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Rural firms to compete for top title at WMN Countryside Awards

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 01, 2014

  • The team at Devon-based Running Deer CIC

  • Family-run Otter Brewery

  • Pat and Dave Smith, owners of Bosinver Farm Cottages

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Running Deer CIC

Ahead of the first Western Morning News Countryside Awards on Thursday, September 11, Athwenna Irons takes a look at the candidates for the title of Rural Business of the Year.

Running Deer CIC is a Devon-based enterprise set up to support local people.

A team of staff and volunteers work with a range of individuals, including those with learning and mental health difficulties, the disabled, long term unemployed and military veterans.

Running Deer has worked with over 400 individuals since 2011, training them in rural skills such as woodland management, green woodworking, therapeutic horticulture, hedge laying and stone walling.

Working closely with agencies such as the Job Centre and Careers SW, there are a number of projects and initiatives under way to provide work experience opportunities and motivational and confidence building courses.

Running Deer also offers short courses, team building days and empowerment days, designed for organisations and businesses who are seeking to empower their clients, customers and staff.

The enterprise also displays its commitment to the environment by managing their own woodland and harvesting timber for a variety of uses.

The Sign Maker

The Sign Maker is a family run business, based at Yelland Farm near Umberleigh, North Devon. Producing a wide range of bespoke signs, from house signs to large signboards, the company has secured a loyal customer base, even shipping products overseas to the USA.

A diverse range of both modern and traditional materials are used to make the signs at the main workshop, which employs 10 local people.

The business has been rapidly expanding over the last twelve months, with sales up by 110% in comparison to the previous year.

The company was recently awarded over £34,000 in funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Rural Enterprise Grant (REG) scheme. The REG funding will help the company enter new markets and purchase a selection of machinery to produce large commercial signage and make the production of smaller signs more efficient.

Bosinver Farm Cottages

Bosinver Farm Cottages provide top quality self-catering holidays in a unique rural hamlet near the Cornish village of St Austell.

Owners Pat and Dave Smith have built up the business since they first purchased it in 1998 as a run-down chalet park, completely renovating four existing properties and building 16 cottages where the chalets once stood. The couple continue to pour their heart and soul into the business, which now has an annual turnover of over £500,000.

This highly profitable business, employing local people, has collected many prestigious tourism awards, including four and five star gold awards from Visit England, Tripadvisor Excellence Award 2013 and gold at the Cornwall Tourism Awards for a number of consecutive years.

Bosinver operates a sustainable ethos in all of its business practices and as part of this commitment the couple, along with their son Mark, built a zero carbon eco-house from reclaimed timber and lime rendered straw bales. They also continually refurbish the cottages and in summer 2013 completed building work on a new indoor swimming pool, heated by solar energy and renewable technologies.

Otter Brewery

Set in the Blackdown Hills between Honiton and Taunton, Otter Brewery remains a truly family-run business and one with an extremely low carbon footprint.

Set up in 1990 by David and Mary Ann McCaig, the thatched farmhouse at the centre of the 19 acre site dates back to 1806 and has been home to the McCaig family since 1989.

The family-run brewery’s range of ales has been hugely successful at a number of produce and taste awards.

The Brewery draws water directly from the head springs of the River Otter to produce the five regular brews and a seasonal beer for the darker months.

Sustainability defines many of the business decisions at the Brewery.

Brewer’s grains are recycled and used to feed a nearby milking herd, as well as the family’s own herd of pedigree Highland cattle. Brewer’s yeast is used to feed local pigs and ‘spent’ hops are distributed across the region to keen gardeners to create a quality compost.

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