The owner of a country estate has opened up a series of walks across his land as he continues his drive to make it a restful and restorative place for the public to enjoy.

This year Rougham Estate near Bury St Edmunds has become a year-round attraction with an expanded café-restaurant and retail offering. 

Owner George Agnew - who is turning the estate over to a charitable trust on his death - has been working on a series of 16 walks which he has devised exploring parts of his heavily-wooded and picturesque land.

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The walks are being added to the estate website and enable viewers to experience them - even without visiting the site.

"Each film is the length of the walk - you can see the entire thing," explained George.

As well as the walks, the estate has made its retail offering year-round by opening the Garden Room shop - which has been very well received since opening.

Towards the end of last year Rougham launched Roots Café to replace its previous much smaller café which includes a large outdoor eating terrace and it was an instant success.

Work continues with a new sunken garden area which is being created with its own terrace at the front entrance to the café and shop.

The estate has run a popular Christmas shop for many years at Blackthorpe Barn which ties in with Christmas tree sales from its plantation - but that is seasonal and the new outlet means  shoppers can source house and garden and giftware as well.

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George admitted that they were initially overwhelmed by the popularity of the new café following its October 18 launch.

"Because we opened before Christmas at our busy time we were totally inundated with people and to be honest we struggled," he said. "We launched everything at the same time. Frankly, it was a bit too much."

But in January they were able to regroup, he said, and raise their level of service.

Since March the café has become a seven-day-a-week operation in response to high demand. It was closed on a Monday, but people kept turning up and had to be turned away,  explained George. 

With other seasonal offerings including a summer pick-your-own sunflower field and an autumn pumpkin patch the estate is proving a huge draw to families and walkers looking for a day out in the country.

"I think it's a combination of pent-up demand and also our location. It's just by our good fortune where we are located just off the A14," he said. 

Estate manager Simon Eddell said although the 3,000-acre estate had many aspects, it was at heart an agricultural estate.

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"We try to keep the emphasis on that," he said. "Sometimes, depending on where the commodity price is the farm is pretty significant."

Rougham is unusual in having double the national average amount of tree area - over its 1250ha, 300ha is woodland with a further 20ha devoted to its Christmas tree plantation.

Its main crops are rye (100ha), which is sold to Ryvita, and wheat (350ha) but it also grows winter and spring barley, sugar beet and oilseed rape. Across the piece, the soil varies from light and sandy to heavy clay.

Rougham is one of Ryvita's biggest single contractors and has supplied it for around 30 years - building up a strong relationship.

The farm business has its ups and downs - and diversifications help to cushion it during leaner periods.

The farm - which employs three permanent workers and two seasonal workers - doesn't have a reservoir and instead builds up organic matter and resilience in its soils to help crops survive weather extremes.

Overall, Simon oversees a workforce of around 39 - which rises to about 90 during its peak Christmas period, when it will sell around 4,000 trees - the vast majority of which go directly to the end user rather than to a wholesaler - meaning a healthier profit.

"Literally, it's cut and delivered straight to Blackthorpe Barn on the same day less than a mile from where it's grown and it's as fresh as you will get as a Christmas tree," he said.

But with the loss of farm subsidies, the estate has had to rely more on its other businesses. "We are having to do a lot of diversification to compensate for loss of agricultural support grants which we are all facing," explained George.

"We knew BPS (Basic Payment Scheme) was going and we needed to replace it," explained Simon. "There's an increase in overheads but we like to think we are quite strong in what we are doing and that we make a profit from it."

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Luckily, footfall has grown year-on-year with its public-facing commercial activity.

Among those helping to put the estate on the map are its events co-ordinator Amie Deane and Suzy Wright, a visual merchandiser who has also joined the team.

A series of workshops focusing on crafts such as dried flower arranging and willow weaving have been expanded to include the spring.

The new Garden Room shop - which is overseen by George's partner Ady White - features UK-made and recyclable and sustainable items where possible.

The success of the pick-your-own pumpkin patch has meant the area grown has risen from 3ha in the first year to 6ha the following season and then up to 12ha last year - producing around 180,000 pumpkins of many varieties. 

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The public greatly enjoyed the festival atmosphere, said Simon. Last year the farm had a go at combining the sunflowers and the plan is to sell bags of seeds for birds in the shop.

"We couldn't do pumpkins or sunflowers if we weren't farming in our own right," said Simon.

George pointed out with the war-time bombing of the main house which rendered it a shell, Rougham has not been encumbered with a lot of the costs of many similar historic estates, allowing it to grow in a different way. However, standing still was not an option for him.

He was "hugely keen" to encourage the public to discover and enjoy Rougham, he said.

"I have been told by people I'm mad doing this," he said. "Nobody does what we are doing - or few people do what we are doing. Most people want to retain their sense of privilege - 'get off my land' is the classic saying."

Things are changing - but in a sympathetic way. George has now officially closed the shoot on the estate - but only following the retirement of the dedicated and long-serving gamekeeper who ran it.

"Now I'm 70 years old and I'm finally getting my way," said George.

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As they raised the profile of the estate and became more public-facing, people were beginning to notice what they were doing, he said.

"People are coming here every day and they are thinking about us in a different way. We have deliberately raised our profile very consciously. We have just got a new website. We are making ourselves more interactive," he said.

"The trust already exists but will take over the entire place when I pop my clogs. At the moment it runs the forestry and various aspects of the estate. It's restoring Lawneys 14th century farmhouse which has been mothballed for decades."

The manor house - which was mentioned in the Domesday book - is just one of the estate's hidden treasures - it also has ancient pits which George believes would have been used to quarry for materials to build an ancient Roman road which ran through the estate.

"It's getting there. There's always further to go. I'm very driven by trying to get things more in the way I want to have them and it's what keeps me going. It's what gets me out of bed in the morning," he said.

"We get a huge buzz out of it. Every day is different."