Travel beckons for ambitious young farmers

Rachel Billington and Simon Bonner receive their John Platt Travel Scholarships from Keith Thomas and Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David at the Cheshire Show.

Rachel Billington and Simon Bonner receive their John Platt Travel Scholarships from Keith Thomas and Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David at the Cheshire Show.

Two ambitious young farming entrepreneurs are looking forward to global travel thanks to a scholarship run by Reaseheath College and the Cheshire Agricultural Society.

Rachel Billington and Simon Bonner were presented with £2,000 John Platt Travel Scholarships during the Presidents Lunch at the Cheshire Show on Tuesday. Rachel will use her scholarship to help her gain a professional qualification from Leith’s School of Food and Wine, London, and has a long term plan to  eventually  run a cookery school which will promote British agriculture and the food chain, from field to fork. She will also use her award to travel to other farm diversification schemes.

The 25 year-old is a product development technologist with Goodlife Foods, Warrington, a food manufacturer for major retailers. She previously studied at Harper Adams University for a BSc (Hons) Degree in Agri-food, Marketing and Business Studies and is current lady chairman of Congleton Young Farmers Club. Her family have a dairy farm in Siddington near Macclesfield.

Rachel said: “I am delighted to receive the scholarship. It will give me a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and to meet others who are successfully running on- farm diversification businesses.”

Simon, 26, is assistant herdsman at Bankhead Farm, Broxton, a 240 cow, autumn calving, pasture-based dairy farm on the Bolesworth Estate. He will use his scholarship to visit New Zealand and Ireland to compare pasture-based dairy systems with those in the UK, in particular examining the opportunities and constraints for wealth creation and profit from grass.

Simon has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Agriculture with Countryside Management and worked on dairy farms in New Zealand after graduating. He also spent a year with Rhys Williams, one of the UK’s leading exponents of milk production from grazed grass, who farms near Aberdaron in north west Wales.

Simon comes from Hale Barns, Altrincham, and has always wanted to farm although he does not have an agricultural background. He said: “It’s an honour to be awarded this scholarship. I plan to use the opportunity to enhance my knowledge of the pasture-based dairy industry and learn how to get the best from grass.”

The John Platt scholarship is in memory of John Platt, a former Chair of Reaseheath Governors and former Chairman, President and Honorary Life Warden of the Cheshire Agricultural Society.

Presenting the awards, Cheshire Show Director Keith Thomas said that both Rachel and Simon had been outstanding candidates and had shown the drive, ambition and desire to seek out new information and technology which would benefit the Cheshire farming community.

The John Platt Travel Scholarship is awarded annually and is open to young people from a rural background who live or work in Cheshire. Applications are being taken for next year.

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Reaseheath College building dedicated to visionary governor

Reaseheath College’s newest halls of residence have been officially dedicated to the man who helped to make the college a leader in vocational training.

Platt Hall has been named in memory of John Platt OBE, the former chair of the Nantwich college’s Board of Governors, who died two years ago at the age of 82. John was Chair of governors for 14 years and a governor for 20 years, during which time he spearheaded over £50m of capital investment on campus

Platt Hall, the latest new build to be completed, opened to students in September. The £6 million building, which has 150 en suite bedrooms including special provision for students with disabilities, bring the total of student rooms on campus to 685.

Construction of the next project, an £8.5 million national centre for horticulture and environmental management, starts shortly.

Describing John as a visionary and inspirational leader, Chair of Governors Emily Thrane said: “John was a true gentleman and a lovely person. He left an enormous legacy at Reaseheath and his spirit will remain in these wonderful facilities. John planted seeds and ensured his vision would endure by giving us self belief and perseverance. He also inspired great loyalty from everyone who worked with him.”

A plaque was unveiled by John’s daughter, Joanna Lomas, and an oak tree germinated by Reaseheath’s horticulturists was dedicated by his son Jeremy Platt.  The building was blessed by the Rev Peter Mascarenhas.

Joanna, of Tarvin, said: “Platt Hall is very impressive. Dad would have been so proud.”

In addition to his support of Reaseheath, John ran a dairy farm at Lostock Gralam and was a leading light in Cheshire’s agricultural community. He was Chairman of Cheshire Agriculture Society for almost 30 years and played a leading role in running the Cheshire Show.

His legacy lives on in the John Platt Travel Scholarship, which enables young people in Cheshire’s agricultural and land based industries to widen their experience through travel.