Category Archive: Rural Business

Estate Management – are you in control of your assets?

Estate and Property Management brings to mind an agent dealing with a large house, estate cottages and land and farming matters, set in hundreds or thousands of acres.

That is something we do at George F. White on a daily, basis but actually, managing property involves a much more diverse range of assets and skill sets.

For example, an estate could comprise of a portfolio of commercial property, perhaps converted offices from traditional buildings or a series of mineral ownerships, waste licences, land with long term development potential (which is contract farmed), and even a residential buy to let portfolio.

In addition, estates are owned for varying purposes; It may have been inherited or is intended to pass on to the next generation. Maximising return on investment, tax advantages, potential future value uplift, access at short notice; the list goes on.

We see, on regular basis, landlords with the best of intentions but who lack the time to deal with their estate management aims and issues; this can lead to deadlines being missed and regulations not being complied with, resulting in lack of control and inefficient management that does not meet the landlords aims.

Considering all of this… how do you keep control of your estate?


Understanding the legislation

For example, is it the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954? Is it the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995? This, in turn, will inform what abilities and rights a landlord has. Can part of the property be taken back in hand and sold? What is the length of any notice required to review the rent or terminate? The answer will be in the detail which must be understood and used to the best advantage.

Plan ahead

Why the estate is owned and your ultimate aims should be clearly set out and planned for; this will influence how tenancies are set up and managed when transfers are made, is a Trust needed? Any plan needs review and update on a regular basis and should be aligned with personal circumstances.

Most estates, in whatever guise, will have in place an asset plan and the owners will have an idea of what they own and probably, to some extent, what it may be worth.  However, not all estates will have in place a strategic plan and therefore struggle to understand why they own what they do, or what they intend to do with it.

Estate Management Compliance

The rules and regulations for landlords are constantly changing and updating. For example, recently there has been a change in septic tank regulation and Energy Performance Certificates for let property now must attain at least an E grade. Are both the landlord and the tenant keeping to their repair responsibilities?

Manage cash flows and budget

No matter what type of asset it is, there will be expense at some point to maintain or progress it. This could be a repair or insurance; it could be making representations to the local authority plan or a tax liability. Managing cash flow to identify any pinch points and budgeting for future plans will help to ensure smooth running of the estate and control of investment.

Take advice from trusted advisors

Having a good team of an Agent, Solicitor and Accountant on board will provide well rounded advice dealing with all practical, legal and taxation issues. This will allow you to focus on your aims, be aware of any risks and foresee and deal with any issues.

So are you in control of your estate and property assets? Being prepared, complying with regulation, understanding the detail and planning ahead are all important factors in having, or re-gaining, control… especially if something has run away from you.

At George F White we have an experienced team of expert professionals who manage a range of property on a daily basis and who deal with the myriad of issues that occur. No matter how complicated the arrangement or unusual the situation, we will be able to deal with it.

Matthew Brown
07854 903631

Doddington Dairy

Doddington Dairy are, undoubtedly, one of the most recognisable locally produced food brands in the North East, they are also one of Northumberland’s very few remaining dairy farms. Their are sought-after across the length and breadth of the country, and over the years, it has received some of the highest industry accolades.


It was almost 25 years ago, that brother and sister Neill and Margaret Ann Maxwell, who farm at Doddington near Wooler in Northumberland, realised that they needed to add value to their milk. After much research and training, they launched Doddington Cheese. In 2000, Neill and his wife Jackie went on to launch Doddington Dairy Ice Cream.

When they developed and marketed their cheeses, they were certainly ahead of the trend in terms of diversification. They were one of only a few companies in the UK producing hand-crafted, unpasteurised cheeses. When they launched their ice creams, they became the only farm-based ice cream producer between Aberdeenshire and York. Today, Doddington is one of the very few dairy farms left in Northumberland, they employ in the region of 20 members of staff in the dairy and on the farm, making them one of the largest employers in the Wooler and Glendale community.

The Maxwell family are passionate about their products and their local provenance. They have always used, and will only use, natural ingredients. Both cheeses and ice creams are still made from their own milk. As a high profile North East brand, where possible, in making their ice creams, cheeses and yoghurts, Doddington Dairy collaborate with other local producers and brands synonymous with the region; the most famous being Newcastle Brown Ale as well as Heather Honey Ice Cream, using Honey from The Chainbridge Honey Farm near Berwick, and Alnwick Rum Truffle Ice Cream.

Doddington Dairy is a progressive company and the Maxwell family work very hard to extend and improve their products. They don’t stand still and are always looking for new and innovative ideas to increase the range of both ice cream and cheese. They were the very first company in the UK to produce a beer ice cream, Newcastle Brown Ale ice cream. This took the media and the people of the North East by storm, so much so that it was even enjoyed by Jonathon Ross on BBC Radio 2. Continuing on their passion and pride for the North East, three years ago, to commemorate one of the North East’s greatest heroes, Grace Darling, Doddington launched their first Blue Cheese – Darling Blue. The team also celebrated the Sage Gateshead’s 10th anniversary and their tenth year of producing their own speciality labels for the award-winning music venue, they celebrated with a bespoke Strawberry and Champagne ice cream.

