Tag Archive: northumberland

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?

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George F. White Agency: A New Beginning

This year, we made the decision to introduce a complete property management service across all of the George F. White offices. Sheryl Sowden, Head of Residential Agency, and Donna Cheney, Head of Lettings, explain the reasoning behind the decision and the benefits to our clients.


Historically, George F. White’s agency team have offered both residential sales and residential lettings services, however, for the past four years, GFW Letting, a dedicated property management branch of the group, ran residential lettings in Northumberland and Newcastle. The GFW Letting business model has been a phenomenal success therefore; we took the decision to introduce a centralised lettings and property management service to the George F. White brand in order to complete our all-inclusive offering, meaning that we now have dedicated lettings and property management teams in our Wolsingham, Barnard Castle and Bedale offices.

Not only does the introduction of an expert lettings and property management team in these offices benefit our overall service offering, it presents attractive and innovative opportunities to our clients. The prospect of our residential agency and residential lettings team working side by side opens many doors, particularly in regards to knowledge sharing and best practice. Inevitably, we strive to ensure that our clients get the best from their investment, whether that be when they are buying, selling or letting a property.

Sheryl Sowden said: “A prime example of how the two markets go hand in hand, in particular for clients, is to look at reluctant landlords. This is perhaps somebody that has inherited a property that they want to sell but the market won’t accommodate it for various reasons. We have the facility to advise and offer an alternative option within the same branch, with the same trusted advisors. As vacant properties no longer receive any council tax discounts the owner is liable for those charges, and the longer the property is empty those costs actually increase. In addition to this there is the cost of heating the property to ensure that there is no deterioration of condition, meaning that property owners are losing money unnecessarily. In this case we would look into introducing a tenant in order to take the financial weight off the client’s shoulders in the short or long term.”

“If a client ideally wants to market their property for sale whilst it is tenanted, so long as there is good communication between the management team, tenant and sales team this process can also work very successfully, but transparency and a good relationship are critical. This is also facilitated extremely well if the process is managed by one company working closely together”.

Thanks to both our residential agency and lettings teams being housed under the same roof, our clients are dealing with the same people, but the individual that has the most relevant expertise, they receive the same level of service from beginning to end. Buying, selling or letting a property is an extremely significant financial and emotional investment, therefore, professionalism, transparency and trust from all parties is key.

Donna Cheney said: “Now that we have a Head of Lettings and a Head of Residential Agency, we’ve found that it has enhanced our communication and our understanding of how the sectors are increasingly overlapping. A progressive understanding of each area has allowed us to identify our business objectives as well creating a diverse, attractive and innovative service offering for our clients.  We are extremely positive about the future opportunities that this integration and cooperation affords us and our clients.”

For more information, contact your local team or find out more about what we can offer here.


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
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More income from your farm? Diversification may hold the key

It’s been a tough winter for farmers across the region and Spring is proving challenging given the extreme weather conditions we’ve experienced. Although farmers can’t control such external factors, it does have quite an impact on their farm business – there will be less offspring to sell, potentially poorer crops and larger than usual feed and bedding bills. Consequently, the income of farms across the North will be affected, and it’s important farmers plan appropriately for this, to help sustain the farm.


Cashflow management is critical during testing times and one way to help ensure a consistent and reliable income is by providing alternative revenue streams, such as contract management. This doesn’t just apply to arable farms. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of livestock contract management agreements being offered, notably the influx of pigs being brought in to Northumberland, as well as cattle rearing agreements, or something outside of the box; there are numerous ways contract management can benefit businesses. These are prime examples of how smaller scale farmers, with limited capital to diversify can achieve mixed farming practices and increase their farming enterprises, or even larger farmers looking at expanding once again.

Diversification also presents a huge opportunity to farmers to increase their cash generation from alternative revenue streams. This could be due to the older generation looking to retire from the farm business and aren’t able to as they rely on the farm’s income. This can put a large burden on the business and its cash availability. There are numerous ways farmers can diversify to, again, spread their enterprises and income streams to compensate for this, whether it be other agricultural enterprises, tourism or a non-farming option. It can all contribute to the greater goal of farm sustainability and cash availability throughout the year.

The same can be said for the younger generation when sons and daughters return home and are looking to be involved in the business. An alternative enterprise or diversification can be the answer. This can then help them to build up something for themselves, and give them a form of responsibility which so many desire.

George F. White works with farmers across the region, advising and supporting them through many different types of income alternatives, whether this be contract farming/management options or diversification projects; including tourism, energy efficiency and farm productivity. We are experienced in guiding farmers through each step of the process, managing the different aspects involved in setting up a new enterprise, including grant support where available. We also provide support in planning applications or cashflow management, if required. Whichever way you’d like to diversify, we’re here to advise and support you on and through the establishment of an alternative revenue stream that will sustain and support the main farm business.

To discuss why diversification might be the right option for you and your farm business, please contact James Oliver on jamesoliver@georgefwhite.co.uk/01665 511 982 or any of the GFW Farm Team.