Welsh farming tourism comes of age in style
Members of one of Waless most
successful farmhouse holiday groups
managed to turn their 21st birthday
celebration into a promotional event.
Robert Davies reports
THE 14 farming families in the Heart of Wales organisation decided to invite travel writers to join them for their weekend shindig to celebrate 21 years of business, put them up in the high class accommodation they use for visitors, and fed them well – very well.
The result, they hope, will be some very favourable editorial coverage that will tell many more people about the welcome available to visitors to the valleys and hills of the historic old county of Montgomeryshire.
* Wealth of places
Chairperson Lynn Jenkins, Cyfie Farm, Llanfihangel -yng- Ngwynfa, told the visiting journalists that the landscape, architecture and rich heritage of the area lying between the Welsh Marches and the Dovey estuary provides visitors with a wealth of places to visit.
And she insisted that the houses featured in the groups farm and country holiday brochure offered the highest standard of accommodation and food, much of it produced locally.
If any of the writers retained any doubts about local fare after 36 hours of sampling it, these were dispelled by a Sunday lunch to which all members contributed dishes. The buffet banquet, served at Ivernia Watkins Bryn Penarth farmhouse at Llanfair Caereinion, left visitors grinning with satisfaction, and vowing to start dieting on Monday.
Lynn Jenkins said the weekend, was successful on two levels. It was an enjoyable get-together for group members before the start of the peak season, and it probably opened the eyes of some of the travel specialists about how much farmhouse- based tourism had changed.
* Farm development
"When George and I started taking guests it was to generate income to develop the farm," she said. "The facilities we provided were pretty basic, with guests having to walk through our workmans room to reach theirs. The accommodation has improved greatly since. Now we have moved from en-suite facilities to private suites, and have achieved our goal of Wales Tourist Board five-star grading."
As on most members farms, tourism is now a business in its own right and no longer an income generating adjunct to farming. Standards had to continue to rise to survive very competitive conditions.
While there is probably still potential for some other farming families to diversify into tourism, second rate enterprises are doomed to failure. The Heart of Wales group has benefited greatly from the presence of nearby attractions like the red sandstone Powis Castle. But constantly monitoring and raising standards is the key if the informal grouping of like-minded people is to prosper for another 21 years.
Chairperson Lyn Jenkins (left) and Heart of Wales members (above) all contributed dishes to the celebration buffet laid on for travel journalists.