The derelict farmhouses and cottages of yesteryear have become the enterprise success stories of tomorrow. ALLISON DICKINSON reports.
CHESHIRE may not quite be Silicon Valley but more entrepreneurs are giving up their careers in the city for a life of commercial success in the countryside.
Small companies are enjoying the advantages of a relaxing rural lifestyle and attracting business from all over the world.
There are 2,987 commercial premises in rural Cheshire and Warrington which help contribute £3.3bn to the local economy.
And it is not just farming and tourism – the new wave of internet businesses is providing job opportunities.
New companies are setting up in Cheshire villages including Tarporley, Malpas, Kelsall, Tarvin, Pulford and Farndon.
One such firm is Global Air Training, which employs 12 people and has been based in Tattenhall since 2005.
Accredited by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), it provides instructor training and has set a global industry standard as aviation authorities from all over the world send delegates to this quiet Cheshire village.
Director Dianne Worby said: “We wanted something scenic with a tranquility about it to provide an optimal training environment, and it has worked perfectly.
“One of our first major contracts here was for security and hijack management training for a presidential air fleet, which gave us a huge amount of credibility.
“Since then, we have attracted more than 350 clients. We have trained staff on the Queen’s aircraft as well as military, cargo and passenger airlines from all over the world. All in sleepy Tattenhall.
“Most of the instructors are local and the only thing that holds us up in the morning is if the cows are crossing.”
Last year, the company needed more space and was able to add a purpose-built training facility.
Dianne said: “The flexibility to expand was a crucial factor and when we found we were outgrowing our first building we were able to work with our landlord to come up with a design that suited us.”
Lingerie company Sparkling Strawberry, which operates from purpose-built premises not far from the centre of Tarporley, also boasts a world-wide customer base and employs six staff.
Directors Gordon and Sarah Pearson, who set up the company in 2005, rejected the idea of a city centre shop-front premises and trade solely on the internet.
Gordon said: “Being based close to home is a huge bonus – we can take our daughter to school on the way to the office, or work from home if we need to.
“We wouldn’t be able to have that flexibility in a city centre location and, although we did consider opening up a shop, the rents are so high it wasn’t possible.”
Estate manager for Bolesworth, David Tanswell, thinks many businesses choose rural locations because of the flexibility they offer.
He said: “A lot of people are just fed up with sitting in traffic jams.
“Modern technology means being based away from the city is no longer a disadvantage and many businesses have found the benefits are far greater than just cheaper rents. They get ample parking and stunning views.”
In Mickle Trafford, restaurateur Sam Sharter turned a derelict cow shed into The Barn, a continental restaurant and bar, two years ago.
The business has gone from strength to strength, and Sam thinks the rural location is an advantage when it comes to getting through the recession.
He said: “Customers like to drive into the countryside, park at their leisure and take in the views while they relax with a cappuccino or enjoy a meal.