Opening the barn door to success

THE idea of living on a farm would be a childhood dream to most youngsters.

But to Neil Anderton it proved to be more a dream come true, when he turned the very barn he played in as a young boy into an award-winning business.

Like most young children growing up, Neil was no exception to the rule and he too had his fair share of hopes and dreams for the future.

But in Neil's case, being raised in the very surroundings that influenced his life was all the inspiration he needed to succeed.

And after leaving his schooldays far behind him, Neil's dream of becoming a businessman in his own right actually became a reality, when he first opened the doors to the new family business in the picturesque village of Scorton in the year 2000.

The start of the new millennium also signalled the beginning of the Anderton's specialised business at the 'Barn' coffee shop and plant centre in the village, which has become well known, as both a main tourist attraction and one of the finest examples of farm diversification in the region.

Operated from the sympathetically restored early 19th century farm buildings that Neil played in as a young boy, this unique business has grown over the years to become a specialised supplier of both rare and old cottage garden variety herbaceous perennials.

Complementing the sale of plants is the two acre Orchard Garden, an oasis of colourful herbaceous borders, where the public can see many of the plants that are on sale, actually growing in their natural state.

The business also boasts a coffee bar and eating establishment anmd a well-stocked gift shop - selling everything from speciality jams to locally produced ice cream.

This award winning business has certainly come a long way in a relatively short period of time, but as Neil explains, it took nearly as long again to get it off the groun: "It took all of five years to get planning permission for the project''

Although the opening marked the beginning of the business, the idea behind it came to Neil some years before, after he returned home from a Myerscough College placement year at a 260 acre nursery in South Carolina.

After returning home from America Neil was full of new ideas for the family home at Springfield Farm and after successfully completing his degree in horticulture, technology and management he was raring to go.

He recalls: "I was keen to create a business that would be an added attraction in the village and would at the same time be successful in providing a wide ranging and unique service to the community and tourists alike and fortunately the right planning and preparation has paid off."

Neil and the family have certainly succeeded and they can be justifiably proud of their achievement - but a lot more than good planning and preparation has been necessary to make this specialist business a success.

The plant centre alone is a major visitor attraction and consequently all the staff are specialists in their own right.

But when it comes down to specialising, rare plants are not the Barn's only claim to fame and the boss himself can take credit for one of the best kept secrets in the business.

Neil's delicious homemade scones are made with his own fair hands and have become a speciality in their own right.

Neil says: "We consider that our home-made scones are probably the best in the business and I put that down, as much as anything else, to the unusual but highly original quality control, carried out by one Mrs Marks.

"My former home economics teacher from my days at Garstang High School calls in now and again and makes sure her teaching has not gone to waste, by sampling the scones herself."

The Barn business has certainly taken off and is fast becoming a favourite venue for regular visitors from all over the county, in particular the Ribble Valley and Fylde Coast areas.

But inevitably in any enterprising business, success tends to breed expansion and the Barn is already in the process of providing for customer demand.

Currently the original farm operation is being relocated to a new purpose built beef rearing unit, which in turn frees up additional land to extend the hardy herbaceous perennials which are grown in the on site nursery, which Neil says, is just the first phase of the firm's future plans.

The next proposed phase of the master plan already has full planning permission to convert some additional farm buildings into a 70 seat luxury restaurant, which will effectively complement the existing facilities and enhance the grandeur of the period stone buildings.

With all this exciting work in progress and an ongoing popular business to run on a seven- day a week basis, it's hard to see how Neil ever finds time to relax.

But it isn't all work and no play for this entrepreneur and Neil makes sure he takes time off, which he divides between private interests and public duties.

Horse riding is a favourite pastime for Neil and his wife Beverley Anne and they spend as much time as they can around their four legged friends, which, Neil says, is completely therapeutic, but he admits it's still only second best to spending time with 18-month-old daughter Annabelle Grace.

Public duties are very much a part of Neil's life and as a member of the Nether Wyresdale Parish Council and a trustee of Scorton Village Hall, he is in a position to help administer the community's interests. And he isn't by himself.

His parents, Richard and Frances Anderton are also very community spirited and have generously donated land to the village, to accommodate a much needed visitors' car park facility, incorporating a children's playground and open grassed area.