City ace from Beckenham quits capital for farm shop

Sarah Clout and her husband Gary Mercer at Holwood Farm

Sarah Clout and her husband Gary Mercer at Holwood Farm


A City worker is giving up his day job to run a farm shop business in the countryside.

Former software company owner Gary Mercer, 45, and his wife Sarah, 47, from Beckenham were given the go-ahead by Bromley council to turn the derelict 19th century weatherboard barn at Holwood Farm in Shire Lane, Downe, into a small business selling local produce.

They bought the building last year after initially looking for a high street delicatessen to sell farm produce. They are now working on restoring the building to open by Christmas next year.

Sarah said: “We frequently drive past Holwood Farm on our way to High Elms Country Park and Down House. Looking around the property we just couldn’t believe the potential.

“Although we have been passionate about food and food provenance for many years, until 2008 our careers have been IT based. We love shopping at farmers markets and farm shops but even though we live in the Garden of England we are frustrated that, unless you are prepared to travel a significant distance, you just can not buy the fantastic products that this region has to offer.”

They received planning permission in July for restoring and converting the derelict farm buildings into a farm shop and three houses. The couple, who have two sons, think the full scheme will take about three years but that the shop will be up and running in 2011.

Bromley councillor Richard Scoates said: “This is fantastic news for the residents of Downe. The shop will provide local employment, an extra communication hub and will benefit regional British farmers.”

Gary added: “We’re looking to offer the best value for money with prices that are often cheaper with comparable supermarket items.

“We will never ‘badge’ anything that is not ours. We will always inform our customers who made it and where it came from. It’s a huge challenge but it seemed like one of those life changing opportunities that you just can’t let pass by.”

Follow the progress of the project at

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