Ripon Cathedral Rural Forum continues to bring together individuals and organisations for the exchange of ideas, information and mutual encouragement, twelve months on from the publication of the North Yorkshire Rural Commission’s report at the 2021 Great Yorkshire Show.
The forum’s recent meeting in July covered topics such as animal welfare, environmentally friendly farming and diversification, with speakers from organisations such as the NFU and the Rural Payments Agency as well as farmers, landowners and businesses sharing their own experiences.
Ian Walker, is a 16th generation farmer, whose farm covers 170 acres within Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty. Ian’s story of diversification began in 1959 when an angler turned up at Studfold Farm with a caravan and asked his grandfather if he could park it in a field. The years that followed saw the development of a static caravan site, a touring park with locally made glamping pods, play areas and a children’s adventure trail with fairy houses plus a cafe and a shop. The farm offers gorge scrambling in conjunction with an adventure company and outdoor centre. The income ratio at Studfold is now 80% diversification and 20% farming.
“Our main aim was to get young families out in to the countryside, creating life-long memories and a love of the outdoors.” explained Ian, (pictured far left with speakers from July’s seminar).
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson (centre) said: “This was a really inspiring, energising meeting in which we heard from some remarkable people about how they are being creative, taking the initiative and being entrepreneurial in the face of continued uncertainty regarding government support for farmers. Some of the stories around environmental land management showed a real determination to move forward into the future in a constructive and positive way.
“The need for farmers to diversify is something which has been around for decades but what seemed fresh in the presentations was the desire to be as environmentally friendly as possible and as inclusive as possible in relation to tourism within this rural region.
“Those attending left a clear message for those of us at the cathedral, requesting we carry on organising events that bring people together in this way to share ideas, information and experiences.”
The cathedral welcomed the creation of a task force by North Yorkshire County Council to take forward the proposals made by the Rural Commission, including the recommendation that five new homes should be built in every civil parish across the rural areas of North Yorkshire over the next ten years.
This spring the Rural Forum arranged a seminar on rural housing, bringing together experts from across the country to test the credibility of the recommendation. The conclusion was that the concept should be embraced and ways found to bring together organisations which could make it a reality. Since then the dean has chaired a meeting of representatives of community housing groups, housing associations, land owners, the Methodist church and our own diocese. This is a conversation which is now on-going.
*For more information on Studfold visit www.studfold.com