Barnsley farm set for £3m expansion

10 February 2011

Barnsley tourist attraction Cannon Hall Farm is about to embark on a £3 million programme of improvements expected to create around 80 new jobs. 
The award-winning working farm, at Cawthorne, is being transformed over the next two years with the help of experts from business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley.  
The Easter weekend will see the unveiling of a new outdoor play area to include a climbing forest and innovative tube maze as well as a petting area where children can handle small animals. 
Future developments include an indoor play zone offering a high ropes course, drop slides, foam ball cannons, and a children’s restaurant.
Later the farm will be re-designed with new gravity feeding systems and enclosures to make it easier for visitors to view sheep, cattle and pigs. The busy farm shop, known for its quality home-produced beef, pork and lamb, will be re-built and extended to incorporate features like a bakery and smoke house. Extensions are also planned to the gift shop, restaurant and farm entrance.
Managing director Robert Nicholson said: “We’ve been welcoming visitors here for 22 years now and this is an opportunity to put everything we’ve learned during that time into this significant new development. 
“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far and have built our reputation on offering a value for money day out with real attention to detail. Now we’re responding to what people are telling us they want, which includes even better play facilities incorporating an inside area that will come into its own during the winter when we’ve traditionally been quieter.
“We already employ around 120 staff and I’m confident that will eventually increase to roughly 200 and will hopefully mean we can offer more professional jobs within the range. Although we know there are challenges ahead, it’s a very exciting time in the history of our business.”
For hundreds of years Cannon Hall Farm was home farm to the Cannon Hall Estate. The estate was sold by the Spencer Stanhope family in 1957 when Robert’s grandfather Charles Nicholson paid £7,100 for land and buildings.   Around the same time the hall itself was bought by Barnsley Council and turned into a museum.
Robert’s father Roger took over the farm when Charles died and, from the 1980s, it was developed for visitors. Roger and wife Cynthia are still involved in the business, along with Robert and other sons Richard and David.
All but a very small proportion of meat sold in the shop comes from the farm. Each year 400 ewes produce 750 lambs reared on surrounding pastures while 30 sows produce 800 piglets. Cannon Hall Farm also fattens about 250 beef cattle.  A roundhouse cattle building means animals are kept to the very highest welfare standards.
Farm shop butcher Robert Webb triumphed in a 2009 competition run by the English Beef and Lamb Executive to find the best beef butcher in the nation’s farm shops. 
Among popular products are 20 varieties of sausage, dry cured bacon and ham and a range of pies, and there are plans to supply the Cannon Hall brand in other selected locations. The business also has a new online shop with orders delivered in specially designed lined boxes, insulated and packed with ice to keep meat chilled.
Specialists from Enterprising Barnsley are helping the farm introduce a new point of sale system and develop its marketing and use of social media. 
Robert added: “We’ve really benefited from Enterprising Barnsley helping us to take a more strategic view as we go forward with our plans.”
The Enterprising Barnsley programme offers business support to Barnsley businesses with growth potential.   Enterprising Barnsley has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.
For more information about the farm call 01226 790427 or visit www.cannonhallfarm.co.uk
For more information about Enterprising Barnsley contact programme manager Martin Beasley on 01226 772648 or at martinbeasley@barnsley.gov.uk or go to www.enterprisingbarnsley.co.uk
Notes to News Editors:
Old photographs of family members available on request. Enterprising Barnsley is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency, Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre and University Campus Barnsley. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to provide an integrated programme of business support. 

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