Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Living the good life
How many of us have dreamed of quitting the nine-to-five grind and escaping to the country to live the good life... maybe renovate an old barn or run a little business?
Well Gary Mercer and Sarah Clout did. And now they are turning their dream into a reality at Holwood Farm between the villages of Keston and Downe.
They bought the old dairy farm in Shire Lane three years ago. After knocking down derelict structures and acquiring planning permission, they turned an old oak byre into a beautiful, soon-to-be-opened farm shop, and the remaining buildings into desirable family homes.
The first house is now on the market – one has already been sold off plan – and the Holwood Farm Shop is due to open in August. But for former City IT executive Gary and archaeologist Sarah, it has been a steep learning curve.
“We were either brave or completely mad,” said Gary.
“I ran a software company in the city until three years ago and Sarah was thinking of going back to work after having the children.
“I had a dream of running a deli, but the rates for premises always seemed very high. Then Sarah found Holwood Farm. It had this beautiful dark oak barn and we decided to go for it.”
The couple, who live in Bromley with their sons Oliver, 18, and Jack, 15, had no experience of renovating property or running a delicatessen, but they did have a passion for fresh food and locally grown produce.
“We have really enjoyed the experience of renovating the farm – it involved a lot of project management, so not too dissimilar to IT, except I don’t wear a suit and tie.
“We did a lot of research and have met a lot of fantastic local producers who produce really good quality food that you cannot find anywhere else nearby,” said Gary.
For example, there are over 18 cheeses produced in Kent and Sussex, but you can only find one in the local supermarket. So we will endeavour to source as much of our produce locally.
“But our aim is to be able to stock the ingredients for a meal, so when we can’t source locally, we will stock the best produce from elsewhere.”
Visitors to the Holwood Farm Shop in August will be able to sample some of the food in a little coffee shop on the premises.
In the meantime, anyone interested in the remaining property for sale at the farm – a four-bed for £799,000 and another three-bed which has still to be priced – should visit www.georgeproctor.com