Wiltshire Farm Stay celebrated its 30th anniversary with an afternoon tea party at Merkins Farm in Bradford on Avon yesterday, after generating £4million for the rural economy last year.

The company is a member-owned group of farmers and landowners who offer unique, rural, independently graded accommodation throughout Wiltshire.

Wiltshire Farm Stay members provide over 400 bed spaces throughout the county in both bed and breakfast and self catering accommodation, after developing their barns into holiday lets and turning their fields into narrow boat moorings.

Alongside the income generated from rural stays, guests in turn contribute to the local economy through spending on food, entertainment, travel and attractions.

Helen Rawlings, of Great Ashley Farm in Bradford on Avon, who started farming a flock of 250 sheep in 1992, said: “It’s all about seeing what you have from a fresh pair of eyes, looking outside of the box.

“More restrictions were being brought in on milk sales, we were working ridiculously long hours, we had a young family and I was working as a travel agent and something had to give.

“We now have a gold star rated B&B, a self catering barn that sleeps four, a horse livery yard with ménage and we are just about to diversify once more into beef boxes with our herd of Sussex cattle.

“I have found Wiltshire Farm stay hugely beneficial as I’ve met like-minded rural people, which provides the opportunity for business support and networking.”

Cynthia Fletcher, one of the founding members, and her husband bought a 90-acre beef farm in Devizes in 1973 and struggled to increase the income due to the farm’s size, before starting up a bed and breakfast and a caravan and camping site which has boosted their income.

Mrs Fletcher, one of the founding members of the group, said: “Without diversification into narrow boat hire, holiday caravans and camping, the farm would not have provided an adequate income.”

For more information, visit www.wiltshirefarmstay.co.uk