When dairy prices hit hard times, farmers William and Alex Wales began selling their milk direct to the public. Some dairy farmers were going out of business but the Wales' diversification into selling raw milk from a self-service shop in the farmyard was a masterstroke.
Their fully mechanised Little Dairy Shop in Binham, North Norfolk, had customers asking for more. Customers also wanted locally grown and produced food such as fruit, vegetables, cheese and butter. Demand increased, especially during the Covid epidemic from the start of 2020 to early 2022 when shoppers wanted to buy local.
Now the Wales' have diversified their farm income streams again. They have created a foodie destination as pretty as a picture postcard using top quality building materials in a stylish conversion of a former barn into The Parlour - a tearoom and cafe.
The Parlour, a Grade II farm building in the shadows of Binham's 11th century priory opened in 2022. It uses local ingredients to tempt villagers, holidaymakers, churchgoers and ramblers to eat top quality fayre.
A large range of breakfasts, lunches and teas are available, all sourced locally or made in-house. The Parlour is open six days a week from Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 4pm - but call first to check opening times out of season.
The Parlour is dog-friendly and has inside and outside space with a courtyard garden all with spectacular views just five miles from Blakeney.
The Wales family converted the redundant 17th century barn into the eatery which overlooks the stunning ruins of the iconic Benedictine priory.
The priory, one of the first religious buildings built during the Norman Conquest, attracts thousands of tourists a year but there was nowhere for visitors to relax with tea and cake - until now.
William and Alex Wales identified the old barn on their 1,000 acre Abbey Farm as a way of filling this gap.
Customers love the idea of knowing and seeing where their food is produced.
William and Alex were ahead of the ‘farm-to-fork’ curve first by selling their own raw milk since 2015 and now fulfilling people’s growing wish for food provenance with their cafe/tearoom venture.
It has been a massive undertaking and a big risk. But it changed everything. It was an instant success.
A government grant helped create the shop with all its self-service vending machines and an honesty box. And daily sales of raw milk through the shop topped 200 litres a day out of the almost one million litres of milk a year produced on the farm on Warham Road, Binham, in the shadows of the English Heritage-run Priory.
Part of the appeal of the shop was customers could see where the milk came from with the shop overlooking the grazing herd of 120 black and white Holstein Friesian cows. Sales boomed during the Covid epidemic as people avoided shopping at supermarkets and sought out more remote places to visit in the countryside like the priory ruins.
The Wales' latest venture, converting the Grade II-listed barn, took 18 months of jumping through hoops to meet planning and building regulations. The result is a stunning building which incorporates stone from the priory ruins in a perfect spot overlooking the farmyard of the family-run farm on one side and the priory ruins on the other.
William and Alex are the fourth generation to farm the land with their dairy herd while growing arable crops including wheat, barley, maize, Lucerne, sugar beet and silage. They see themselves as caretakers of the land until their son Oliver, a tenant farmer elsewhere in Norfolk, continues the family tradition.
The Parlour venture has created nine new jobs, both full and part-time, in a rural community where work is scarce. And the shop next door is expanding too with locally-produced fruit, vegetables, coffee, ice cream, jams, butter, and cheese – including Norfolk dapple made with the Wales' milk and Mrs Temple’s famous cheese made in the next village.
The Parlour uses pasteurised milk from the farm's cows. Raw milk can be bought from the Little Dairy Shop next door.
The Parlour, Abbey Farm, Warham Road, Binham, Fakenham NR21 0DQ