When you first visit Great Grounds in Dilhorne in the Staffordshire Moorlands, you can’t quite believe what you are driving in to.
As you drive up and park close to the converted agricultural building you get sight of a herd of alpacas and get the feel of a location that is something out of the ordinary.
Originally a landscaping and ground maintenance business, Great Grounds was started in Stockport in 1983 by Tony Millar. Tony’s wife Julie joined the business in 2005 and by 2008 the business had started to work more with schools an education, teaching children and teachers to make the most of the environment.
Their son Mike, a talented joiner and wood crafter, is responsible for the operational side of the business.
Gradually as the business expanded, the couple were looking for larger premises and site around Stockport. As prices were at a premium in Greater Manchester, they widened their search to within one hour of Stockport and eventually came across a farm in Dilhorne. It needed some work but had all the necessary basics including a house and large outbuilding, all set in 25 acres of land including ten acres of woodland and a pond.
After moving to Dilhorne, one of the first calls Tony made was to Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce.
Tony said: “The Chamber were a huge help from the outset. We secured Green Bridge funding toward the conversion of the outbuilding, formerly used for livestock, vehicles and storage, in to offices, training rooms and an event venue.
“From then on we have had great support from the Chamber which has resulted in some really useful connections. We’ve even hosted two Chamber events here.
Julie added: “We’ve been made to feel really welcome here, it’s a really friendly area. We are proactive in keeping business local and like to buy all our goods and services locally wherever possible.
“Everyone who visits us here is taken by surprise by the facilities and what we have to offer. We’ve made great strides in raising our profile with business and the education sector and have a lot to thank the Chamber for in helping with that.”
The event space utilises some quite quirky recycled materials with the huge fireplace made from crane ballast stone and tables made from cable drums. As you drive through the wooded entry road you see the impressive converted outbuilding and park next to an enclosed field, home to a small herd of alpacas.
Tony added: “We feel like we have chosen a great place to develop our business now belong to a very welcoming support network to help us achieve our growth ambitions.”
Photo: Julie and Tony Millar