Yes we have finally got there. After four years in gestation we opened for business on Spring Bank Holiday Monday 2 May 2016.
We held a wonderful launch party at The Café, Porlock Weir. Despite the rain, 140 of you turned up and scoffed the 400 oysters we supplied! It was a special thank you to a special community. You have given us all kinds of support from material to encouragement. In early March we invited you to give us loans of up to £1000 for 5 – 7 years. Just a few weeks later over 140 of you have granted us loans of well over the £65,000 target we had in our business plan.
And we have put the money to good use. On the beach we have installed 70 large metal trestles. On them we have bagged and attached 80,000 part grown oysters. The 80,000 oysters were delivered to Minehead Harbour. They weighed 3 tons and were sent round the headland to the beach at Redsands in 3 very heavily laden boats. In just 5 days (all the tide would allow us) we completed installing them on the beach.
This was achieved with the 5 part-time workers we have recruited. This immediately fulfils one of our principal objectives, namely the creation of jobs. Anecdotally we are also hearing that a lot of visitors have heard about the oysters and want to see or buy them. Raising the profile of Porlock to encourage trade is another of our objectives. And the press love us. Our launch party was covered by BBCTV Points West, Radio Somerset, all the local press and even the Daily Telegraph.
And we have bought a small boat to help to harvest the oysters. And a new building has emerged in Porlock Weir. Well to be more precise, we have renovated and equipped what was a derelict garage to become our depuration and packaging centre. Depuration is how we kill off any bacteria in the oysters before we despatch them. We are currently going through the process of having the plant licensed.
So we now have to make it work as a viable business. You cannot imagine the amount of hard work that has gone on to make this a reality. So it is more than pleasing that, judging by the interest and initial sales demand, we have started well. Indeed more than just well, the demand has been phenomenal. Indeed we may well sell out within the next week or two. We sold 3,000 oysters in just 3 weeks when we thought it would take 3 months. The restaurants just loved them and can’t wait to get more. It seems that the flavour is outstanding. So we have tens of thousands of oyster. growing on the beach, the first of which should be ready for sale at the beginning of September.
We’re delighted to share this article from our friends at the Somerset County Gazette: http://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/west_somerset_news/14469958.Oysters_back_on_the_menu_for_Porlock/?ref=rss&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
With our ‘open for business’ in early May fast approaching, we are really excited to have signed up so many of the very best Somerset and North Devon restaurants, pubs, hotels and retail outlets.
The Cafe – Porlock Weir
Millers at The Anchor – Porlock Weir
The Ship – Porlock Weir
The Oaks Hotel – Porlock
The Ship Inn – Porlock
Costcutters – Porlock
Culbone Inn – Culbone
Cross Lane House Hotel – Allerford
Reeves Restaurant – Dunster
Luttrell Arms Hotel – Dunster
Rising Sun – Lynmouth
Dunkery Beacon Country House – Wootton Courtenay
Royal Oak – Luxborough
Washford Inn – Washford
Budgens – Wheddon Cross
Notley Arms – Monksilver
Image credit: The Cafe at Porlock Weir
This week has been frenetic. We have installed 70 big metal trestles together with 80,000 part-grown oysters sent down from Scotland. It has been a titanic race to complete it while we have suitable tides. But the best news is that we have recruited four part-time workers; a huge welcome to them.
You can see what they were doing in these photos.
HUGE COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR THE PORLOCK BAY OYSTER VENTURE – £65,000 TARGET REACHED.
Within three weeks of holding the Village Hall meeting we had met our target of £65,000. And the loans are continuing to come in.
A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE. With this money and the Power To Change grant we are busy buying everything we need to open for business in May. We have just posted the signed 2nd copies of the loan agreements to the investors as an acknowledgment.
All investors will be invited to our special launch event at Porlock Weir.
We will be updating the website with our progress so watch this space!
On Wednesday 2 March 2016, Porlock Futures Community Interest Company invited local people to come to Porlock Village Hall to get the latest information on the Porlock Bay Oysters project. We also invited the community to loan money to the company, to help set up a commercial business.
