Category: Photography

Smallholding issues…

apple31.jpgThe future of Smallholding in many counties of Britain is under a great deal of scrutiny and many would say it is an industry opportunity that is being decimated by tenancy Smallholdings and farms being sold off to developers or anything less than 10 acres with a modest house in any rural county finds itself marketed as a desirable residence only or second home.

The rising number of people wishing to engage with a smallholding practice and agri-business outweighs supply, with some counties having no desire, nor interest in offering county owned tenancy smallholdings. The issue on closer inspection is going to have a catastrophic effect on nationally grown and produced “local food”. Food with better ecological resilience & credentials, provenance ; and offers a broader range of sustainable businesses in the sector.


So, what can be done for the short and long term success of the British Isles rural food and farming sectors?

Almost every farm has something it could be doing to diversify..

There have been many articles written and infinitely more conversations had over the metaphorical farm gate that Farmers and Landowners should look at their farm as a collection of revenue generating opportunities, rather than as a whole, when looking to diversify their income, farmers often concentrate on the part of the business which interested them most when there could be a better opportunity for investment and a return.

It is far too easy to suggest that those with properties on the fringes of towns and cities would only consider one of two options: Selling to a developer or renewable energy initiative. Despite a still-faltering residential market in many areas, there is strong demand for smallholdings with anything up to 50 acres. The issue is common sight around the small Peakland town I call home. There has been a community outcry and a Borough & County Council issue over two sites acquired by a land brokerage company. Both these sites would easily offer excellent Smallholding opportunities to both mixed and forestry agri-business. Since the issue of the two debated building sites are still being fought from each side of the equation since 2012; I believe in the time it has been rapped up in laborious and undemocratic paper shuffling both sites could have become very healthy Smallholding enterprise sites by now. Both would have managed the land better than adding c.250 new executive homes over two sites to an already stretched community, made much more of a positive ecological impact to the land and with suggested tree planting secured the soil and potential flood issues in winter.

In addition, a site in North Yorkshire agreed the sale of three holdings for 12-acre, 19-acre and 20-acre holdings around Thirsk and 40 acres in the Walden region of Wensleydale. Buyers are diverse – the prospective owner of the Wensleydale holding is retired professor of science who wished to build a home on the site and use it as a private green field estate.

With the growing number of enquires and an increase in people wishing to spend an excess of £1m for a plot of farm land, this has driven up the cost of an acre and as a consequence made tenancy farming in my county less attractive. Is some areas of the country £12,000/acre is quiet the norm.

Increasing land prices for “Grand Designs” are pushing up the value of land and pushing out the opportunities of a smallholding, exacerbating the cost of any start up to be out of the reach of anyone in the market for a tenancy smallholding.

So why would they not consider being more of a pioneer or part of the community which they play such a huge part in and address the balance of land availability? The much easier planning laws linked to rural and farming properties offers a much more versatile way, but certainly not unique to this country. Why not develop a site for a start-up smallholder, this tenancy would be regular income through rental and with some land owners in more southern counties accepting this as a much more viable option for many crumbling buildings, barns and semi derelict buildings, many rural business incubation centres and smallholdings; Smallholder co-ops [ such as the successful enterprise in Essex –  The Ecological Land Co-Op ], forestry, tourism and community farms have grown in some areas, only to be shunned in others.

Many of these tried and tested methods offer an excellent way to free up cash to invest in the farm. Farm diversification was recorded to be worth £560million in 2016, and having worked in and with the agri-sector, mainly from the view of a photographer for many years; I do however, have experience working with local mixed farms. Notwithstanding having hill farming in my family for a number of generations, it stands to reason that I agree that I am yet to visit a farm that does not have something it could be doing to diversify.

I understand that the core business of any farm or agricultural estate is the most essential part of the business, therefore the enhancements of any value to its assets is often considered only by impact, any further development or restoration; re-use or re-purposing land / property may have a debatable effect on the core activity of farming.

I have spent the past 3 yrs speaking to farming communities in the north of England and they agree and enforce that if any diversification is governed by desire to enhance their land and the community, it will only enhance their enterprise with income and investment for there own future expansion plans.

Traditionally Multi-genrational Farms often need to ensure ownership and efficiently managed before going down the route of diversification or land & property leasing, however with growing fragility in the industry and types of land that is no good for one use is potentially good for another – this is where I stand in this debate.

