A racing yard at Otterburn, set up as a farm diversification scheme, is celebrating its successful expansion with the support of a grant from a European rural funding scheme.
The LEADER programme grant, worth £9,035 and amounting to 40 per cent of the total project cost, has helped Girsonfield Stud & Racing to create jobs, increase the number of stables, improve their training facilities and care of the horses with new rubber mats and a new horse walker.
Owner Susan Corbett said: "The funding from LEADER has really helped us up our game and improve the facilities for the horses. We now have 32 horses in training, from only eight when we started the training yard four years ago. We have had 12 wins and 24 places since April, both on the flat and over jumps, and we are currently in the top 10 per cent of jumps trainers in the UK.
"I am very proud of our success and we have expanded our staff from four last year to eight this year. We have a very young team with my son James as the yard jockey and Dillan Hurst our amateur jockey. Most of the team have come here straight from racing school and we have a great team in place."
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, attended a celebration event yesterday along with racehorse owners and members of the Northumberland Uplands LEADER Local Action Group (NULAG).
He said: "As a keen jockey myself, I was delighted to be able to celebrate Girsonfield's expansion as a result of a grant from the LEADER programme. It is vital that rural businesses like Girsonfield are able to keep improving and expanding, and I have no doubt that the superb new facilities at the stables will bring continued success to Girsonfield."
NULAG chairman Terry Carroll added: "Girsonfield Stud is a fine example of a rural business looking to develop and grow, assisted by some grant aid, and so sustain the vitality of Northumberland's economy.
"A wide range of other rural businesses have been helped in the current LEADER programme. We are hopeful that a similar, locally-driven programme can be developed for the post-Brexit era to maintain this vital source of support for rural businesses."
Grants are available to improve the productivity of farming, help small businesses to grow, support rural tourism, develop our culture and heritage as well as provide rural services.
The local ward member, Coun John Riddle, said: "Northumberland communities are being urged to make the most of grants available in coastal and upland areas before we exit the EU. LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs) in Northumberland Coast and Lowlands and Northumberland Uplands are keen to make sure that communities, farmers, foresters and small businesses make full use of the funding still available to them.
"The team is particularly keen to to hear about new project ideas that create good jobs or that support and enrich the lives of rural communities and can be delivered by December 2018."
The eligible funding area includes Alnwick, Berwick, Morpeth, Amble, Wooler, Rothbury, Hexham and Haltwhistle, as well as the Northumberland National Park area and Northumberland Coast Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which stretches from Berwick to the Coquet estuary, including Holy Island.
Anyone with an idea for a project or who wants to find out more about LEADER funding can contact Gill Cowell, the programme officer on firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to a local NULAG member. More details are available on the LEADER website - www.nuleader.eu
The LEADER scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) manages the LEADER scheme nationally and will make the payments to successful applicants.