Smithills: from farm to fame

From small dairy herd to renowned local attraction – and now grocery delivery service, with the help of Mercedes-Benz Vans.

The hard times that helped the Grimshaws open their doors

Anthony and his young family moved to Smithills in 1986, with the ambition of starting his own dairy farm. It didn’t take long for his herd of 120 cows to thrive – but relying on milk sales alone wasn’t enough. By 1999, the supermarket prices had drastically declined and Anthony was forced to make a difficult decision – and although he didn’t know it then, it was a decision that would set his farm up for a very interesting future indeed.

Since the Grimshaw family had moved to Smithills, they’d been encouraged by Bolton Council to develop a visitor attraction alongside the farm’s hall and coaching house. And when the losses from their milk sales began to lead to financial issues, Anthony took the council’s advice, saying a sad goodbye to his herd and opening up Smithills to the public. But would it be enough to keep the farm in the family?

  

Carrying on through challenging times

At the beginning of 2020, Covid-19 pandemic struck many small and independent UK businesses to a devastating effect. Zoos and animal attractions across the country saw unavoidable losses due to the fact that they could no longer welcome visitors through their doors.

For Anthony, however, the pandemic presented a different kind of challenge. Local restrictions meant that many people in the area weren’t able to get their groceries in the way they were used to – and now, they were turning to Smithills.

By the time lockdown restrictions were lifted in the area, the Smithills milk delivery service was operating no fewer than 17 rounds each day and serving more than 4,000 customers. “The growth in demand was phenomenal,” explained Carl Grimshaw, Anthony’s son and part owner of the business. “We were struggling with the limited capacity of the vans we had, and we knew that we needed additional vehicles in order to keep up.”

That was where Mercedes-Benz dealers Ciceley Commercials came in. Having been recommended to the Grimshaws by a friend, the dealership was keen to help out this local business in its time of need, and quickly sorted Carl and his family out with a handpicked selection of Approved Used Mercedes-Benz vans. “We bought the first two there and then,” Carl says, “and after taking on another 300 customers, we went back for a third a week later.”

  

Nothing comes more naturally to Anthony Grimshaw than farming; in fact, it’s been his family’s business for over 100 years.

Today, Anthony is the proud owner of Smithills Open Farm, where interactive family fun is key to the business’s popularity. But life on the farm hasn’t always run smoothly – so just how did Anthony take the bull by the horns and make Smithills the pride of the North West countryside?

Fresh-produce farmyard fleet is a soaring success

Smithills Open Farm are now proud to boast a small fleet of vans comprising of four medium-sized Vito vans and one small Citan van – and the operation has kept on expanding, with deliveries now including ice cream, fruit and vegetables. “These vans are busy all day, not just in the mornings,” says Carl, “and they attract plenty of attention in their cow-print livery!”

From a working dairy farm to an ever-moving hub of activity, where children have the time of their lives meeting a menagerie of farmyard and exotic animals, families and schools learn from the Grimshaw’s prize-winning herd of Holstein cows, and local customers get fresh produce straight from a responsible and reliable source – Smithill’s Open Farm has come a long way. So whatever may be next for Anthony and his family, we’ll be there with (cow) bells on.

Making up the milk round

The Smithills team collect the milk for their sought-after delivery service

The milk of champions

The herd of prize-winning Holstein Cows produce up to 60 pints of milk a day

From troughs to tractors

Visitors to Smithills can get a glimpse of life on a real working farm

Animal attractions

Smithills guests can meet all kinds of animals – from cows to coatis!

Proud in cow-print

A Smithills delivery van shows off its unique cow-print livery

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