What is there to offer Farmers and large Estate Owners who are able to offer a modest home and >10 acres to a growing number of start up smallholders on their land, who will add to the estate rather than compete with the land owner?

Co-Op’ed sites are popping up across Europe and even a couple are gathering momentum in the South East of England, so what will it take to engage with the larger county wide farms and estates, who are very much missing out on an ecological and sustainable business boom?

Initial examples that have been staring in the press recently have been:



For many this is far less attractive and viable, yet with a little imagination and further understanding of just how much forestry has been traditionally part of the industry and how it has been enjoying a renaissance, much more than that of the industrial revolution. Biomass is one sure fire way of utilising poor value timber and commercial forest waste. With recent news of Willow plantations and borders becoming grant attracting diversification methods, where applicable, it is driving up the abilities of using UK grown fuel for industry and housing. Not forgetting the current Gov. grants for felling and replanting of indigenous broadleaf and evergreen trees to offer a chance to make a positive return on assets ad bring woodland management back into productivity.

With construction still being the largest market for timber, UK softwood has increased in value to approx. £44/cu.meter, enjoying a 13% increase on the year. Plus, the UK Timber production is still increasing its numbers and since 2007 has sold a further 1.2million cu. meters. Much of this is down to un-grazable or unfit land for arable crops to be put aside for Forestry.

There is also the production of indigenous fruit to the UK, Apple Orchards are lost or in a decayed state, other fruiting trees that have a value and high survival rate in our climate not only increase the revenue but add to many biodiverse habitats for pollinating insects and ultimately bees and the plight of the British Honey Bee come into the equation.

Tourism and Diversification


Traditional tourism ventures on farms are mainly focused on holiday cottages and farm shops, but many have recently looked to make use of their farm’s unique characteristics in more innovative ways. Examples such as Wedding venues, Music Festival sites, Outdoor pursuit centres, Micro Breweries / Cider Farms and and the incredible successes of supporting the community at the growing number of Farming Life Centres. Locally, we have seen over the past five years an up surge in successful rural events, such as the now world renowned Eroica Britannia vintage cycle festival. In the first few years it was staged and held at the Bakewell Show Ground, this year it is to be held at a sprawling farm in the south west heartland of the Derbyshire Dales.  I have recently been asked if I know of anyone in the Peak District with a Barn that they wish to have repurposed into a Recording Studio for a record label based in Manchester.

Tourism-based diversification has grant funding available through the Rural Development Programme for England’s growth programme. However, Grants are locally led and have local priorities which differ throughout the country. This has highlighted the areas of the UK, region by region, that offer unique attributes and the individuals running the sites; it has by process ruled out those who are just after funding to develop an old building, however, it does not protect our rural business sectors from larger agriculturally viable plats being used as multi million “dream home” concepts or poorly designed estates of commuter homes.

Barns and traditional buildings


With relaxed planning laws on rights to convert agricultural buildings (GPDO – 2014), they have effectively permitted conversions of unused farm buildings into dwellings and commercial use property. Granted these do not apply in SONB or National Parks, but with the recent increase in sq. m. allowances in January 2017, it now enables many unused, unloved or unaffordable buildings to see a new lease life for generations to come.

All these options have one underlying opportunity to the thousands of people seeking a career change, expansion or start-up enterprise to call home as much as there place of business. Sustainable, with ecological credentials, viable and offering something new to the area. Ultimately producing hyper-local food for a growing and demanding population and sites of rural and farming business incubation, creating sites that attract SMEs and Micro Business with specialisms in this sector and encourage future generations to consider this as a viable career future.


If there was a magic wand to waive in the county of Derbyshire it would be used to highlight the issues of vacant and unused land that could be utilised and managed well, with bio-diversity and ecological methods at the very forefront of its use, property that could be best used to develop much needed affordable tenancy smallholdings for families who wish to develop their own agri-business.

The need to live and work in the countryside should not become the reserve of the economically well off, nor should it be wasted on linear building projects to benefit the few.

Our search continues.



A $Multimillion high street fashion retailer has responsibilities both to avoid slavery in manufacturing – see Nike, and how it presents its brand to the buying public.

A $Multimillion high street fashion retailer has responsibilities in how it promotes gender equality. I am casting shade over The Gap and I am sure many more will be joining in this campaign of shame today on social media.

