Scope of economic activity
The ‘Mister What Directory’ was used to look at the scope of businesses in Marshfield. Whilst far from complete, this directory gives a useful idea of the wide range of activities represented in our parish and has been one source for the Parish Directory on this website. More than 50 businesses are listed: 13 involved in building works and refurbishment, 10 shops, repair garages and pubs, 7 in transport and haulage which historically has always been an important sector in Marshfield, 5 in Health and personal services. It is surprising that only 4 businesses are listed related to agriculture and agricultural services which may suggest many did not wish to be included. Finally there are many other businesses with only one or two representatives, ranging from marine services to office cleaning, and from web design to musical instrument repair.
A Local Economy
Talking about Marshfield as a local economy is not obvious when some people from the Parish may work as far afield as London or Cardiff. In addition, we buy many services from outside the village, as well as doing a lot of shopping in places beyond Marshfield. As such, we are far from being a self-contained local economy. However, many people do work and shop here. There are businesses located in the village and agricultural businesses in the surrounding rural area that serve both the local area and much further afield,. They range from the single, self employed person to corporate entities such as Windhager. Some offer local employment whilst others bring money into the community. The health of these businesses is therefore important to us all.
There is a new generation of young people coming up in the Parish who need to learn about the world of work and what it can offer them. Many, at school still, would like part time work but this is currently limited with waiting lists for some jobs.
Marshfield is a local centre, and we are fortunate to have such a good range of shops and services. People come from outside the village to use the post office, the shops, the surgery, the pubs, and much else that we as villagers rely on. We are benefitting from the money they spend because they are helping to keep these activities viable and available to us all. It was made clear, from all the businesses we have spoken to, that maintaining and increasing the attractiveness of Marshfield to people from out of the village is essential to their health. In turn, this health maintains the diversity of economic activity in the village and the consequent quality of life that we all get from living here.
A Thriving Centre
We need to keep Marshfield attractive to users of the shops and services in our centre but there are problems. Key amongst them are issues relating to servicing and accessibility of the centre.
No matter how hard the wholesalers try to be speedy, the servicing of the pubs and shops is difficult. Other vehicles can be stopped by the delivery vehicles; movement on foot gets disrupted; people who need to visit the shops by car can’t get to them.
The local shops are the principal shopping location for many elderly people in the village. Every effort is made to make shopping easier through, for example, delivery of purchases to people’s homes, and sometimes even unpacking them and putting them on the shelves. Nonetheless a visit to the shops is still something that it is good to do to see what is available, have a chat, and catch up with friends. However, there is a real parking problem during many parts of the day on the High Street between Sheep Fair Lane and the War Memorial, with competition for spaces.
People who can only drive there aren’t necessarily able to park near to the shops; the drop kerb pavements in the shopping part of the High Street often get blocked by cars. Both of these are real problems for the elderly, and for people with disabilities.
There are also concerns that some businesses are absolutely crucial and that we must not lose them. The Post Office, located in the butcher’s, is seen as a ‘draw’ to the village that has knock on benefits for other businesses. It has escaped several threats over the years but the fear remains that it may be affected by the same trends that are leading to loss of Post Offices in other locations. Other businesses also act as a draw, and all benefit from each other.
There are also business concerns about parking needed for hours rather than minutes. The Nelson, for example, has no dedicated space of its own. Others don’t have problems at present but fear for the future. As a result, there is a commercial case for thinking about parking provision as well as a safety and visual one.
Sole Traders, Small Businesses and Home Workers
Marshfield is affected by the national trend to more people operating their own small business from home, or working from home for other organisations. However, working at the kitchen table or in a corner of a bedroom often isn’t the answer.
Facilities such as bookable meeting rooms or small conference rooms can be needed, along with easy access to business service support: admin, book keeping, help with VAT although some provision does exist.
Poor broadband is already recognised as a problem, and is being tackled by a group of villagers aiming to secure the best possible outcome for the parish.
The original concept behind Home Barns was to provide properties designed specifically for home workers. In practice it didn’t work out that way but the idea is still sound.
The provision of ‘start-up units’ was examined as a possibility when the Sungard site was empty. Such a building could also have acted as a central hub with a ‘hot desk’ facility to rent by the day, rooms that could be booked for meetings, and a coffee machine to chat and network over. Unfortunately, the possible operator felt that the financial case was not strong enough at that time. The need is still there but that particular opportunity has gone.
Support for Local Enterprise
In this time of hard-pressed households and ‘two for one’ offers in supermarkets, it is inevitable that people from the Parish will take advantage of the prices that large suppliers can offer. We can help our Marshfield economy by buying goods and services locally whenever we can and there are ways to encourage customers:
- One idea that has been suggested is to have a local branding or logo that all Marshfield based enterprises can use so that we all know that their goods and services have a local provenance.
