Houghton farm up for rural Oscar

William and Catherine Weightman of Down on the Farm, Stoneygate, who have been nominated in the Enterprise finlaist category of the Rural Oscars, pictured with one of their reindeer 'Twinkle'

William and Catherine Weightman of Down on the Farm, Stoneygate, who have been nominated in the Enterprise finlaist category of the Rural Oscars, pictured with one of their reindeer 'Twinkle'

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WILDLIFE attraction Down at the Farm is line for a prestigious award.

It has been nominated as a finalist in the enterprise category of the Countryside Alliance Awards.

 Owner Catherine Weightman, who runs the Houghton farm with husband William, said: “This award nomination means a lot to us and 2011 has been a great year.

 “Not only have we achieved zoo status, as a recognition of our educational benefit to the community and high standards of animal welfare, but we now have the thumbs-up from our many thousands of visitors who come through the doors – it couldn’t get any better.”

The inspiration to create the farm came after William sought a change of career from cattle herding, so that he could spend more time with his family.

The idea of a park was discussed, but it was only when the couple’s daughter Grace contracted a severe form of meningitis in 2006, that he decided to take the plunge.

As Grace recovered, William and Catherine felt they needed to provide their children with a safe environment to play in.

The couple then set about making Down at the Farm a safe fun place for all youngsters, who wanted to enjoy the countryside and learn about what happens on a real working farm.

In July 2007, after 12 months of building and landscaping, the farm opened its doors, focusing on seasonal events in the farming calendar from lambing to harvest,

It is on target to reach 60,000 visitors this year.

Catherine added: “We are delighted with the nomination and would like to thank our valued customers for all their support.”

Judges will visit all attractions before deciding the winners.

 Countryside Alliance regional judge Jill Grieve said: “These businesses represent the very best of the North East’s produce, enterprise and community spirit.

 “I congratulate the finalists on getting this far in what is an increasingly competitive awards scheme.

“I am really looking forward to getting out and meeting the people behind each business, and speaking to them about their valued contribution to our economy and communities.”

 Down at the Farm will find out if it has won in January.

Twitter: @davidallison88