Chilling out at the grain store

IT IS hard to imagine that a herd of dairy cows is kept just a stone”s throw away from the Broom Mill day spa facilities at High Hill House farm, Ferryhill.

Soft music plays in the warm, candlelit “chill-out” room, where guests wrapped in fluffy white dressing gowns wind down after one of Jill Cheesmond”s specialised pampering days.

Guests can swim, have a sauna or take advantage of a variety of health and beauty treatments, while the cows are being milked just yards away.

Farmer”s daughter Jill (right) has always dreamed of having her own beauty salon, after working for other businesses for several years, as well as lecturing on health and beauty.

Little did she know that the whole family would eventually become involved when she opened for business in July 2004.

 Her father, Ned, often lends a hand in the spa, carrying out maintenance and cleaning work. It provides a stark contrast to his day job – which is looking after 40 organic dairy cows on the 65ha (160 acre) farm. However Ned stops short of doing facials or nail treatments. Guests are taken care of by Jill and her sister, Dawn. Among the treatments on offer are all types of skin care, body waxing and ear piercing.

The spa also has a white light room, designed to help people suffering with seasonal adjustment disorder because of the shortage of daylight in the winter.

defra grant

The business received 58,000 from DEFRA”s Rural Enterprise Scheme, which approved the grant application within six months. Most of the other capital came from bank loans.

“To save money, we did a lot of the building and redecoration work ourselves,” explains Jill.

 “We only take a very small wage each month – the rest of our income is ploughed directly back into the business, to improve the facilities. I am hoping to put a hot-tub in the garden by next summer.”

Up to 50 clients a week visit the spa, which also has a shop selling beauty products and a caf, run by Jill”s mother, Val.

 Many of Jill”s existing clients stayed with her when she moved premises, and new customers mostly find out about the spa through word-of-mouth. Recently, Jill has started a newspaper advertising campaign, and has even booked a slot on the local radio station.

 “Many of our clients are farmers” wives, who heard about the project on the farming grapevine,” says Jill. “We do offer treatments for men, but they are in the minority overall.

 “This has been my project, but the whole family has pitched in to make it work. My brother-in-law maintains the pool and makes the bookings, and even my nephew helps with the cleaning.

 “It might sound hard to believe, but we really do get on well together. I would miss them all if I had set up a business away from the farm on my own.”