Adam Henson: The cycle of the seasons

PUBLISHED: 01:16 19 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:09 20 February 2013

Adam Henson: The cycle of the seasons

Adam Henson: The cycle of the seasons

Darker days are upon us, but a good harvest and an increase in visitors has made it a good year

Adam Henson: The cycle of the seasons

Darker days are upon us, but a good harvest and an increase in visitors has made it a good year

Now that autumn has well and truly arrived and the shorter, darker days are upon us, its a good time to reflect on the 2011 visitor season. We Brits are obsessed with the weather so who could forget the lovely warm, dry spring which kicked things off and that remarkable record-breaking heatwave at the very end of September. It was great for outdoor-types and not too bad for business either.

Harvest went well despite some concerns that a lack of rain in spring would cause problems. The crops looked like they were dying on their feet but when it came to harvest the conditions in June and July were just right to help them survive and we had good quality grain. In fact harvest was as good as last year.

Of course 2011 has been the first full season the Farm Park has operated with our new look and branding. Rather embarrassingly for me we renamed it Adam Hensons Cotswold Farm Park as well as publically announcing our ambitions about quality and localness in addition to creating our Passion in British Farming logo. But despite my blushes, it seems to have worked well. Using a professional branding company and marketing yourself well in a competitive world pays off. Its all about deciding who you want to attract and then selling yourself to them in the best possible way.

Weve all noticed how tight money is at the moment and people are still feeling the pinch. The expense of flying abroad and concerns over jobs and the economy meant that many people holidayed at home in the UK this summer and we had lots of new people visiting the Farm Park. Perhaps it was the constant news coverage of the downturn that made me take more notice of the admissions gate, but I was particularly aware of the number of people who bought season tickets to make their return trips cheaper.

Its a fact that if people feel that theyre getting good value for money, then theyre prepared to pay to get in to a tourist venue or attraction. However their pockets and purses arent as full as last year and theyre understandably more cautious about how much they spend. For instance, its much more likely that day-trippers will bring their own lunch with them rather than visit a caf or restaurant. Weve certainly seen plenty of people picnicking.

When it comes to Cotswold tourism in general, were just one piece in a much larger jigsaw which includes world-renowned parks and gardens, museums, stately homes and the glorious natural beauty of this special corner of England. But here on the farm were in the unique position of being on national TV every week, so we act as a high profile reminder that the Cotswold hills are both special and beautiful.

This summer I was privileged to open Birdlands new nature reserve at Bourton-on-the-Water and I also launched the Cotswold Festival at Stow-on-the-Wold. Everywhere I went I met people whod travelled from all over the country to spend their time, and their hard earned cash, here in the Cotswolds. We should never take them for granted. Something like 70 per cent of Farm Park visitors are adults and many are retired or couples whose children have left home. It certainly gives you an insight into the type of people who are deciding to stay in the Cotswolds. Im sure the scenery they watch on Countryfile every Sunday does the region no harm at all.

Traditionally the Farm Park closes from the end of October but that doesnt mean that the hard work comes to an end. The rare breeds and all the other animals need to be cared for and looked after. Were continuing to invest and were now looking at our marketing for next year along with any improvements that are needed to keep things fresh and attractive. Over the winter months there are big jobs to be done by the entire team to stay on top of routine maintenance, repairs and painting work.

We reopen in March which seems a long way in the distance, but if you take the Christmas holidays and time off for the inevitable bad winter weather, its not long at all. Meanwhile November is the month when we put the rams with the ewes to make sure they give birth in the middle of March when were open to the public again. And so the cycle of the seasons goes on.

Cotswold Farm Park, Guiting Power, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 5UG

Tel: 01451 850307; Fax: 01451 850423


Latest from the Cotswold Life