Cornwall has a well-deserved reputation as the perfect place for entrepreneurs to create a new life – and for no one is this more true than the Atherton family who moved 400 miles on a whim
One Saturday evening early in July 2004, Brad Atherton and wife Molly watched a TV programme featuring a short piece on Cornwall – they looked at each other and said: ‘shall we start a new life there?’
And they did. ‘Without any further ado we decided we’d give notice to our employers on the coming Monday, put the house up for sale and inform the schools that our three daughters would not be returning after the summer holidays,’ says Brad of their decision to move from Clitheroe, Lancashire.
While driving down, Molly turned to me and said “I’ve never been to Cornwall, what if I don’t like it? What will we do then?”
They had just completed the renovation of a historic property. On the Monday, Brad turned up at the photographic agency where he had worked for 17 years, in shorts, flipflops and a t shirt proclaiming: ‘The Beach or the Rat Race? You Decide’ and gave his two weeks’ notice.
‘My managing director’s response was “Well! I can’t stick a beach outside this building, so good luck”,’ Brad remembers. He gave back the company car, swapped his old Porsche and motorbike for a 4×4 and crammed in three kids, one dog, a guinea pig, wife Molly, and one bag each and set off for Land’s End at 3am on a Saturday morning with nowhere to live.
‘Moving to Cornwall has been the single most brilliant thing we have ever done and it’s made our lives just incredible, an unrepeatable experience that still gets better every day.
‘While driving down, Molly turned to me and said “I’ve never been to Cornwall, what if I don’t like it? What will we do then?” I replied “If you don’t like it we’ll drive to France, we know you like it there”,’ laughs Brad. They arrived at Sennen near Land’s End and booked into a caravan for eight weeks.
‘After bedding ourselves in we began looking around at different areas with a new home in mind,’ says Brad. ‘After lots of mooching around the county from Land’s End to Tintagel, we decided that St Just was the place for us. We found a really run down miners cottage in need of some serious TLC, our house had just sold in Clitheroe so we bought the cottage and spent 18 months renovating it and bringing it back to life.’ Alongside the renovation, Brad worked as head chef at the First and Last Inn at Sennen, Land’s End and Molly worked behind the bar. ‘These roles were always planned to be short term while we found our feet although it was great fun and we met lots of really interesting people,’ he remembers.
They went on to set up their own business and in Penzance, the quaint and quirky Banana Lilly’s (Natural and Organic Beauty Products) and created a successful design business (Atherton Design).
‘The business was going really well when we heard on the grapevine that St Austell Brewery were planning to close down the oldest pub in St Just (The King’s Arms) as soon as the current landlord gave his notice,’ Brad says. ‘ I contacted the breweries estate manager to put myself forward with a view to saving the run down venue and bringing it back to life. They invited me and Molly to interview at St Austell and straight away offered us the tenancy providing we both passed our personal licensing courses – which we did. We then purchased the pub inventory, closed the pub and began restoring some of its original features.’
Re-opening with a brand new commercial kitchen headed up by renowned chef Lyndon Baldwin they saw a 400% increase in revenue in just a few months compared to previous years. They also won numerous awards including Best Turnaround Pub in the South West 2010, Best Newcomers in the South West 2010, Best Newcomers in Great Britain 2010, UK Finalists at the BII Licensee of the Year Awards 2011 and were Highly Commended as the Best Tenanted Pub in the South West 2011
But they soon felt the call for a new adventure. ‘With nowhere else to take the King’s Arms we sold up a bought a new home in Helston where are still today,’ says Brad. ‘I’ve worked for a few different companies over the last couple of years but my current position is with Solo Building supplies and showrooms as their Design and Marketing Manager. Brad is also the Creative Director of Archmartin Design and founder of Keep it Kernow an ethical directory for businesses in Cornwall.
And their three girls are now all grown up – the eldest daughter Tilly, 26, is the proud owner of her own business, Square Professional Hair Salon at Discovery Quay Falmouth.
‘We have somehow managed to squeeze all this into the last 10 years and it’s been truly amazing, not one single day in Cornwall has felt like work, even commuting to and from work here is an enjoyable experience,’ he enthuses. ‘Moving to Cornwall has been the single most brilliant thing we have ever done and it’s made our lives just incredible, an unrepeatable experience that still gets better every day.
‘Roll on the next ten years in Cornwall, can’t wait.’
Favourite place to eat: The Coastguard Restaurant at Mousehole, awesome fresh Cornish produce, cooked to order, cooked well and served up in a lovely environment with views to die for and the chef (Lyndon Baldwin) we employed during our hospitality days now works there and he is awesome to say the least.
Favourite place to walk: Penrose Estate at Helston, right through to Looe Bar Beach and Porthleven, another world with no worries, just plod along the countryside and then hit another wow factor when you come out the other side and see the Atlantic across to Porthleven and Praa Sands, truly stunning.
Favourite beach: Porthcurno Beach is without doubt the most incredible breathtaking beach, it’s not just a beach, sometimes it feels almost a like a life-changing experience.
Favourite flavour of Cornwall: Molly: Roskilly’s Cream Tea Ice Cream Brad: Traditional Cornish Pasty
Advice to anyone thinking of moving here: Don’t over think your current situation; don’t allow possessions or positions to hamper decisions; be confident, be positive, be pro-active and enjoy the journey – it will most likely turn out to be one of the most exciting times you’ll ever experience.