Farm Fixer helps out at Derry equestrian centre

Mike Nurse, left, with wife Rhonda, children Cassy and Laurie, and The Farm Fixer Nick Hewer, pictured at their Lisdillon home
Mike Nurse, left, with wife Rhonda, children Cassy and Laurie, and The Farm Fixer Nick Hewer, pictured at their Lisdillon home
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Mike Nurse is a man who knows about horses.

Generations back his family owned and operated the biggest horse drawing carriage company in London - and, says Mike, developed cobble stones so those carriage pullers could keep grip on the busy streets.

Farm Fixer filming at Lisdillon Equestrain Centre as Justine O'Hara rides Bobby Sparrow Blue

Farm Fixer filming at Lisdillon Equestrain Centre as Justine O'Hara rides Bobby Sparrow Blue

It might flow in his veins, but the Ayrshire man’s love for the equine world has been carefully honed over a career spanning a quarter of a century, working, owning livery yards, training horses and riders, developing yards, selling horse products.

“I’ve worked with some of the best in the world,” Mike told the ‘Journal’ this week.

“But it was always our dream to come to Northern Ireland and open our Equestrian Centre.”

Six years ago, Mike, wife Rhonda, a Derry native, and kids Cassie and Laurie, did just that.

Daniel Coyle, Ireland's leading show jumper, in the new indoor arena'at Lisdillon Equestrian Centre

Daniel Coyle, Ireland's leading show jumper, in the new indoor arena'at Lisdillon Equestrian Centre

Setting up home in the tranquil surrounds of Lisdillon Hill, just three miles from Altnagelvin Hospital, Mike, who last year was the first man to ride a horse on Derry’s Walls in over a century, set about making the dream a reality.

“It’s been a long road and hasn’t always been plain sailing. We’ve been caught up with planning and red tape for around four years. But it’s always been the dream to do what we are doing now.

“We have got there, the place is now open for business, and work is just about to start on our four holiday cottages.

“That equine tourism side will be the main aspect of what we do in some ways, but the whole thing will work together.

“We are up and running a couple of months, and now offer stabling, training, riding lessons and a real five star hotel for horses and the holiday cottages will open next year in time for the City of Culture,” he says.

Determined to succeed, Mike and Rhonda found themselves coming to the attention of the producers of The Farm Fixer, a series currently running on BBC One, and featuring the know how of Lord Alan Sugar’s right hand man Nick Hewer.

The BBC says the show sees Bangor born Nick, return to his Northern Irish roots to “provide the strategic planning expertise” small farms “desperately need.”

Eight months ago, Nick and a production crew arrived at the Nurse family home at Lisdillon, returning to film on several occasions since - the show goes out on BBC One this Monday night.

“We have the utmost respect for Nick, and for his work and expertise as a businessman, “ says Mike.

But the two did not always agree on certain aspects of how to move forward.

“I think Nick was a wee bit frustrated that we had our deadlines and the they wanted us to bring them forward, to open this year. There was no difference of opinions, but we couldn’t rush what we are doing here.”

Viewers can also expect to see Mike have a different take to the presenter on one idea Nick came up with for the farm.

“Nick came up with the idea of us getting four wigwams, teepees, and charging £500 for children to come and stay in them.

“Like I say, we have the utmost respect for Nick, but wigwams?

“I say to myself, would I send my children to a stranger’s place, to sleep in a wigwam with three other kids that they don’t know, and pay £500 each for the privilege in this climate, and I’m talking weather wise and in a financial sense?

“Of course I wouldn’t. What do I want to sell, a holiday in a wigwam, or a stay in a luxury holiday cottage, with top class equestrian facilities on site? To me, there’s a simple answer.

“You know I could be wrong, but it’s just not right for what we are doing here

“Everything has been built to the highest possible standard, wigwams just seem to go against what we have achieved here,” Mike says.

Despite giving the wigwam idea the thumbs down, Mike says The Farm Fixer experience was a positive one.

“You’ve got to do these things, we all really enjoyed taking part and are excited about seeing the programme on Monday night. We have no regrets,” he says.

You can get more information on Lisdillon Equestrian Centre by contacting Mike on 07854696238 or emailing info@lisdillonequestrian.co.uk

The Farm Fixer airs on BBC One at 10:35pm on Monday.