- On this website is a new Parish Directory, solely for Marshfield based activities. Local-Local are already doing this.
- Local businesses could help each other through some sort of regular forum where owners can come together to exchange ideas for mutual benefit.
Outside the Centre
The previous sections have mainly considered the economy of the village and some outlying premises but the village is set within a working agricultural landscape. There are still some 19 farms which have the farm house in the Parish. All bar one are thought to be owned rather than tenanted. Other farms and landowners own land within the Parish boundary including Jarretts (a slaughterhouse in Oldland Common) and the Badminton Estate. There are a few areas of land around the village classified as sites of special scientific interest.
The 1973 Parish Plan says, ‘The area is predominantly one of arable farming. The land immediately surrounding Marshfield has been graded by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as Grade 3 agricultural land with valley bottoms Grade 4. Farm holdings are generally fragmented, several being farmed from within Marshfield itself. A considerable area of land in the locality together with Home Farm situated on Hay Street is vested in the County Council for small-holding purposes.’
Since then the Council’s holdings have been reduced to Rushmead Farm and the allotments on A420. Home Farm is now known as The Old Manor House and its barns have been converted to housing.
The classification of the land effectively highlights that soil is not suitable for large-scale vegetable growing.
Some land is still owned within the village boundary for smallholdings: generally poultry, with additional land rented locally for sheep farming. There are several places in the village from which to buy fresh eggs.
Modern agriculture is generally inextricably part of the EU, with many farms of all sizes being reliant on EU subsidies. This is exacerbated by the power of the supermarkets over food prices, with dairy farms bearing the most immediate brunt of this. Cheap milk pricing combined with the TB threat, means that dairy farming is rapidly becoming uneconomic nationally. The notable exception to this in the Parish is Oldfield Farm, where milk produces Marshfield Ice Cream, a brand which can be found in outlets nationwide.
Livestock farmed in the Parish includes cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep and even at Motcombe Farm, alpacas, with arable crops including potatoes, rape, corn, barley and wheat. Since the 1973 plan, it is thought that the number of farms with livestock has probably decreased but that those which continue to have livestock probably farm more intensively.
The village provides a small outlet for meat products through Central Stores, the Country Market and Artingstall’s Butchers and direct sales from farmers to individual residents, but this is insufficient to meet the market needs of any individual farm.
There are no agricultural supply stockists in the Parish. CE Davis is an agricultural machinery dealer and service company.
Wet summers for the past 6 years have seriously impacted on harvests. 2011 provided a good harvest but the narrow windows provided by the weather for harvesting and drying made for hard work. While there is some sharing of machinery, the opportunity for more, particularly with regard to highly expensive harvest plant, is hampered by the unpredictable and short spells of dry weather during which everyone needs to harvest simultaneously.
Feed prices and energy costs are of significant concern. Attempts by local farmers to meet rising energy costs by installing wind turbines have not gained planning permission. Actual installations of solar power and heat exchange systems have been very successful with some biomass projects currently under consideration.
Rising diesel and petrol costs also cause a significant concern. This relates both to the cost of running farm machinery and to personal family transport from rural homes. For example, whilst taxis from farms to school are provided if necessary for children at school within the local authority area, transport costs for secondary school are significant as are general child/teenage logistics and other daily driving needs.
Diversification into areas other than agriculture is often required in order to supplement the uncertain income from farming. Being in an AONB, with tourist enthusiasm for Bath and Cotswolds, B&B and holiday lets are a useful diversification strategy for some. However attempts to think more laterally about other business opportunities have hit planning issues. Whilst there are few if any issues with the planning system for agricultural use, there are very high costs and barriers to changing the use of farm buildings. A system which was put in place to protect agriculture now has the effect of hampering its ability to adapt to survive.
Income from B&B/tourism was significantly down this year; it is felt this was driven by a combination of the Olympics, wet weather, the recession, an increased number of B&Bs and second homes being let as holiday homes. . Agricultural land essentially forms the “open spaces” of the Parish with the exceptions being the Withymead playing fields and the cricket club. Farmers are generally very tolerant of walkers and dogs, and are particularly generous when it comes to their fields being used for sledging on snowy days. Issues they face, from those walkers who are not well versed in agriculture, include:
- Worms from dog mess infecting livestock and hay.
- Sheep being scared by children and dogs, particularly an issue when they are moved from the shade on hot days.
- Permissive footpaths being understood to be moveable, depending on livestock requirements.
- A need for an on-line community news portal has been identified for some time and may be filled by the AAM website.