Destination Ireland

When a Cheshire couple relocated to the Republic of Ireland all did not go to plan initially, but their combined determination and hard work has resulted in a lifestyle that many will envy. Now they are keen to let other Cheshire families and company owners know about the opportunities that exist across the Irish Sea to enhance both their family breaks; their hobbies and outside pursuits and their businesses writes Matt Robinson.

John Hewitt had enjoyed a successful career in business development for more than 30 years. His wife, Andrea, also enjoyed a successful management career herself including the position of duty manager at Bolton Town Hall.

In 2006, when he was offered a business development position in the Irish office of a French-owned ‘Cleanroom’ company, John and Andrea decided to take the opportunity to relocate to County Sligo in the north west of Ireland.

Knutsford-born John and Alderley Edge-born Andrea (nee Swain) very quickly settled in to enjoy their new lifestyle. Andrea secured a good job with a major pharmaceutical company in Sligo City only 30 minutes from their new home “We both came from small Cheshire villages where everybody knew your name and we had space as children to play freely. I found this area of Ireland to be a quieter version of where we grew up and I simply fell in love with it. Fortunately, so did Andrea.”

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Being keen golfers, it didn’t take them long to join local clubs and to meet new friends and business contacts.

Unfortunately, in 2009, John’s employers closed their Irish office and, at the age of 58, he was made redundant “I realised I was not likely to get another job. I was determined not to “sign on” so I harnessed my experience and contacts and put them to work in a different way.”

In March 2009 he started his own company, John Hewitt and Associates, to provide business development support to a group of world-class companies who all look for opportunities within the same business sectors but who do not compete with each other. “My services are primarily tailored to meet the needs of pharmaceutical, electronic and health care clients, and we operate throughout the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

“I provide the same service as an in-house sales team or a business development manager but on a shared basis. This means that in a time of cut backs I can provide my clients with access to my networks/data base and customer contacts for a fraction of the cost of employing a full-time person, whilst still maximising every opportunity.”

What are John’s plans for the future? “To gain more clients and to expand my network with people who can develop with, and benefit from my ideas. As my customer base continues to grow I can then look to employ additional people to work with me.”

John and Andrea had bought an almost derelict cottage in the area years earlier. “We bought it in 1997 to restore in preparation for our retirement here in 2020. In 2006 the opportunity arose for us to move here permanently and as it turned out it has been a most successful move for us. I can work and travel from here easily [London by 10.30 AM].

‘Home’ is now Ballincurry, a collection of 14 houses, with the nearest neighbours being a quarter of a mile away “We have access to world-class golf course – parkland and Links – unlimited fishing places and fabulous scenery and, at night  the only electric lights we can see are at Knock Airport on top of the hill.”

Knowing just how popular equine sports and pastimes are in Cheshire, the first of John and Andrea’s contacts they are eager to introduce us to are Julia and Simone Hession, owners of the popular Woodlands Equestrian Centre in Tubbercurry in Sligo.

Woodlands Equestrian Centre has been in business since 1997 and offers private tuition in dressage and showjumping, from basic to advanced level, to individuals and to small groups. It is an AIRE approved establishment that attracts budding show jumpers and dressage riders from across Ireland and the UK.

Also based at the same location is ‘Beezies Stud’, breeding and producing performance Connemara ponies.

Simone Hession is a highly qualified BHSAI and HSI coach. A competition rider herself, Simone has show jumped since pony age and, as a dressage rider, has represented Ireland.

She rides ‘Beezies’ competition horses, competing from preliminary to Prix St George/Inter 1 at National level and abroad.

Simone has been trained by International coachs such as Conrad Schumacher and Ferdi Eilberg. She has also trained in the UK and Germany. Currently, she trains with Gareth Hughes.

Woodlands offers children and adult riders of all levels correct and safe tuition on well-trained schoolmaster horses/ponies. Training is available for the beginner, learning a new skill or hobby, to riders wishing to develop their existing skills further, including hacking on the mountain, through farmland and country roads to training successful dressage and showjumping competition riders on their own horses in order to improve horse and rider combinations and their competition results.

In addition to a competition and livery yard, facilities include an indoor arena and two outdoor arenas. The centre holds regular training and ‘Dressage Ireland’ shows, training clinics and demonstrations.

‘Beezies Stud’ has gained an excellent reputation and has already provided top quality ponies to a Cheshire family. Find out more by visiting www.woodlandsequestrian.ie

Any Cheshire family or business looking for ideas for their next exciting ‘activity’-rich holiday, conference or team-building venue will find an abundance of options from which to choose in this scenic part of Ireland.

Over the coming months John and Andrea will be introducing us to more of their contacts and recommending a range of hotels of all sizes; golf clubs and spas, more activity centres and places of interest.

Throughout his teenage years John was a keen member of Knutsford Flying Club in Cheshire. His pigeons competed in races from Worcester to Knutsford (60+ miles) and from as far as Nantes in France (450+ miles) with some success.

Despite his thriving business activities John has taken the opportunity to revive his interest in his former hobby.

After converting a former outbuilding into a pigeon loft he has joined a local flying club and has acquired pedigree adult birds from which he now hopes to breed champions of the future.

If he applies the same degree of passion and determination so evident in his business activities to his hobby then success is sure to follow.

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