Who agrees on this garbage and lets it fly? You can’t patch it when it is out there. This is not an ad for this brand, it is a decision to boycott until they stop making all girls “the talk of the playground”.



kegs with legs…


A little light [beer] relief in a week we find our nation in a state of flux, one consistent beverage we can all rely on is a fine craft ale.

The recent phenomena and the dearth of micro brewers and privately / co-op managed ale houses is a good thing in my mind. The seasonality and historical regional flavours offers any visitor to the area an option to choose something made locally, with care and attention.

With the thousands of imaginatively named IPAs, stouts, amber ales and porters to choose from in my area of the country, it is often a challenge to find something that sticks out for the duration of the time at the bar or in a local bottle shop. This also is a good thing, long gone are the days of bland, insipid mass production brown liquid, offering only a guaranteed hang over from hell the next day, mainly due to all the additives and preservatives. Thankfully no more terrible TV ads for hooligan Lager full of cliches and less than clever macho strap lines.

Living in the convergence of both Manchester and Sheffield’s commuter belt, bordering the Peak District National Park, one would be happy to know we have dozens of local brewers hard at work each day making and mashing their delectable brews.

Having a small brewery on one’s doorstep is yet another reason to support local businesses that serve us with something so much more than the ambivalence we expect from many of the inner city hipster bars.

It is quite evident that these stalwarts of single mindedness, mavericks, revolutionaries and masters of individuality are the future of our brewing industry and with the current shenanigans in Westminster, exporting our wares will start to prop up the economy as much as our fading bars.

If you find yourself in the Peak District this year, make time to enjoy the new line of ales from Whaley Bridge Brewery, the innovative methods Mike (Master Brewer extraordinaire) explores with the finest hops and the excellent clear waters of the Peak combine to produce a very irresistible result.

You will be first attracted by the creatively designed packaging and labels, a nod to a much more contemporary rather than hairy eared trad design. Each beer is named after an area of this historical town and each offer a completely different flavour and gravity.

The two new ones to the growing collection are Crow Hill and Mount Famine. Crow Hill being a very fine American Amber Ale, offering an explosion of caramel maltiness, refreshing citrus fruits and the bitterness from the excellent hops Mike doesn’t scrimp on. So if its the hell or high watermelon you like in a lovingly crafted beer, using a combination of alchemy, science and experience, this newcomer to the market is for you. This ale is one for a lazy summer evening, swallows darting over head, enjoying the fading summer sun after a great day on the hill.

Mount Famine is a totally different brew – a little more lively ale that offers an instant hit of Tropical Fruits – including Passion Fruit (how he does this is beyond a laymen such as me) and more robust bitter notes, this triple hopped beer offers an excellent session ale for any occasion. I found to my delight it was a fine accompaniment to some Stilton and a borderline offensively ripe Brie.

They join the WBB family and can be found in a growing number of ale houses and pubs in the region.

Recently as this week, you can find all four of the collection in 500ml bottles at the National Trust Eyam Hall courtyard, The Eyam Real Ale Company, right next door to the Hartington Cheese Shop, to anyone living in the area and knowing the latter – a perfect match I am sure you will agree.

Goyt Wines in Whaley Bridge, The Tickled Trout, Barlow near Chesterfield, and as of yesterday, the Beer Dock in Crewe and Barley Hops in Congleton, Cheshire. With a pending launch event, the newest ale shop to populate the High Peak, Beer District in Buxton (4a Colonnade, Buxton) will be opening the first week of July, starring amongst others, the four Whaley Bridge Beers. Once they get the shop fitting complete, they will be offering a growing number of excellent beers and ciders to discerning locals and visitors to the Spa Town.

I would expect to see this collection of delightful beers in an ale house near you quite soon.

Remember, it is people like Mike that make the world a better place, a happier place, and for every pint of Carling not sold this week, we can all applaud those who get up at the crack of sparrows each day to pint-by-pint remove this despicable drink from our pubs and replace it with something made from simple ingredients, not stakeholder pension plans. Life is far too short to drink cheap beer.

If you have an event or wedding looming in the Peak District, do your bit to support a local trade and give Mike a call.


Drink responsibly.




Culture is defined as “a set of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviours shared by a group of people, communicated from one generation to the next via language or some other means of communication” (Tanaka Matsumi).

