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Guest blog: Kate's Country School

From time to time, we invite people to contribute to our blog. On this occasion we'd like to thank Kate Beavan who runs Kate's Country School, along with husband Jim, on their farm in Monmouthshire. The family first came to the nation’s attention after hosting Lambing Live for the BBC in 2010.

Families river dipping

Q. How did Kate’s Country School come about?

A. Kate’s Country School is part of our family-run, 300 acre, traditional mixed farm in stunning Monmouthshire. A farmstead has been here since the 12th century and we have many lovely, historic buildings including the classroom, set above the 17th century cider house. When originally thinking of diversification, courses seemed an obvious choice, combining the seasonality of farm life alongside our expertise and qualifications. Although hosting BBC’s first Lambing Live series in 2010 set our launch plans back, it provided a fantastic marketing opportunity with lambing courses now being one of the most popular. We also won a tourism award for promoting the breathtaking landscape, managed by Welsh farmers, to 3 million viewers. It's a beautiful setting: we have resident otters on the river, and Kingfishers nesting in the bank, providing a regular flash of colour.

Getting to grips with the Sheep Husbandry course

Q. Which are your most popular courses?

A. The courses that fill up the quickest are the lambing and cider-making courses. We have a new course starting in September 2017 called “A taste of the goodlife” and this has also drawn a lot of interest. It is a taster of all our courses covering livestock, wildlife, orchards, spinning wool, making preserves and so on. Team-building is also becoming popular, and was recently added to our portfolio of activities, following many requests.

Soldiers trying their hand at carding and spinning wool

Q. What type of people come on your courses?

A. The majority are smallholders or those thinking about the possibility of starting a smallholding. Others are veterinary students, new entrant farmers or people who simply want to try a new experience. Our cider-making course attracts a complete range of people and, as expected, is a boozy course!

Expect plenty of enjoyment on the Cider-Making course!

Q. What new developments are planned?

A. We are launching a new website later in 2017 and it will include "Really Rural Weddings" - an exciting venture that starts in 2018. We'll be offering quirky rural weddings and parties. Expect welly wanging, skittle, hog roast, live music, wild cocktails and, of course, cider. On a more sober note, we're also adding an advanced sheep husbandry course to our programme, to follow on from our existing courses, as many of our customers are asking for more!

Kate and Jim on their farm

Q. What's the most rewarding aspect of Kate's Country School?

A. It's got to be seeing people develop confidence in a new activity in the space of a day...even more so when students return year after year for further courses. Take complete novices on shearing courses - at the end of the day they confidently shear four sheep, and the results are faces beaming with pride. Our customers leave the courses knowing that we are just a phone call away for on-going advice. Jim and I have some fantastic friendships which are the result of people coming on our courses and enjoying a slice of rural life.