An 860ac sheep farm in Northumberland is expanding into the staycation market as part of ambitious growth plans by transforming old stone barns into self-catering homes.

R J Coulson & Son, owned by Robbie and his son Paul, has farmed sheep in Hexham since the 1930s.

Over the past two years, increasing agricultural costs placed pressure on the business’ cash flow, leading it to explore new ways of securing income.

The business decided to transform three of its original stone barns into seven, four and two bedroom self-catering homes for holiday-makers. Perks of the homes include a hot tub, a pool table, luxury furnishings and an outdoor BBQ.

In 2020, lockdown restrictions forced the closure of the three barn conversions two weeks after opening.

However, once restrictions lifted, bookings for the accommodation soared with 144 bookings made in eight months.

Sheep farm transformation

Due to the demand, the business decided to further expand by transforming a large eight-bedroom property on the sheep farm.

The farm approached Lloyds Bank, securing a £750,000 funding package to support the redevelopment of the property.

The new holiday home is due to complete in April 2023 and will come with its own electric car charging point and wind turbine that will provide electricity for the home.

Paul Coulson, co-owner of R J Coulson & Son, said: “Our first three holiday homes were only open for a fortnight when lockdown forced us to shut our doors. However, when restrictions lifted, we saw bookings go through the roof.

“We decided to act on the success and convert another of the farm’s buildings so that we could offer accommodation for larger groups.

"Thanks to Lloyds Bank, we’ve been able to continue diversifying the business, while keeping up with our tradition of sheep farming on the hills.

“Over the next few years, we’ll be looking at how we can introduce more energy-efficient solutions and eventually, I’d like to see the full farm and homes running on 100% renewable energy.”

Michelle Story, agricultural relationship director at Lloyds Bank, said: “R J Coulson & Son is based in an area of outstanding beauty so it’s fantastic to see the changes being made to the land complement its surroundings so well.

“Paul and his dad have worked on the farm for many years and despite recent challenges, have found new and innovative ways to diversify and secure the future success of their business.

“We’ll continue to be the side of businesses like this as we help them overcome obstacles and provide the tools needed to achieve their ambitious growth plans.”