Today, alongside their collection of six cheeses and extensive range of luxury ice creams, Doddington also produce a range of yoghurts. Both plain and with fruity bottoms, the price remain as they did when the launched. They to, are handmade on the farm and use only the finest natural ingredients.

Doddington Dairy’s quality products have gained both regional and national recognition on many occasions. They have quite literally scooped dozens of awards. Their cheeses and ice creams have been tasted and enjoyed by countless celebrities, politicians, and members of the royal family. However, there has been one award which really stood out, the BBC Radio 4’s Food Producer of the Year, this was awarded for both the company’s exceptional quality products along with their commitment to their tremendous team of staff and the local community. As the only company in the North East ever to have scooped this accolade, it was quite literally the topping on the cone!

Looking to the future, Doddington aims to capitalise on the trend for online purchasing and are about to launch an ecommerce site to sell and promote their cheeses and cheese hampers.

Talking about the challenges the farming industry faces in the future, Neill said: “We face the biggest overhaul in the rural economy in 45 years; farm policy is being dictated by farm policy makers who have little or no understating of the rural business and life. As dairy farmers in England’s most Northern corners, and with fluctuating milk prices, we currently have little to be positive about. We are not in a renowned UK dairy farming area, so for us as a company producing both milk and dairy products, it is key that we work closely with our neighbouring dairy farmers to ensure the long–term future and sustainability of our enterprises”, says Neill.

David Hume, Senior Farm Business Consultant, says, “At George F. White, we understand the challenges and uncertainty that farmers and rural business owners face, whether that be with Brexit, general government policies and even the weather. We make sure to set time aside to research, attend conferences and we feed that information back to our clients. It is extremely important to us that we keep our clients up to date.”

Doddington cheese is available throughout the UK. The original cheese, Doddington, is one of the most popular for customers of ‘speciality cheese’ in London’s Neal’s Yard. The ice creams are available in delicatessens, speciality food shops, attractions and theatres across the North of England and Scotland. Yoghurts, still very much in their infancy, are also widely available across the North East.

For anyone who really wants to live and breathe the true taste of Doddington, a visit to their iconic Milk Bar (on Route A697) at Wooler is a must. What better way to enjoy a trip out than to have the finest of Doddington cheese in a cheese scone, followed by a cone of delight in a Doddington Dairy ice cream?

Click here to read more of Field Notes.

Charlton Hall: Playing with the rules

Our Farm Team spend a large portion of their time looking at funding opportunities for farmers, however, thanks to government initiatives; they are now securing financial aid for a more diverse range of rural businesses, such as Charlton Hall.

The vision for the 18th Century Grade II* listed Charlton Hall, was to become an avant-garde, luxury wedding venue in Northumberland, a sister venue to the award winning Doxford Barns. The Georgian building has been transformed from a part-renovated family home, into a truly breath-taking and unique event space boasting 14 luxury bedrooms, retaining the building’s heritage whilst experimenting with quirky and modern design. Charlton Hall certainly doesn’t disappoint, from the moment you embark upon the private driveway, the magical charm offers a luxurious, tongue-in-cheek retreat.

Charlton Hall Northumberland Wedding

The face behind the venture is young entrepreneur, Richard Shell. Richard grew up just a stone’s throw away from Charlton Hall, at Doxford Farm; as a boy, Richard visited the hall and has felt a connection to it ever since. After university, Richard embarked on a career in banking, however, in 2014, he returned home to make his dream of a countryside venture a reality. Within three years of launch, Doxford Barns has won numerous awards, including the ‘Rural Diversification Award’ by the prestigious North East Rural Awards. This, alongside the fact that 16,000 people alone walked through the door in 2017, meant that Richard could expand his dream and create ‘Doxford Barn’s naughty little sister’, Charlton Hall.

Richard contacted George F. White after hearing about our grant work from other rural businesses. David Hume, a Senior Farm Business Consultant, worked with Richard on the project: “Initially, I needed to understand Richard’s aims and objectives for the project and whether it would meet any of the available grant funding priorities. It quickly became apparent that this was the ideal project to fit into the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, not only was it going to create at least 12 full time jobs, but also provide massive benefits to the rural economy and tourism by encouraging people to prolong their experience within the area.”

Currently, the wedding business in Northumberland contributes an estimated £30m to the local economy and two out of the three couples who get married in the area actually come from outside the region. Given its already very impressive figures, building upon this industry gives real scope for expansion in the local economy.

Renovating Charlton Hall has not been easy; the building is within the top eight per cent of all listed buildings in Britain, meaning that every minor detail had to be signed off to a particular standard as well as ensuring structural work was carried out to retain the building’s original character.

Talking about overcoming the project’s challenges, David said: “Alongside the building being Grade II* listed, one of the biggest challenges was working to a tight deadline; due to the nature of the industry, there was interest building and pre-bookings for weddings taking place prior to the renovation, however, no works could start on the project until the grant funding had been approved. In order to allow the project to begin as soon as grant funding approval was received, we had to work as quickly as possible to obtain all the necessary information and submit the grant application in plenty of time. This meant working closely with Richard and his team to keep the ball rolling and gather all the information we needed.”

