By hook or by crook

A trout fishery in the Yorkshire Dales could be the catch of the day for a business person, says Christopher Browne
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The Independent Online

Angler Anthony Roberts is known for his deft touch with cast, fly and rod. He never has a moment, however, to enjoy his favourite hobby at the trout farm and fishery he owns in the Yorkshire Dales. "I'm too busy when I'm looking after the farm so I go salmon fishing during the vacations in Scotland and Iceland instead," says the 66-year-old.

Angler Anthony Roberts is known for his deft touch with cast, fly and rod. He never has a moment, however, to enjoy his favourite hobby at the trout farm and fishery he owns in the Yorkshire Dales. "I'm too busy when I'm looking after the farm so I go salmon fishing during the vacations in Scotland and Iceland instead," says the 66-year-old.

In 26 years of ownership, Anthony and his wife Vanessa have added a farm shop, delicatessen, restaurant, tourist centre and several outdoor pursuits to the farm and now want a spell of the quiet life. "It's been a labour of love for both of us and we are looking for a serious career-changer to buy the lease."

Anthony inherited the 1,000-acre Kilnsey Park, near Skipton, North Yorkshire, from his parents. During the Second World War, the farm's stream and local spring was converted into a hydro-electric plant supplying power to two local villages. After changing it back, the couple dug out two fishing lakes and built a fishery for filleting, smoking and processing rainbow trout. The fish were sold in their own farm-shop and to local pubs and restaurants.

The stream - or raceway as it's more correctly known - is now a fitness club for freshwater fish. "Rainbow trout like swimming against the current and as the stream travels very fast, it keeps them agile and healthy as they strive to go against the flow," says Anthony, who refers to himself as the farm's "ideas and chores" man and his wife the "driving force".

"Vanessa spends seven days a week running it while I work behind the scenes and take the fish and other products to the Yorkshire farmers' markets."

Not long ago, the Roberts added game to their product list after creating a lowland grouse shoot in Kilnsey Park complete with plucking operation. But the children's favourite is the red squirrel trail that weaves in and out of a colony the Roberts started after introducing a pair of Belgian breeding squirrels. "The reds were fairly common in the Dales until the greys drove them out, and turned them into an endangered species," says Anthony.

The under-12s can while away the hours and learn the gentle art of angling at a fun pool or venture into a barn and watch the unique aquatic double-act of Sidney the Sturgeon and Pandora the Pike in a giant indoor aquarium. The 15-pound Pandora enjoys a weekly diet of 12 rainbow trout when she is not gliding in and out of the underwater City of Minas Tirith based on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Two summers ago, visitors could see several scenes from another film, Calendar Girls, starring Dame Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, shot at the local pub and at Kilnsey Crag, overlooking the farm.

In the summer, the Roberts recruit their own extras to cope with the peak-time workload at Kilnsey Park. "Most of our seasonal staff come from an overseas employment website because it's very difficult to get any home-grown locals to work at the farm - most of them cannot afford to live in the area due to the high property prices," says Anthony.

This season it may be all-change down on the farm as the Roberts are selling it as a seven- to 10-year leasehold operation. "We want a less hectic life and time to develop the rest of the farm," says Anthony. This consists of almost 1,000 acres of conservation land, nature trails and orchid and wildflower-growing schemes - plus a small sheep- and lamb-grazing area that the couple sub-let to a local farmer for meat sold in the farm-shop.

"We are looking for a businessperson with experience of an outdoor operation like ours, a couple or family who have been successful in another business and want a new challenge or someone with money who is used to the town and city life and wants to uproot to the Yorkshire Dales. We would even consider splitting the operation in two, with one interested party handling the retail, fisheries and catering side and another running the trout farm, lakes, outdoor and tourist activities," says Anthony.

The sale of the lease is being handled by London commercial estate agents, Knightsbridge Business Sales, who are looking for a downpayment of around £350,000 plus a small annual rent.

But one day the Roberts may have a second option. "We'd like one of our three sons to take over, but none of them has shown any interest so far and they are all currently working in different parts of the world. It would be great if one of them changes his mind, returns to Yorkshire with his family and offers to take over just before the new lease expires," says Anthony.

www.kilnseypark.co.uk Knightsbridge Business Sales can be contacted on 01204 465888.

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