2020 winners follow up: Chris Franklin, Caenhill Countryside Centre

Caenhill Countryside Centre’s aim is to educate. Offering a farming environment for children, Chris Franklin and his team work with schools, colleges, children with disabilities and many more projects to showcase what UK agriculture is all about.

Chris Franklin has captured quite an audience on social media. Sharing his videos about life on the farm, and particularly of his animals, have been viewed tens of thousands of times on TikTok and has followings in the US and New Zealand as well as his home turf.

His determination and dedication to his farm, his team and the children who visit exudes through his personality, as does his commitment to teach children about agriculture.

It was this which helped him earn the title of Digital Innovator of the Year award at last year’s British Farming Awards after being praised for his digital presence and adaptation following the onset of Covid-19 which drastically changed and improved his  presence all the more.

“We were very humbled to win the award and took it as a win for the whole of British agriculture,” says Chris.

“We are proud to have given people a lifeline during lockdown through our social media platforms and connect with the public to show them what agriculture is all about.”

Caenhill Countryside Centre is located at Marsh Farm, a 28-hectare (70-acre) farm leased by Chris and his family from the Wiltshire Council.

The farm has a wide range of around 200 animals and welcomes between 20 – 50 young people each week (before Covid-19 hit)  to experience and learn more about them. They also grow crops and wild flowers, keep bees, retain ponds, have a forest school and a small orchard.

Alongside the woodwork, metalwork and mechanical areas the next phase is to install a farm kitchen to teach healthy cooking.

The not-for-profit organisation is run by a very strong team of family members, friends and volunteers.

The project is led by Helie Franklin, Chris’s partner, who deals with the placements, schools and funding while Caroline Le Bourgeois, creative director, works on all things digital including vlogs, social media with Chris and fundraising through her art of the animals.

Kara Robertson, Chris’s daughter, looks after emails and public relations alongside her son Casey who helps with feeding the animals.

The centre has numerous volunteers who help with the students and day-to-day running of the farm and they also receive help from local farmers and the  community who provide support around hay making and times when tractor or machinery support is needed.

All types of young people visit Caenhill, from disengaged pupils placed by schools, children who might need special support and come to get a well-being experience with their carer, to college students wanting to gain experience of working on farms and in the countryside.

The centre helps a range of young people gain experience working on a farm, learn more about the countryside and farming and acquire crafting skills such as woodwork and metalwork.


Before Covid-19, Caenhill would have between 20-50 young people visit each week and, alongside these visitors, came donations and support from many in the community to keep the centre alive and active.

But once the pandemic gained momentum the centre took a huge hit. With no visitors and fewer donations than ever before Chris knew something had to be done, and fast.

“No students meant no funding,” he says.

“Social media had been key for us in the past, going viral a couple of times prior to lockdown. We knew this was a tool to utilise.”

“It became clear more people were seeing the opportunity to use video and social media in their business, education and well-being.

“The use of these platforms gave us larger audiences and a chance to use our knowledge and skills to provide education and wellbeing electronically rather than face to face’.

With Chris’s entertaining personality and the assistance of Caroline, the morning Rush Hour was born. Streaming live every morning on social media, Chris, with his farmer twang, opens the barn doors to show all the animals being let out for their daily roam. Different every day, Chris does not know who to expect first and every morning seems to bring a new character.

From emus, chickens, geese, goats, donkeys, pigs, peacocks and many more, each animal has their own name, and of course their own personality.

Meeting Ken the rooster, Wiggle the goose, Bobby the farm cat and others, the Rush Hour brightens up many people’s mornings.

“Going Live twice-a-day, the hits were up, we reached audiences worldwide and all of a sudden the level of generous donations increased from our digital  viewers across the world,” says Chris.

“Even though the Rush Hour video is something we have done for many years, last July one of the videos went viral and gained 2.2 million views. From this television, radio and magazines started to promote us. We have appeared on numerous television and radio stations here in UK but also the US, Germany and Australia’.

“Reaching more than 50 different countries, the messages of support we receive daily just prove how appreciated Caenhill is. We are often told the videos give viewers stronger well-being and seeing the animals cared for is heart-warming for them.”

“We receive many messages from viewers who say we have lifted them in hard times and it’s incredible for some to say one of our 15 second videos has changed their life.”

“We get donations from people supporting the project and we do shout-outs for people’s special occasions from the animals, Caroline and myself, all in return for donations.”

“We have done shout-outs for newborns and last year to a lady who turned 100. We have congratulated people on weddings, graduations, new jobs, anniversaries and other special occasions. They are fun and educational and the funding was a lifeline in lockdown due to the lack of visitors at the farm.”


Not being your average ‘working farm’, Chris always wants to highlight the importance of British farming and implores the high animal welfare standards we have in the UK.

“Our animals are stress-free, very well looked after and our viewers can see this on a daily basis through our videos,” he says.

“Farmers are versatile and many, including ourselves, have had to diversify to survive.

“A lot of projects like ours have gone due to Covid-19 and the running of Caenhill does cost a lot and is very time consuming’.

“It is great to now see people back at the centre. We have young people booked in, fans also turn up and book in to learn more about farming and donations are back strong.”

With his doors back open to the public, Chris continues his social media with enthusiasm. Boasting 74,000 followers on Twitter, 333,400 on TikTok, 35,000 on Instagram and 48,600 on Facebook, the centre has catapulted into the limelight and continues to grow.

“I couldn’t do what I do without my family and Caroline. To receive the recognition for all the hard work we put in was fantastic.

“We are proud to be part of British farming and it was heart-warming to have won the award.

“I would encourage other farmers to be proud and showcase what they are doing on their own farms’.

“Farmers always leave things to the last moment and we shouldn’t. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.”