Interview: Moreton Cullimore, MD of Cullimore Group
PUBLISHED: 15:09 14 May 2019
© Thousand Word Media
Restoring wildlife habitats after years of aggregate extraction is a passion for Moreton Cullimore, MD of Cullimore Group
Moreton Cullimore is a man on a mission. As the figure behind the flourishing Gloucestershire gravel and transport company which bears his name, his aim is to continue its 90-year success story into the future, balancing the practical side of the business with a commitment to biodiversity and community.
Once the sites they quarry have given up their wealth in sand and gravel, they are not abandoned to fend as best they can for themselves. Cullimore's pledge is to turn them into something better than they were before the work began.
It's not entirely altruistic, as Moreton admits. They are duty bound to follow guidelines set by organisations such as the Environment Agency and Natural England. But it is entirely up to them what path they choose to follow, and it is something they are passionate about.
One example is the Roundhouse quarry in Marston Maysey, close to RAF Fairford, where they have planted reed beds to attract water birds and other wildlife. They often plant hundreds of trees on former sites to create new habitats.
Another is the Cotswold Water Park, where many of Cullimore's sites can be found, where the company is planning to open a cable ski and wakeboarding facility this summer, which they hope one day will be able to host world championship competitions.
"My father was a very good water skier, even when he was 65," said Morton, "He would leave the rest of us in his wake, and it was always his plan to open a facility but he never got round to developing it. So, when the previous cable ski lake closed at the water park, we decided to go for it and have spent the last three years getting permission."
It is therefore no idle boast that sites get a new lease of life once quarrying has finished, in most cases a better one than before.
"Many of the sites we go in and extract from are agricultural fields, so while they still have an ecological value, they are not up there as highly-populated habitats for protected species because they have been working farms," said the 39-year-old manager director.
"We are custodians of the land and the goal of restoration plans post-quarrying is that you're leaving something better than was there before. You're planting trees and creating water features and habitats that didn't exist before.
"At the Roundhouse quarry the reed beds are attracting water birds and wildlife that weren't in the area because before we moved in it was just fields as far as the eye could see and very little else, whereas now it is home to a huge diversity of life, from plants to bugs, beasts and birds."
The unusually-named Moreton was named after his grandfather, who founded The Cullimore Group back in 1927 and, with the help of his son, Roger, steered a hugely successful path through the war years to make the company one of the longest serving and thriving in the county.
"It's an unusual name and I don't know why my grandfather was named it, but I understand it refers to something like a town or village that's near a hill," said Moreton. "My father always joked he chose it for me because it would save changing the paint on the company vehicles."
Moreton junior took over the company from his father, Roger, when he retired, and has now worked there for 15 years, bringing it into the 21st century by centralising operations into one modern headquarters near Frampton-on-Severn, with all the technology needed to stay ahead in today's competitive climate.
Cullimore is split into three sub-divisions: Cullimore's Mix Ltd, which is the ready-mix concrete they provide for building industries; Moreton Cullimore and Son Ltd, which is the transport side of the business, running a fleet of lorries for distribution; and Moreton C Cullimore Gravels Ltd, which is the quarries where they pull the minerals from.
There are four main quarrying sites in the Cotswold Water Park, although a couple more are expected to come on line within the next two years near Twyning. As well as sand and gravel, the company provides what they call decorative aggregate - minerals from different parts of the country, used for driveways, garden borders and the like.
"Depending on where the stone comes from, you can get a range of different colours from the creamy gold colour of Cotswold stone to reddy-brown Worcestershire sand or the black and white flint of Hampshire," said Moreton. "We offer more than 30 different types of aggregate, so customers can get whatever look they're after."
Rather quaintly, all Cullimore's vehicles are named after Dickens' characters, from Little Sparks, the trolley that wheels around spare batteries in the workshop, to a bulldozer named Doctor Strong. When the new head office at Netherhills was opened, it was named Great Expectations, for obvious reasons.
The reason behind the Dickensian names goes way back to the war years, when the vehicles were commandeered for the war effort and Cullimore's was involved in the construction of military airfields.
"All vehicles then had to be painted the same green and it was very difficult to identify yours so naming them was a way around that," said Moreton, whose grandfather had long admired the works of the 19th century author. "The tradition stopped after the war, but my father reintroduced it again some time later and it's remained ever since."
It's just one thing that makes Cullimore's such an individual company to work for. And it's obviously worked because there have been many generations of families employed by the company over the years.
"One of our truck drivers has been with us for more than 40 years and has watched me grow up. Another woman who works in accounts has known me since I was five years old," said Moreton. "We have husbands and wives and sons and daughters, we have a very strong family feel and we don't believe in a hierarchy; we prefer to do things as a collective."
As Cullimore's centenary gets closer, it's an ideal opportunity for Moreton to reflect on the successes and longevity of his company.
"Honesty and integrity play a big part; I never met my grandfather but the stories I've heard about him are warm ones about what a character he was. People trust us, and we have a very strong reputation for being straight up and honest. That's not necessarily going to earn us the big bucks, but we steer a fair ship."