A BOLTON attraction has won a “rural Oscar” — and will now go on to represent the North West in a regional competition.
The Wellbeing Farm in Edgworth has been named best start-up business in the 2013 Countryside Alliance Awards.
It will now represent the region at the UK and Northern Ireland finals at Parliament in Westminster on April 30.
Tracy Casstles, who judged the region, said: “This is an amazingly varied business, with a cookery school, restaurant and coffee shop and a conference and wedding centre, where they also offer lifestyle and wellbeing courses.
“But the secret weapon is Celia herself, who is a dynamo of a person who is passionate about her business and bringing employment opportunities to the area. The Wellbeing Farm is a brilliant example of how a hill farm that’s struggling to stay sustainable can be transformed into a thriving and innovative business.”
Wellbeing was up against three other farms — one in Hoghton, near Preston, and others in Kendal and Lancaster.
Ms Gaze, aged 43, and her 45-year-old partner Stephen Whitehead — who also runs the local butcher’s shop — have already received Gold Tourism status from the Green Business Scheme and the accolade of Best Use of Local Produce at the British Cooker School awards after only eight months of operating.
The couple have invested more than £500,000 into turning the farm into a venue for business events, such as away days, team-building and conferences in a stress-free environment.
They have also launched a concept of an Apprentice-style competition and bake-off days for companies.
Mr Whitehead had been running the 128-year-old farm before the couple came up with the idea of exploiting its stunning surroundings.
Ms Gaze said: “To be invited to the House of Lords to represent the North West is such an honour – considering we haven’t even been trading for 12 months as a business.
“I think it’s fantastic that a working farm is put forward for a ‘Rural Oscar’ as the North West Start Up representative. I believe The Wellbeing Farm’s model of focusing around sustainability and provenance of food is a winning combination and I look forward to the final in April.
The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through our small hard-working businesses.
They are now in their ninth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win.