Organic farm and wedding venue secures emergency COVID-19 bank support
A Somerset farm business, wedding venue and B&B – currently hosting French and American tourists unable to travel home amid COVID-19 lockdown – has secured an emergency funding package from Lloyds Bank after it was forced to cancel or postpone hundreds of bookings.
Huntstile Organic Farm, based in Goathurst near Bridgwater, which normally hosts about 60 weddings a year in its idyllic grounds, has lost scores of bookings from its crucial summer trading period.
Owners Lizzie and John Ridout have also had to refund over 200 bookings at their popular B&B. Their accommodation is currently home to a French family and a Californian couple who were staying at the farm when COVID-19 travel restrictions began to be imposed. Lizzie and John are allowing the holidaymakers to remain in the accommodation for free until they can travel home.
The Ridouts have also had to furlough eleven of the farm’s 12 employees, who normally help to run the wedding venue, B&B and café.
As the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions became clear, Lizzie approached Lloyds Bank for support to help it trade through the pandemic. Huntstile – a Lloyds customer since it was founded almost 15 years ago – has secured an additional £190,000 overdraft along with a six-month capital repayment holiday.
Lizzie Myers said: “COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a worse time for us as we approach what is traditionally our busiest time of year. In a normal spring or summer week we’d be hosting a couple of weddings and dozens of B&B guests but the farm is now almost totally shut down and we’re heartbroken to have to furlough our lovely staff.
“We have been with Lloyds from the start and they have offered us amazing support to help us through this period. We have great comfort knowing they are right behind us.
“The one bright spot is the extra time we’ve had to get to know our French and Californian friends staying with us for a bit longer than expected, though of course we’re respecting all the social distancing guidelines.”
Vicki Crisp, SME relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, added: “Huntstile is one of Somerset’s most popular wedding venues, as well as a thriving B&B and farm business. It is usually a hive of activity at this time of year, so it’s distressing to see it temporarily shut down by COVID-19.
“But we know Lizzie and John well and are very happy to help support them through this period. They have shown vision and drive to build a fantastic business over the past 15 years and I’m confident they’ll be ready to prosper again when this crisis is finally over.”