HOME END FARM
1987 – 2021
I moved into Home End Farm in the mid 1980’s. During the 1970’s this former hop farm had been sold and the land and buildings split up. The hop kilns were now four homes and a stone barn had been converted into a house. My property was the original Grade II listed Tudor farmhouse, some old stables and a barn – which was really only fit to be used as a makeshift garage, on 2 ½ acres of agricultural land.
I had two young children and working from home seemed like the best option. A previous owner had, I was told, worked a successful market gardening business here, and had sold his tomatoes and other vegetables on the roadside. But my skills didn’t stretch in that direction. I’d been an English language teacher for many years, and I started a business providing English courses for overseas children who were either entering mainstream private education in the UK or for those who just wanted a safe and rural English language holiday.
The business took off and Home End Language School was born. At first the school was registered as a Children’s Home, but we eventually gained recognition from Ofsted and became a registered school with the Department of Education. We taught and entertained small groups of children aged 8 -14 years from many different countries, who mostly stayed with local families and on farms nearby and came to Home End Farm for lessons and activities everyday. It soon outgrew the rooms available in the house itself, and the barn, a ramshackle affair held together with a patchwork of old doors and rusting corrugated metal, needed a make-over. Planning permission was sought and with a successful outcome the barn was repaired and restored, keeping the big old double doors and replacing the facia wood. The house and its environs is Grade II listed. I have many friends from the teachers and host families and former students (all grown up now, many of them still in touch and many with children of their own) from the days of Home End School.
By 2003 my own children had grown up and left home and I felt ready for a change. I wanted to run an art gallery, and at first I toyed with the idea of selling up and buying a retail unit with accommodation. But I wasn’t ready to leave this lovely old house yet …. and after discussions with the local council I applied for a change of use for the main barn from Language School to Art Gallery, with a small coffee shop to attract visitors. BLUE-GINGER opened in 2004.
It wasn’t long before I was approached by artists needing workspace. A painter , Hani, set up a studio in one of the renovated stable rooms for two years, and when she left a silversmith who had participated in the annual Herefordshire Art Week open studios with us, stayed on and rented the workshop until 2020. That was Carol James of Silverfish Designs.
It became a hub for local people and artists alike.
Many friendships have been made and the events have kept the gallery buzzing. There was a series of Singapore Suppers held on a regular basis over many years, evening bee talks by author Bridget Strawbridge and Robert Cross , the Chairman of the Herefordshire Beekeepers, Polly Higgins the charismatic eco lawyer, spoke here about climate change, evenings of classical guitar recitals , a folk night with visiting American musicians, the local acapella band performed, book launches for local and national writers. Talks and events by artists and illustrators, both local and national, including Jackie Morris of ‘The Lost Words’ fame., and our local magical glass wizard, Tamsin Abbott . Japanese tea ceremonies and kimono demonstrations, events with visiting Tuareg artisans from Timbuktu in Mali, Italian for Fun, Singing for Fun, Creative writing, the annual creative Marquee of Making - a fest of arty-crafty workshops……. to name but a few. The inauguration and ten years of the Cradley Small Business Breakfast, a support group for the many local people already working from their rural homes was chaired every month by Miles Meager, of Mi-Frame picture framing, early in the morning before the gallery opened. We met once a month for 10 years before we moved it on to other organisers and another venue. We had play readings by the local Cradley Players, and a brilliant performance of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to accompany our Alice in Wonderland exhibition with speakers who were experts on Lewis Carroll: Mark Russell Richards and John Vernon Lord.
There was also about 15 years of our annual charity auction of small pieces of artwork donated by our artists which has raised over £34,000 for Acorns Children’s Hospice in Worcester.
Over the 35 years I’ve been here the 2 ½ acres of land still attached to the property has provided a home to old ponies, donkeys, goats and kune kune pigs. And at times when the resident animals were few and less able to eat the grass, there were always sheep, Dexter cattle and the odd pony who needed temporary accommodation.
I’ve rarely gone seeking new artists to be a part of this community – once the main gallery and coffee shop were open we became a magnet for local artists and craftspeople looking for an outlet and workspace. And the artists’ community are very strong in supporting each other and generous in recommending each other to new venues. Luckily we are situated on the main Worcester to Hereford road, about 12 miles from junction 7 of the M5, and the road is the main route for many visitors to Wales and the annual Hay Festival.
Signage brought in lots of customers who then became regulars and who, during the 2020 year of lockdowns, have become loyal social media followers, and customers for the website shop (started in March 2020 When the gallery closed under Covid restrictions) have hailed from the North of Scotland to Cornwall, with many international customers also finding blue-ginger gallery on the internet.
Being midway between Worcester and Hereford and near to the Malvern Hills made the gallery a popular meeting place and I was often asked to host business meetings. In general, collaboration with the local artists exhibiting in the gallery and the supportive sharing of information, has increased the customers base for all of us.
The school (1987 – 2003) and the blue-ginger gallery (2004 – present) both started from scratch in the old farm outbuildings. Now it’s time for me to move on and I’d love it if someone were to find as many possibilities for working from home and developing their own business as I have.
If you’ve got a good idea- go with it!
People loved coming to visit the gallery and some just came to see the kune kune pigs and scratch their tummies. The food business developed with the needs of the customers, and the coffee shop gradually catered for every kind of diet with cakes and simple snacks that were memorable and occasioned return visits. The gallery is registered for Business Rates, but as we fall within the remit of a small rural business, I’ve always been exempt from business rates so far. A great advantage when compared to the high business rates in our local market towns.
Home End Farm
For Sale through Allan Morris Estate Agents