Tag Archive: Rural Business

Running Fox: Let them eat cake!

It’s a common misunderstanding that our Farm Team simply work with farmers and landowners across the North, managing assets, reviewing performance and securing government funding. Whilst agricultural does account for a large proportion of our work, our farm team have spent the last couple of years securing financial aid for rural businesses such as wedding venues and five-star accommodation, through to wildlife parks, and most recently, artisan cafés…

Running Fox

The Running Fox is an award winning, artisan café with sites nestled in the picturesque Northumberland villages, Felton and Longframlington. Thanks to a cunning business model, the café has expanded to a third premises, in the rural village of Shilbottle.

Kris Blackburn is the brain child behind this extremely successful enterprise. Back in 2011, it was Kris’ dream (and mission!) to bring the luxury of fresh artisan bakes to those living in rural areas, as well as using her business as a platform for small local producers to market their products. When the opportunity arose to take on the local newsagents in Felton, she jumped, making her dream a reality. Eight years on, and two additional Running Fox sites later, her ethos remains the same, providing for and supporting the local community.

In order to fund her most recent expansion into the village of Shilbottle, Kris contacted our team as she’d previously worked with us to secure planning permission for the development of the Felton premises. Of course, we were delighted to take on the project and it quickly became apparent that the project fit into the criteria for the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE); a programme created to fund projects that create jobs and growth the rural economy.

Rhys Jones, worked with Kris on the project, and said “Kris has a truly outstanding business model, she uses her business to breathe new life into quiet rural villages. I’m really glad she gave us a call as there was clearly a need for her business to expand. However, there was, and still is, a great need for local business expansion within rural communities in order to increase the economy through job creation and tourism.”

Thanks to our teams hard work and determination, £45,000 was secured in late 2018, meaning that Kris and her team could move forward with the structural and design work required to achieve completion by Spring 2019.

In order to qualify for financial aid through the RDPE, a candidate must demonstrate how they’ll use funding to develop the local economy. Speaking about how her business has progressed over the years, Kris said: “We could never have expected the reaction we received when we opened the Running Fox in Felton; on the day we opened, there was actually a queue up the street, we couldn’t believe it! Over the years, we’ve not only been busy with the local community but we’ve seen a huge proportion of customers that’ve travelled from outside the area. We expanded two years ago into Longframlington to keep up with demand, however, both branches are now running at capacity and we’re unfortunately turning away customers. Opening a new, and bigger site, is very exciting for us as it gives us the opportunity to further innovate the business whilst economically and culturally benefiting the village and surrounding area.”

The Running Fox in Shilbottle offers seating for 50 visitors, not only solving the issue of overflow in Felton and Longframlinton, but offering a community hub. There’ll also be a retail area stocking local produce such as Chainbridge Honey and Bari Tea as well the creation of five full time jobs with further part time job creation over peak seasons. Whilst speaking about the ways in which the expansion will support rural development, Rhys said: “Improving tourism is a really effective way of increasing an area’s economic resilience; given Kris and her team have seen an influx of visitors from outside the area in both Felton and Longframlington, the new Running Fox promises development and stability for the village.”

If you’re looking to launch, expand or diversify your rural business and need advice on any possible funding opportunities, please contact your local office.

GFW Road Show: Your Business, Your Property, Your Opportunity

We invite you to join us at our GFW Road Show.

Our agricultural, planning, architectural, agency and commercial teams will be discussing the opportunities for rural businesses to improve performance and reduce risk within these uncertain times.


  • Characteristics of top performing farms
    What they look like and how to get there
  • Buying and selling land
    What the future holds in these uncertain times
  • Your land, your rights
    Dealing with utility access and maximising your compensation
  • Planning and Development
    Your opportunities, now, and in the future

This is an excellent opportunity for you to understand the current state of the rural business industry as well as meeting our team and receiving expert advice in regards to your next step.

Dates and Venues

Mon 18th Feb – Northallerton Rugby Club, Northallerton DL6 2QF

Tue 19th Feb – Sedgefield Racecourse, Sedgefield TS21 2HW

Wed 20th Feb – Alnwick Rugby Club, Alnwick NE66 1BE

Mon 25th Feb – Duns Rugby Club, Duns TD11 3QQ

Mon 25th Feb – Pocklington Rugby Club, Pocklington YO42 2LP

Tue 26th Feb – Tynedale Rugby Club, Corbridge NE45 5AY


  • 18.00 Welcome
  • 18.30 Presentation
  • 19.30 Light Refreshments

If you would like to attend, please RSVP by following the link.

