A former Duchy Scholar has been named Dairy Innovator of the Year at the 2015 British Farming Awards.
Mark Verity has lived on the Duchy’s Whitewell estate in Lancashire all his life and in recent years has been gradually taking over responsibility for the 700-acreRadholme Laund farm from his father, Stuart. In 2010, Mark attended the Oxford Farming Conference as a Duchy Scholar, having been inspired by the professional approach to dairy farming he had experienced first-hand in New Zealand. When his time came to take over the 380-head herd, Mark wasted no time in applying cutting-edge milking technology and computerised management and monitoring equipment designed to maximise productivity. The net result has been impressive growth year on year.
Commenting on the award, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “It’s so encouraging to see the younger generation put their own stamp on a family farm and introduce new ways of doing things. Introducing new practices can be a challenge in the face of historic and well tested methodologies. However, Mark and his family have always had an eye to the future. Back in 2004, the Duchy supported them when they wanted to invest in a state-of-the-art milking parlour at Radholme Laund. This has now culminated in national recognition for Mark as a serious innovator in his field.”
In the citation for the award, the British Farming Awards judges said: “We were impressed by the positive attitude shown by Mark and his team with their sharp focus on the key issues facing the business. Their adoption of some innovative yet practical solutions has given them a clearly defined strategy for future success.”
When Willow Cottage on the Duchy of Lancaster’s Crewe Estate became available, local resident Angela Bamford was keen to move in as soon as possible. Once the Duchy team had completed the refurbishment of this historic property to bring it up to the new Duchy standard, Angela was handed the keys.
She and her husband Ian are absolutely thrilled to be taking over the tenancy and love the quality and design of the interior decoration:
“We were overjoyed when we heard we’d got it,” she said, “as it’s got everything we need and is just a stone’s throw from the village where I grew up. The renovation has been very tastefully and cleverly done. They have managed to keep the cottage’s ‘olde worlde’ character, but combine it with a modern contemporary feel. So many of the fixtures and fittings are modern and the colour palate has been kept neutral, but the kitchen floor still has its historic quarry floor tiles, and the original doors and skirting boards have been retained, as well as the fireplace. The property has also had a new boiler and oil tank, and the bathroom and kitchen are really lovely, with integrated appliances and a bright white décor. We couldn’t be happier with it.”
The Duchy of Lancaster has recently developed a new design guide and specification for its residential properties and is investing significant sums over the next 3 years to ensure that all of their properties meet this quality standard:
“We believe that anyone living in one of our properties has a right to expect a certain quality standard,” said Christopher Sparrow, Head of Rural at the Duchy of Lancaster. “We are absolutely committed to investing in our properties over the next few years so that the quality is consistent – and consistently first-class. We want all of our tenants to be as delighted with their new home as Angela and Ian have been with Willow Cottage.”
The Duchy of Lancaster’s Crewe estate includes around 70 period cottages and farmhouses as well as 10 farms, a number of equestrian businesses and woodlands.
In line with its strategy of investing in a diverse range of commercial opportunities in key locations, the Duchy of Lancaster has acquired a Waitrose food store comprising 17,000 square feet in the commuter town of Coulsdon.
The acquisition is a two-storey building on the high street opposite Coulsdon train station. The tenant, Waitrose, operates a food store on the premises under a lease which expires in 2034.
Commenting on the purchase, Duchy Head of Urban Mike Andrews said: “The site itself covers 0.7 acres and is in a key location. Coulsdon is an affluent commuter town with excellent transport and communication links into London. We are continually looking at opportunities to invest in key strategic locations and this purchase will add further diversification to our growing urban and commercial portfolio.”
This is the fourth commercial acquisition made by the Duchy of Lancaster since the start of the year. The Duchy was advised on the purchase by Marchmont Investment Management.
The Duchy of Lancaster continues to invest in agriculture, with the purchase of a further high quality farm in rural Lincolnshire. The acquisition is part of an ongoing strategy to increase both the quantum and quality of the Duchy’s agricultural holdings across its Rural Surveys.
Wykes Farm near Donnington in Lincolnshire includes 206 acres of Grade I agricultural land, together with farmhouse, outbuildings and arable crop storage. The Farm has been let to an existing tenant from the Duchy portfolio on a new 8-year Farm Business Tenancy agreement.
Commenting on the purchase of Wykes Farm, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “We constantly review the Duchy portfolio to ensure the right balance between pure agricultural acquisitions and those which may be geared more towards hope and reversion values. This purchase will contribute favourably to improved efficiency and output from what is now an enlarged farm in rural Lincolnshire.”
The acquisition of Wykes Farm brings the total acreage of Grade I and II agricultural land owned by the Duchy of Lancaster in Lincolnshire to more than 2,000 acres.
The Duchy of Lancaster has sold its interest in the freehold of a prestigious 8-storey office building in the heart of Manchester city centre to Mercer Real Estate Partners Fund II (MREPII). The sale is part of the Duchy’s ongoing strategy of active asset management and diversification across its portfolio and follows three commercial acquisitions earlier this year.
Acquired by the Duchy in 2008, 81 Fountain Street was constructed in the late 1980s. Comprised of over 40,000 square foot of prime commercial office space, it was fully let to private healthcare company BUPA until 2013. Currently, three floors of the building are occupied by national law firm Hill Dickinson, while the ground floor is shared by Blue Arrow and DX Network Services.
Commenting on the sale, Duchy Head of Urban Mike Andrews said: “We constantly monitor and review our commercial portfolio in line with market conditions and enhance the overall value of the Duchy estate. There is strong demand for city centre offices offering refurbishment opportunities and we are pleased to have completed the sale within days of accepting the offer for the freehold from Mercer Real Estate Partners.”
Mercer Real Estate Partners is a privately owned real estate investment firm with interests in the office, residential, retail, industrial and hospitality sectors across the UK.
Colliers acted for the Duchy of Lancaster and Lambert Smith Hampton acted for Mercer Real Estate Partners.