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Save Somborne Valley Research

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My name is Caitlin and I've started this fundraiser for my partner Tobias who has suffered a devastating loss to his small business due to a freak weather event. Did you know that the UK reports up to 35 tornadoes a year? I didn't even know we got them here until one ripped through Tobias's business site tonight (23rd October) and destroyed what he has built over the last 5 years.
Somborne Valley Research is a small, rural business which carries out horticultural research for companies testing new products e.g. looking for effective peat-free alternatives for growing plants and identifying the best-growing wildflower mixes for pollinators. He offers an affordable solution for horticultural start-ups seeking to gain credibility for their products.
Tobias is the most hard-working person I know and so humble about his achievements. He has poured countless hours into not only setting up his business but building the premises himself with the help of his equally hardworking and kind dad and grandad.
As a small business, he had to save as much money as he could, so when he decided to expand in 2020 by building a 68ft greenhouse which would cost £25-30,000 new, plus upwards of £10,000 labour costs, he instead found second-hand greenhouses advertised online and painstakingly disassembled them over tens of hours in freezing weather before reassembling the frames even more painstakingly in equally freezing weather once he got them back to the field he rents. The project was delayed due to Covid and fixing the glass into the frames was a job for this winter, so it is incredibly lucky that the tornado didn't hit once the greenhouse was completely finished otherwise the carnage of the fragile glass thrown around would have been very dangerous. However, the frames of the greenhouses he reused are ruined beyond repair and the base was built for the exact dimensions of these greenhouses, so he will now have to look into made-to-measure options to replace them which will be incredibly costly.
The force of the tornado was so strong that it pulled his polytunnel out of the ground in the middle - despite the storm plates it was screwed into which were buried 2 feet below the ground. This has caused significant damage to the metal and wood structure of the tunnel which will have to be replaced, as well as the plastic covering. The doors at the end of the tunnel where the tornado first struck were torn off their runners vertically and one of them has disappeared completely - an impressive feat for an approximately 1x2.5 metre thickly wooden-framed door.
I have been so proud to see how Tobias has built his business up in the time we've been together and I felt like crying when I saw his hours and hours of hard work destroyed in the blink of an eye by a terrifying force of nature. It is a massive blow as he had just been starting to take the business full time after finishing his PhD in horticulture, so come next spring this was going to be his main source of income. Now we don't even know if it will be able to reopen in Spring.
Tobias's only reaction when he found out about the damage was that he was so glad he had not been there with our rescue dogs, as he often is at the weekends - especially as the tornado ripped right through the section of the polytunnel where our Millie usually curls up on a deck chair.
His polytunnel and greenhouse were not able to be insured as they are classed as temporary, non-secure structures, so he has nothing to fall back on to rebuild. This is the very worst time something like this could have happened (not that we could ever have imagined a tornado tearing through the little field where he works in a small Hampshire village) as he is going into the quiet period that inevitably comes at the end of the growing season, with the added strain of the cost of living crisis, on the back of an already quieter few years due to the pandemic with companies not investing so much in research.
The time he will now have to dedicate to rebuilding (if he can even get the money for materials) will take away from the time he had planned to be spending earning a living in other ways over winter - or he would have to pay for the structures to be rebuilt by someone else and given that he was quoted £10,000 to erect the polytunnel (in 2018 prices!), this is just not feasible at the moment. We are not a high-earning household - I work as a Band 5 Speech and Language Therapist in the NHS and will be becoming a student again in January to retrain as a paramedic.
It would be heartbreaking if Tobias had to abandon the business he has poured his heart and soul into, in the field of horticulture which has been his passion since he was a young boy with his own allotment.
He would never ask anyone for money himself if he could possibly help it and I know that times are hard for nearly everyone at the moment, but if you could spare even a pound or two to help rebuild his business or just share this appeal, it would be hugely appreciated.


  • Matt O
    • £100 
    • 1 yr
  • Nicolai Vigneswaren
    • £400 
    • 2 yrs
  • Jean Farnan
    • £50 
    • 2 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • £10 
    • 2 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • £5 
    • 2 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Caitlin Moore
Tobias Lane

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