Hate is a four-letter word, a four-letter word that means the same thing across the globe. In every culture, you will find hate against one thing or another. There are in-groups and out-groups, the in-groups are accepted while the out-groups are targeted for attack. Openly known and publicised Hate Groups in the United States have risen at epidemic rates in the past 16 years. In the year, 2000 there were 602 hate groups openly operating in the United States; in 2012 – 1018 hate groups, and 1274 anti-government groups that they claim were formed because of a hatred against President Obama, “because he is Black”.

In a nation where culture is supposed to converge and become a melting pot of social mobility and the American experiment of multiculturalism, hate is growing more and more each day. Hate is an attitude and belief passed down from each generation, powered by media soundbites steered by people similar to the melted Ken Doll of extreme capitalism, those who precede and currently support this conservative and ultra right wing attitude, and Trump himself. Understanding the culture of hate can lead to social policy and intervention, similarly it can combat hate and the epidemic of hate groups. Understanding if hate and the reasons why people join such groups is cross cultural and leads to generic intervention programs that stretch across culture and across societies spanning the planet, ultimately making better places for everyone to move without fear and social imprisonment.

Whether the hatred is between Palestinians and Jews, Japanese and Chinese, Neo-facist groups and pretty much anyone who doesn’t have white skin (and were not born in their nation), hatred is a cancer that eats the very soul of any culture. Culture is defined as a group of people with a common background, religious belief, ideology and behaviour…so why is it that in a decade where we have successfully sent machinery to Mars, discovered new methods of prolonging life, filtering the toxins from our seas, harnessing energy from the sun, wind and the waves; the hundreds of applications to Graphene and that a growing number of us have enough data stored in our phones to fill the Bodleian Library, we as a race of humans still cannot get past the dogma of religious and media filed hate against each other? Just because some men enjoy the company of other men, some women enjoy the company of other women and those who look forward to finally having the body match the mind of the gender they find happiness in.

At what point do we as a “culture” turn the other way when groups of British Passport owning men stripped to the waist cultivate pitch battles with other nations over a ball sport, because their fathers and older brothers did it in the 1980s and 90s; or stand by the ones who have free will and encouragement to enter into a building and kill with mindful intent and accuracy? At what point are we as a planet going to wake up and stop trying to deal with things we cannot accomplish and invest more in education, science and love. Education makes us more powerful than any politician, Science allows us to live longer and live a richer, more creative life and not give a hoot about religious doctrine. And love? Love can make us all much better people. Love makes us happy.

My thoughts are with the family and friends of the ones who lost their lives in Orlando the other night. I was less than a mile away from the Admiral Duncan in 1999 on that fateful evening in London. When criminal acts such as this are cited against religious groups it is something even our political spinners use to sway the public consciousness, even as far as effecting our boarder controls and fuel prices – yet when people of all secular and religious beliefs come together to celebrate their own social lives, on their terms, with their friends, and then have them cut down because they are gay is still [in 2016], it appears a forgettable crime, a difficult to understand act because one’s sexual orientation appears to be the business and control of others and still kept in the realms to hate by a growing number of people.

A reported 4000 people attended a moment of reflection in London yesterday, this vigil was part of a global response to these 49 lives lost. Within minutes of this significant show of solidarity 15 other countries publicised their support – including Israel, Afghanistan and Qatar. So, linking this atrocity to anything other than hate is an act of a fool.


rules of engagement

Since the mid 1990’s I have either politely smiled or viciously walked out of agency meetings with the hump after hearing those fateful words – “its good for your exposure”, “we are a very powerful brand and it would help your career”, “I need to use your studio to test with a well known make up / fashion brand / record label / virgin airlines” or my personal favourite – “next time we need someone like you, we will be sure to call you back and pay you”.

Please forgive the tone of this little rant as I must admit recently I haven’t had to hear this from anyone, nor have I had to get the hump with anyone asking me to fix a problem or find a solution for their own company’s issues, large or small. Maybe it is because I have learned from making such mistakes and the value of the word “No”. I have also stopped agreeing to work with habitual testing companies or those who have excellent ideas on paper yet don’t have the acumen to carry them out. I suppose I have gained enough trust from those who I have worked with recently, however, it is still something that plays on my mind when I am asked (at least once a week) by graduates, people who have recently gone freelance or those who have been looking into attracting new clients.

Working for free, albeit an oxymoron is one of those assumptions that all creative agencies, screen companies, and now Supermarkets feel quite comfortable with. A rather well known Screen Agency insists that any intern be working without wage for over a year before they be considered for a base level intern on any feature film shot in their county. Only to have their name on the credit roll as their way of payment. Could this be due to the past decade of the people listed above falling for the lies and confidence tricks that belie so many young and talented people?