Three years ago, a trial was begun to see if oysters could be grown again in Porlock Bay. This proved a spectacular success, with the project gaining a Category A classification from the Food Standards Agency. This is the best category there is, showing that Porlock Bay Oysters have the least amount of contamination, such as E.Coli. In fact, the location is one of only three sites in the whole of England and Wales to achieve this. After nearly a year of effort in preparing and submitting a grant application, the fantastic news came this January that the project had been awarded a £75,000 grant from the Power To Change Fund. The next step was to build on the exciting response from the community; over 120 people had previously expressed an interest in loaning the project £64,000.
So Wednesday afternoon came, a bitterly cold day. With 20 minutes to the start, the audience numbered only 30. But then the hordes arrived. We filled the Hall to bursting with over 120 people attending – absolutely wonderful. The mood was very positive and encouraging. Mind you, there were many very good questions. And the loan money is starting to roll in. Thank you to the people of Porlock.
Photo by Mark Stothard.
After all the delays and frustrations, we are now fully clear to open our oyster business in May. Lots of work still to do but it’s all now in our hands.
We have had a challenging winter with heavy storms and rough seas which have made looking after our stock and equipment somewhat interesting! However all has survived really well which is reassuring. The major impact has been on our Deep Water Trial where we were delayed in getting equipment and stock into the water because of constraints on the delicate boat operations.
The final step was getting the grant from Power to Change of £75,000, the first part of which is now sitting in our bank account ready to fund the initial investment.
So what happens now? A host of things, which will become increasingly visible to everyone:
- Set up the operations building at Porlock Weir including the necessary equipment. Planning permission is in place and all design work completed so we are ready to go on the building work itself
- Hold a community meeting on 2nd of March when we will bring everyone fully up to date on our status and plans, set out the loans terms and process for those who wish to participate, answer any questions you may have and gather any views or suggestions
- Raise community loan finance in March
- Begin purchase of additional stock required for 2016 and beyond
- Purchase additional equipment for growing and looking after operational stock which is significantly higher than we had for the trial
- Signing up our initial customers, with priority being given to our local market
- Using oysters to actively differentiate and promote the Porlock area and encourage growth in tourism and hospitality
- Recruiting additional resources
- Planning our launch event
This project has been brewing for a long time – much longer than we originally envisaged – and its great to now be free to actually get started. The goal is to make a major difference to Porlock and our local economy and we are confident that with community support this can be achieved for the benefit of us all.
Particular thanks should be given to those who have helped us achieve our initial goal of reinstating Porlock’s traditional oyster business. They are:
- Exmoor National Park
- Shellfish Association of Great Britain/Fishmongers Hall
- Porlock Manor Estate
- Porlock Parish Council, and
- Power to Change
However the main thanks go to you – members of this community. When I talk to people from other places they routinely say “we couldn’t do that here” or “we wouldn’t get the community engagement and support” or “no one here would take a risk”.
Those of us working on the project recognise and have really appreciated your engagement, ideas and support and want to make sure you all remain fully involved as members as we seek to successfully develop this business for the benefit of the whole community.
We are holding a community meeting at Porlock Village Hall on Wednesday 2 March 2016 at 2.30pm.
We will explain our recent progress, the success of our grant application and our exciting plans for the sales launch in May this year.
Come along and be part of this great Village project.
Hello everyone. We had our assessment visit yesterday from Power to Change and they confirmed we would be on the agenda for their grants meeting on November 25th. The team that came down will put together their assessment and recommendation for the committee and we will not be involved in any presentation or discussion.
It is still hard to read where we are. It was a good positive meeting clarifying various points and suggesting we add a bit more detail behind some of the finances to show figures are not just plucked from the air! For example, we need this much for stock to buy this many oysters of this size at this cost and where the cost figure comes from. Nothing that gives us a problem.
They didn’t raise any substantive queries or appear concerned with any aspect of the bid so it’s fingers crossed. It is however a competitive process and some ‘good’ bids won’t get through.
A quick update for you – we will be having an assessment visit from (hopeful) funding partners Power to Change on 13 October. As we understand it, the visit will enable our funding bid to go to their November grants meeting and we should know the outcome by late November or early December. If all goes well, we should be in good shape to open the business in April.
Meanwhile, we are researching a ‘plan B’ in case the above ‘plan A’ fails. We are hopeful of funding from PTC but our chances are difficult to assess. We will need grant funding from somewhere so that we have sufficient capital and, if things go to plan, so that we can cover loan repayments from profits.