Buying and running a country estate for the first time can be a daunting prospect, so the Kennel Club turned to Knight Frank for help. Andrew Shirley finds out more about the organisation’s exciting acquisition.
Think of the Kennel Club and Crufts, the organisation’s world-famous showpiece of canine obedience and breeding, will immediately spring to mind for many. But away from the razzamatazz and TV cameras the club runs numerous other competitions and courses throughout the year.
One thing it lacked, however, was somewhere that it could dedicate to training and trialling the working breeds that are such an important part of country sports and are so beloved by many of The Rural Report’s readers.
“There is limited ground for the expansion of the rapidly growing sport of gundog field trials and training days in the UK that allow gundogs to do what they are bred for, which is working with live game,” says Paddy Ledingham, the Kennel Club’s Head of Property. “We are very lucky to be invited to use some of the grand estates like Chatsworth and even Sandringham for our big championships, but there isn’t much for regular club events.”
The sale and relocation of the club’s London headquarters gave it the financial wherewithal to think about filling the gap itself, but finding somewhere that possessed all the attributes needed was never going to be simple.
“We wanted somewhere that had at least 1,000 acres of land, the potential to develop a shoot with accommodation for a gamekeeper, but no large house that would make the price prohibitively expensive. It also needed to be relatively convenient for competitors to get to, yet tucked away,” explains Mr Ledingham.
Recognising the scale of the task, the club engaged The Buying Solution, Knight Frank’s independent property search and acquisition service, to help. “It was a very unusual and challenging brief,” agrees Mark Lawson, who specialises in buying country estates. “We scoured the open market and found nothing that was suitable, but remembered a property called Emblehope that had been available previously. We approached the owners and purchased it off-market.”
Located near Hexham in Northumberland, The Emblehope & Burngrange Estate’s 7,500 acres of extensively farmed hill land, bog and woodland, which are home to 1,500 Blackface sheep and a breeding herd of 43 Galloway cattle, were ideal. But there was still a stumbling block that had to be overcome before the deal could go through: the estate is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England and its permission would be needed for the Kennel Club to implement its plans.
To make this happen, Edward Dixon of Knight Frank’s Rural Consultancy department was engaged to work with Natural England to create a management plan for the estate that would provide the organisation with the assurances it needed.
“Having worked with Natural England in the past, our established relationship meant we were able to balance the important conservation requirements of the SSSI with the practicalities of running a commercial enterprise and farm,” says Edward.
Bradley Tooze, Natural England Area Manager, adds: “We have been working closely with the Kennel Club to develop a management plan that would capture the shared vision we both have to make environmental improvements, which could run alongside the commercial business at Emblehope.
“Although it is still early days, the Kennel Club has already started to address some of the issues raised and these will go a long way to meeting our joint objectives and we are looking forward to a continuing relationship that will see even greater benefits.”
Centre of Excellence
After the 25-year agreement was struck with Natural England, the Kennel Club became the proud new owner of The Emblehope & Burngrange Estate in March 2016. “We hope the estate will become a centre of excellence for working dogs. There are endless possibilities to conduct gundog field trials and training days, working trials, bloodhound trials and working tests. We have already held our first Bloodhound Club championship trials there,” says Mr Ledingham.
However, there is still a lot to do before the estate’s true potential can be realised, he adds. “There has been plenty of fencing, ditching and access work done, together with refurbishing the gamekeeper’s cottage. We also intend to invest in the farming business to help it become more efficient, as well as ensuring our activities on the estate benefit the wider local community.”
As a new estate owner, knowing exactly what you own is a vital aspect of planning for the future. Even older Ordnance Survey (OS) maps are not as accurate as some people might believe, so one of Knight Frank’s first jobs was to ask its mapping team to create new estate plans based on the latest OS 1:2,500 mapping data.
With no experience of running a rural estate, Mr Ledingham says it made sense for the Kennel Club to retain Knight Frank in an ongoing managerial role. “Looking after an estate can be complicated enough at the best of times, but here we have to balance so many things – our canine activities, the needs of the farm, our environmental obligations and the process of keepering the estate. We don’t want dogs mixing with summer ground-nesting birds, for example,” he points out.
“While The Emblehope & Burngrange Estate has been acquired primarily for working gundog trials, we will not be missing the opportunities available to any estate to add value. Initially, we’ll be focusing on maximising the farming operation with improved facilities and buildings, and also extracting more revenue from the estate’s woodland,” says Edward.
Brexit is another issue that Mr Ledingham will be looking for guidance on. “It brings a lot of uncertainties, such as what will happen to environmental payments – but we want to be estate owners who can react to change and we are very excited about the future of Emblehope, there are so many opportunities.”
As published in the Knight Frank Rural Report on May 10, 2017
Shared with permission from Andrew Shirley, Knight Frank
Original Article : here