farm they never have before, which is fantastic.
“Ingram café, which is on-site but independent to the farm, is already wheelchair accessible, so doing this was a very important development for us.
“We’ve also received a grant to create a bunkhouse to provide overnight accommodation, and Accessible Holiday Escapes will also be working with us to ensure it is accessible to all.
“As well as our bunkhouse, we’re also currently working on diversifying into oat milk and hope to be able to offer visitors the chance to make their own with the oats from the farm, so we have a lot of exciting projects ahead.”
David Merton, Head of Rural, said: “Ingram Valley Farm is a fantastic example of diversification within a farm business.
“They are truly connected to the rich history of the site and are giving people the opportunity to experience the beauty of the area and learn about sustainable British agriculture.
“It is fantastic to hear that they have even more diversification projects on the horizon, and we wish them well with these developments.”