For more information, please email Emma Gillespie-Payne or call 01665 600164.

Step inside the Cookie Jar

The Cookie Jar is a five-star boutique hotel situated in Alnwick, Northumberland. It’s the ultimate retreat for alternative accommodation and an unconventional entertainment venue in the North East.

The Cookie Jar was formerly St Mary’s Convent, a beautiful and historic building in Bailiffgate. The building has been transformed into a luxury bespoke hotel with 11 magnificent rooms and suites. The owners ensured the key features of the convent were kept in addition to the contemporary decor, giving it that extraordinary and special touch. It’s an opulent vision of modern hospitality and as a result guests have been delighted with the attention to detail.

Cookie Jar

The face behind The Cookie Jar is Debbie Cook – an experienced hotelier and wife of Robert, the award-winning UK hotelier. She was determined to provide a first-class experience in keeping with the history and the traditional aspects of the building.

Establishing The Cookie Jar retreat has been no mean feat. There were so many details involved, across so many different aspects. One key process was the conversion of the building itself and its surrounding land.

Cookie JarHamish Smales, an estate manager at George F. White who worked with Debbie on the project, explains:

“Purchasing the old convent was probably the easiest part. The challenge was creating a luxurious boutique hotel that kept the convent’s beauty in terms of architecture and design but with a modern twist that appealed to guests, all within the client’s budget. Given the idea behind The Cookie Jar, and its impact on tourism in the area, we advised Debbie about the financial support the hotel could potentially receive, if it met specific funding criteria.”

The team looked at and reviewed the range of possible grant opportunities that The Cookie Jar could be applicable too. When advising on the best grant to select, George F. White chose the LEADER programme for the Cookie Jar dream.. The LEADER programme is a European Union funded scheme which provides grants for:

  • small and mid-sized rural businesses;
  • tourism projects;
  • rural enterprises.

“We handled the entire funding application process for Debbie, from beginning to end,” continues Hamish. “This included creating a business plan for Debbie, costings to deliver the project and detailed market research. We had to outline exactly why Debbie and her enterprise should be awarded a grant and provide specific detail on the contribution The Cookie Jar would make to Alnwick and the wider Northumberland region.

For example, we explained that workers involved in constructing the hotel would be hired from the local area which included local builders and merchants. Hospitality staff would also be hired locally by the hotel in the form of permanent contracts, and local suppliers would also be involved – for example, The Cookie Jar only provide locally sourced food from local food producers that is created and prepared by renowned local chef and Mine Host of The Cookie Jar, Mick Holland – on a long-term basis.”

The application for the LEADER programme involves two key stages.Cookie Jar

  • An outline application to Northumberland County Council;
  • A Local Action Group who decides whether funding should be granted based on a number of different criteria.

LEADER is a highly competitive scheme meaning the application submission was absolutely fundamental to securing the funding.

“We were delighted when The Cookie Jar was awarded nearly £70,000 worth of grant support,” explains Hamish. “This funding has been so important in helping Debbie achieve her vision of providing a luxurious, cosy, and comfortable retreat in the heart of Northumberland. It was a very tough application process, and bigger projects, focused on rural tourism and business, were rejected, so it was very pleasing to tell Debbie that we’d been successful in rewarding her with the cash injection for The Cookie Jar project.”


The Right Support and Skill Set

“We were told to speak to George F. White by a friend and I am so pleased we did!” adds Debbie. “They worked so closely with us and excellently prepared the funding application. As a result, we received almost £70,000, I was absolutely over the moon!”

“By winning the grant support, we were able to design and build a higher specification of the hotel than what was initially decided. It really helped us to achieve than five-star rating, that is in such high demand in the hospitality sector. I really appreciate the amount of contact and time Hamish spent with the team in making this dream a reality. George F. White, I cannot thank you enough!”

Cookie Jar

Model Business

The grant process not only provided a substantial of funding but, by applying in such detail for financial support, we were able to create a comprehensive business model for Debbie that can be replicated across the region and nationally too.

“As a result, Debbie now has a sound business model that she can roll out across other locations and regions if she does wish to expand her rural tourism offering”, continues Hamish. “We’re thrilled with the grant amount awarded and we wish Debbie and The Cookie Jar team the best of luck in this brand-new hospitality venture!”

To find out more about The Cookie Jar, visit their website.