With my experience of working for such super-rich clients, they often employ agencies such as TBWA, McCann or much larger international companies to come up with cultivating a plan of how they can increase attraction and develop a long list of stills images, motion picture or a three dimensional items for any publicity and promotion. Anyone knows that. They act as a buffer and make it easier to get paid, in essence, this is often the point in which the house of cards begins to collapse. The long list of talent then gets the call and the money gets filtered through once the job is done. Dissemination of income is a blessed job if given to the right people. But do we have those kinds of people in this sector? Stand up and be counted, stand up and be recognised for you are angels amongst us all.

Artists and designers, photographers and videographers are still quite often seen as Firemen, they leap into action when the call comes through, they make your problems go away, they often tidy up after themselves and like Firemen, they are often thought to have a second job to fill in the income gaps between “playing with cameras and pencils”. Quite wrong, quite wrong indeed.

It is for many a job, just like any other. Just like a Plumber, a Meteorologist, a Taylor, a Chef, a Barber. They come in all shapes and sizes, ages, genders and colours. And they all need paying for the work they do for you.

On reading this little cutting – from where and when I cannot say, the uncertainty of this being factual is as anything found on Twitter et al, sketchy at best, however I would not be at all surprised to hear this was indeed a legitimate newspaper column.

I would suggest that Ronnie or Claude be ready for a week or two of eloquent abuse.

First of all, the employee issues that Camden branch of Sainsbury’s is experiencing appears to be near cataclysmic and some would take from this advert that they employ nothing but sociopaths. Asking someone to create an oasis of calm for their unhappy staff is not anyone’s problem but Sainsbury’s. Or have I missed the point? As a leading UK retailer, one would trust it would spend time (and money) creating a comfortable and happy place for their staff to work – as investing in people has been at the forefront of their mission since 1998. According to their website.

So to ask a member of the west London creative community to design an interior for no wage and not for the eyes of anyone but their highly stressed staff that require a realm of relaxation is a reflection on how it supports the immediate community and the arts.

Maybe next time you visit a Sainsbury’s you should ask for a weeks worth of groceries and say “I will not be paying for these today, but I will be blogging about the juiciness of your Cantaloupes and crustiness of your baguettes in the morning, pinky promise. Thanks.”

Pithy – yes. but it does grind a little that this was a) agreed on, and b) published.

Alternatively, I suppose any artists or interior designer currently between jobs could do with the Nectar points. How many would one get for painting a chair a lovely calming pantone green 363?



genius lurks in chaos


Nigh on 16 months of development and over 6 years of research and cultivating data into a number of ambitious & expansive plans have, since January last year found me in front of policy makers, politicians, professors and professional pundits – each one suitably wowed by the designs, my efforts and determination to see some, if not all my plans come to fruition and become part of the day-to-day shenanigans up here in the north of England.

With that in mind and with a growing number of backed up RAID files and NDA protected documents of considerable weight and caliber, I am in need of a system that you may currently use with excellent results.

I need to broaden my skills in document house keeping and reduce the amount of space I use for such virtual paperwork on my ageing MacBookPro. I use it only for desk top, no films and limited images are stored internally, much of the drive is taken up with the written word. Many, many written words.

Your assistance in this is gratefully received.

Many thanks,



Wax on, Wax off


Good afternoon all,

I have a question to ask all whom own and somewhat cherish their cars, for those of you looking to market to sell or just get the old motor ready for winter.

Have you ever thought of having the body work brought back to showroom condition? Headlights gone misty? (an MOT Failure) Or have you had a go at waxing your car this summer and it looks like it needs doing again?

Usually it can take 3 or 4 days to get any car, classic or modern up to a standard most of us would marvel at. However there is an alternative. All work can be done in one day and if you have cover (garage) access to water and a plug socket the car doesn’t necessarily have to leave your sight.

Any of you out there connected to classic car clubs, any of you out there that need to or know of anyone trying to market a car, or those of you just wishing to have a newly detailed car then contact me. This guy is a gem and you need him in your life.

All types of cars considered, including 4×4 and even VW Campers if you are going to put them to bed for winter. Testimonials and images of recent work can be gained on request. This service is by appointment only but will not break the bank, hell if I can justify the service, anyone can.

Let me know if you need to make a booking I will pass on his details.