Rosemary Hyslop is a modest, quietly spoken woman who, together with her late husband Tim, used to farm at Rathmell, near Settle. Yet, though she doesn't shout it from the rooftops, what she has to say is well worth listening to.
For a start, she has been offering self-catering accommodation at Layhead Farm since 1994 when the first two-bedroom barn conversion was completed. In 2001 she and Tim ceased to farm and today she has eight cottages with 20 bedrooms.
Second, she has a strong voice in Farm Stay UK, a co-operative with around 1,000 members who provide quality-inspected, bed-and-breakfast and self-catering cottage accommodation throughout the UK. For several years she has been the organisation's Yorkshire Director and in 2010 she became its national Vice Chariman. Given her experience – and her commitment to sharing her knowledge with others – it's no surprise that she is also a member of Welcome to Yorkshire's Advisory Board.
Promote local produce - save time shopping
One of the many things she has learned is that visitors like local produce and they particularly appreciate it if you can do some of their shopping for them. This is why Rosemary set up an armchair shopping service, The Trading Post. Visitors are given a list of tempting, locally sourced produce to choose from. Hand it to Rosemary by 8pm and the following morning, it's delivered to your door.
In this case, local really does mean local. There's jam made from plums and strawberries from Rosemary's garden (2013 was a particularly good year for strawberries), bread from the Olde Naked Man Bakery in Settle, readymade meals from Settle and meat from the Blue Pig Company three miles down the road at Long Preston. Other treats include Raydale Farm Preserves from Wensleydale.
"I like the thought of supporting local businesses and my visitors like the convenience of my doorstop delivery", says Rosemary.
She takes The Trading Post concept one stage further by offering to provide produce from her list on the day her guests arrive if they order in advance. Even if they don't, she provides a welcome basket on arrival.
For returning guests, it gets even better. They are provided with a hamper of bacon, sausage, marmalade, tea, butter and cheese when they come back for a return visit. Whether it's the lure of the hamper or not, repeat business at 64 per cent of bookings is very healthy. In some cottages it is as high as 73 per cent: "Quite often, everyone here is a repeat visitor," she says.
A passion for recycling
Those who return obviously appreciate another of Rosemary's passions – recycling. There are polite but encouraging notices in each cottage urging guests to recycle. Again, she makes it easy for them. In addition to a bin for general waste, each cottage has a bin for glass bottles and a third bin for plastics, tins and fruit juice cartons. Papers and cardboard are kept separately.
"We store the paper and cardboard and also all the other recyclable articles in a barn. About once a month, when we have a trailer load, we take it to the recycling outlets in Settle. The paper and cardboard goes to the local swimming pool, which helps raise funds to sustain this important local amenity. It's no great inconvenience for me and the vast majority of guests embrace the recycling concept willingly."
In further green moves, Rosemary has installed double glazing and is now looking to changing her heating system from oil to wood pellet boilers.
As she approaches the twentieth anniversary of the start of her business it is obvious that sustainable tourism works at Layhead Farm. Just look at the figures. In 2012 an average of over 28 weeks was booked in each of the eight cottages, not including short breaks.
Contact Rosemary Hyslop on 01729 840 234 or visit www.layhead.co.uk.