The application for a RDPE Growth Programme involves two key stages; before submitting a full application, an Expression of Interest (EOI) must be put forward. You can only move forward with the full application if the EOI has been endorsed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Thanks to David’s hard work and determination, £135,000 was secured in early 2018, meaning that Richard and his team could move forward with the structural and design work required to achieve completion by July 2018.

“We were absolutely thrilled to have helped Richard achieve £135,000 of grant support. It is great to be able to support a local entrepreneur with his exciting ideas for expansion, diversification and growth in Northumberland, within a growing wedding/tourist industry” explains David, “The quirky and flamboyant design of the project made it all the more exciting to be involved in, this wasn’t just a traditional wedding venue that we were dealing with, but something with the potential to attract attention from all over the country.”

Charlton Hall Wedding Photos

The venue has now completed the first stage of development, and we have to say, it looks fantastic. Richard appointed interior designer, Jo Aynsley, to introduce a charismatic personality to the hall with decadent interiors. Jo, originally from Northumberland, has injected Charlton Hall with magic, playfulness, and of course, designer luxury.

“Doxford Barns has been successful thanks to the help we’ve received from local professionals, I couldn’t think about moving forward with Charlton Hall without appointing experts from the area. It is extremely important to me that those involved in a project have a tangible connection to it; being truly invested brings out the best in a team” explains Richard, whilst speaking about the nature of the project; “I really appreciate the amount of work that David has spent with myself and the team to ensure that we get this right. The result is just phenomenal, I couldn’t have wished for anything better.”

Richard continues: “Rural Diversification is absolutely key to supporting and looking after the land, the individuals and the community in your area. It is not always about attracting new people to relocate, for me, it is as much about retaining those that are born and bred in Northumberland. As a rural community, we must look at other revenue streams in order to develop our heritage and create fantastic opportunities; as a business we are over the moon to have introduced 25 new job roles to the area with the promise of 12 more in the next year.”

With phase one under his belt, Richard has already begun work on phase two with our Planning and Development team… watch this space!

Charlton Hall
Images by kind permission of: All you need is love photography
Click here to read more of Field Notes

Great Yorkshire Show: Join the Debate

Great Yorkshire Show commences in just a few weeks (10th – 12th July). As always, we invite you to join us on our stand (201) to meet our team as well as enjoying some light refreshments.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday 10th July
10.30am – George F. White Tenancy Update with Matthew Brown and Robyn Peat (TFA stand – 715)
5pm – Evening drinks and canapé reception (George F. White stand – 201)

Wednesday 11th July
11am – Join the Debate: the direct effects of Brexit on farming businesses (George F. White stand – 201)

Thursday 12th July
8.30am – Succession Planning for Tenant Farming Families with Matthew Brown (NFU stand – 680)

Great Yorkshire Show

We predict that post Brexit resilience will be a key focus at the Great Yorkshire Show this year; we will be hosting a panel debate to discuss the effects a reduced subsidy environment will have on farmers, landowners and rural businesses.

Join the Debate: the direct effects of Brexit on farming businesses

George F. White
Stand 201
Wednesday 11th July, 11am

The key debaters are Geoff Hall, Regional Director at Lloyds Bank, John Lund, a livestock farmer, Tom Bayston, an arable farmer and owner of Park Lodge Shooting School as well as George F. Whites, Simon Britton and Miles Crossley, who will explain why alternative income streams need to be a key priority for the sector.

Talking ahead of the Great Yorkshire Show, Simon Britton said: “It’s clear now that there is a significant change in farm subsidies on the horizon and for many it could be substantially reduced. Mr George Eustice, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, recently described his vision for post Brexit agricultural policy within the UK as a ‘change in mind set for farmers’. The Minister stated that he saw new policy as ‘rewarding and incentivising farmers for what they do, and not subsidising them for income lost’ and indicated that the government will still seek to support farmers, not based on the amount of land they own, but by rewarding them for helping the environment, water quality and to changes in husbandry; ultimately making more productive working practices. This is a fundamental change to our industry and will significantly impact farm businesses. The purpose of our debate, and the main aim of our farm consultancy team moving forwards, is to prepare our client’s businesses for the impact of the changes that will face us, as an industry, over the next few years.”

Great Yorkshire Show


Attendees are encouraged to get involved in the debate, asking questions and providing opinions on what the future holds in a subsidy free farming environment and how they can or are planning to safeguard their main farm business and what financial support exists outside of government grant opportunities.

Simon added: “Geoff Hall from Lloyds will talk about how banks can support farmers following Brexit through secured lending and cash flow support. Tom Bayston, will be illustrating how he’s diversified from the core livestock business to safeguard the future of his farm. Ultimately, we’ll be discussing what reduced subsidy looks like, what it means it terms of profit and loss for farmers, and how, if you’re a farmer or a landowner, why you’re in a prime position to provide long term security and stability to yourself and your business. It’s going to be a somewhat lively and energetic debate, so please join us if you can.”

Click here to RSVP