Plac­ing trust in fresh ap­proach to ser­vices for a greater good

Gloucestershire Echo - - BUSINESS - By ALAN GEERE

OUT of work and not sure what di­rec­tion to take, Mark Gale signed up for a govern­ment job cre­ation schemes.

Lit­tle did he think that 40 years later, af­ter a life­time help­ing peo­ple in chal­leng­ing com­mu­ni­ties, he would be the driv­ing force be­hind one of the most un­usual and in­no­va­tive mar­riages of lo­cal in­ter­est, ru­ral busi­ness and com­mer­cial re­al­ism.

In the 1990s Mark was a com­mu­nity worker in Mat­son, strug­gling to find a project to cre­ate sus­tain­able change and long-term ben­e­fit.

He took the de­ci­sion to have out­siders con­duct an im­pact as­sess­ment on how the es­tates in that part of Glouces­ter could be re-en­gaged.

Mark, 61, said: “The com­mu­ni­ties had lost their way. Peo­ple were no longer us­ing the hill for recre­ation while jobs and health con­tin­ued to be a prob­lem.”

That as­sess­ment pointed Mark in the di­rec­tion of the far-sighted of im­prob­a­bly com­plex idea of de­vel­op­ing land a few miles south for a ser­vice sta­tion on the M5

Road­chef, one of the big play­ers, had looked at the site in 1994 so Mark knew there was po­ten­tial – he just needed to find part­ners to stump up the cash and con­vince farm­ers to sell the land.

The mod­ern-day mo­tor­way knights ar­rived in the shape of na­tional fund­ing from the Tu­dor Trust and lo­cal money from the Sum­mer­field Trust.

Mark talked the farm­ers into sell­ing by em­pha­sis­ing the ben­e­fits to the com­mu­nity, chap­er­oned the project through plan­ning and set about find­ing the right part­ner for his vi­sion.

“We wanted to show lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties can cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness, a busi­ness that would bring value to pro­duc­ers and cus­tomers as well as pro­vide jobs and sup­port for peo­ple who needed the help,” he said.

Two hun­dred miles north, the West­mor­land fam­ily busi­ness was al­ready do­ing just that.

Their story be­gan in 1972 when John and Bar­bara Dun­ning set up Te­bay Ser­vices when the M6 cut though their Cum­brian hill farm.

They opened a 30-seat cafe serv­ing home-cooked, lo­cally-sourced food.

The Dun­nings viewed the M6 not as the death of their farm, but the be­gin­ning of a whole new busi­ness chap­ter.

“It re­ally was good tim­ing,” says daugh­ter Sarah Dun­ning, now chair­man of a busi­ness that has six out­lets across the coun­try.

“We were think­ing about the fu­ture and along came Mark with his slightly un­ortho­dox, but very ex­cit­ing idea.”

With Mark as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Glouces­ter­shire Gate­way Trust, a reg­is­tered char­ity de­signed to push through the ser­vices project, and the West­mor­land fam­ily on board the site opened for busi­ness in May 2014 on the north­bound side and south­bound a year later.

The part­ner­ship en­ables the trust to ben­e­fit from a per­cent­age of sales which go back into the com­mu­nity.

But it is not just about char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions, it is a more fun­da­men­tal way of connecting busi­ness and com- mu­nity for the ben­e­fit of both.

“We both get more out of it than we could gen­er­ate on our own,” said Mark.

“There are 350 staff here, 98 per cent of them from Glouces­ter­shire and 22 per cent from the tar­get com­mu­ni­ties that kicked off this project.”

With its dis­tinc­tive eye­brow ar­chi­tec­ture and a grass roof, it pushes against the norm of mo­tor­way ser­vices.

There are very few signs and none out­side the main build­ing.

“We had an ad­van­tage build­ing from scratch,” said Sarah. “And we wanted to give a bit of calm. I think that’s what peo­ple want when they pull off the mo­tor­way.”

And calm they get. Plus enough toi­lets to ac­com­mo­date a coach party, freely-avail­able show­ers and even a pond with ducks to con­tem­plate while sipping your eco cof­fee.

In­side the spa­cious build­ing, 160 lo­cal sup­pli­ers stock the shelves with meat, cheese and fish through to bread, ice cream and crafts.

The trust works in part­ner­ship with lo­cal char­i­ties in­clud­ing The Nel­son Trust, Play Glouces­ter­shire, GL Com­mu­ni­ties, Fair Shares Com­mu­nity Time Banks and All Pulling To­gether Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion in Stone­house and Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust.

Last year marked the 10th an­niver­sary of Glouces­ter­shire Gate­way Trust and each of the lo­cal char­ity part­ners re­ceived grants di­rectly from prof­its.

The prom­ise of a guar­an­teed an­nual in­come from Glouces­ter­shire Gate­way Trust and Glouces­ter Ser­vices part­ner­ship will en­able the char­i­ties to plan ahead and con­tinue their work.

And what does ev­ery­one make of its suc­cess?

“This site is twice as busy as Te­bay and we con­tinue to keep very firm sight of our so­cial ob­jec­tives and busi­ness ob­jec­tives,” said Sarah.

“This was a project many years in the mak­ing and it is won­der­ful to see it up and run­ning do­ing what it was de­signed to do.”

And Mark, a for­mer UK So­cial En­tre­pre­neur of the Year who has pi­o­neered com­mu­nity busi­nesses and part­ner­ships, is still see­ing clearly.

“I make ev­ery­one who comes on a visit walk up to the top and view the land­scape from the Cotswold hills to the Sev­ern Val­ley with Glouces­ter in be­tween,” he said.

“There are the peo­ple we are re­ally serv­ing. It’s a dif­fer­ent way for busi­ness and char­ity to work to­gether but it just works.”

Among those sup­ply­ing the ser­vices are Deb­o­rah and Neil Flint who left be­hind their jobs in fundrais­ing and IT to start a new ad­ven­ture on a farm a few miles from the Welsh bor­der near St Bri­avels.

That was seven years ago and hav­ing never farmed be­fore, the Flints took a short course be­fore they em­braced the

ru­ral life­style at Cin­der­hill Farm, named af­ter the ash-black soil.

They are ded­i­cated to keep­ing tra­di­tional na­tive breeds, in­clud­ing Black Welsh Moun­tain sheep and British Sad­dle­back pigs.

With ex­tra in­come needed, in Fe­bru­ary 2013 Deb­o­rah be­gan to pro­duce pies in their farm kitchen.

Within six weeks the pro­duc­tion unit for pies and sausage rolls was moved out of their do­mes­tic kitchen into the Pie House, one of the out­build­ings.

Word quickly spread about the prod­ucts and the Pie House has been through two up­grades.

The last up­grade took place in 2015 in re­sponse to the suc­cess of the pro­duce at Glouces­ter Ser­vices.

The range in­cludes the Orig­i­nal Cin­der­hill Farm Sausage Roll of Ex­ceed­ing Enor­mity (made with real meat joints, low in fat), the For­est Ridge­back wild boar sausage roll and the Foggy (For­est Oggy, where oggy is an­other term for pasty).

Since pro­vid­ing the ser­vices’ farm shop with their first sausage rolls in May 2014 they have sup­plied more than £1mil­lion worth of prod­ucts, around £2mil­lion at re­tail value.

In an area of ru­ral poverty they pro­vide seven full-time jobs, some part­timers and enough cus­tom for two jobs at the lo­cal butcher.

“Glouces­ter Ser­vices has an in­flu­ence way be­yond that which can be eas­ily quan­ti­fied,” says Deb­o­rah, 55. “It of­fers a stronger fu­ture for our com­mu­nity and our county.”

A few miles from the ser­vices, the Vaughan fam­ily have been farm­ing Hard­wicke Farm for three gen­er­a­tions.

Jess Vaughan knows the 80 ‘Ladies’ by name and milks them per­son­ally ev­ery day to en­sure they are a happy, healthy herd.

They do not ho­mogenise their milk, pre­fer­ring to leave all its nu­tri­ents as na­ture in­tended.

The fresh milk takes just four hours to reach the ser­vices’ farm shop, de­liv­ered along­side yo­ghurt, cream and a creamy, tangy fer­mented con­coc­tion called ke­fir, which might just take off af­ter ex­po­sure on The Archers of all places.

“Our herd are all in­di­vid­u­als,” ex­plains Jess, 37. “But most are more than happy to have a cud­dle and ac­tively seek at­ten­tion. They are al­lowed to be who they want to be per­son­al­ity wise.

“The name Jess’s Ladies came from the fact that we were strug­gling for a name for our own farm-bot­tled milk.

“Then one af­ter­noon I said I had to go be­cause I had to get back and milk the ladies – and so it was done.”

Cin­der­hill and Jess’s Ladies are just two of the 130 pro­duc­ers from within 30 miles of the front doors and 70 from fur­ther afield.

Mark Gale at Glouces­ter Ser­vices and, be­low left, Deb­o­rah Flint at Cin­der­hill Farm

Jess Vaughan with Bunty, ladies at Hard­wicke Farm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.