Solid fuel in Dumfries and galloway
Enterprising angler Martin Phipps, whose dream move back to his Scottish roots was shattered by a devastating back injury, has turned a lifelong hobby into a new business, with the help of national charity Shaw Trust. Martin, who feared he would be stuck on Incapacity Benefits for life, has launched his own worm farm to supply fellow fishermen all over the world. "I feel absolutely wonderful," said delighted Martin, 49, who launched Dunscore Worms 5 years ago. "I've found the perfect niche for me. I've got my own business, doing something I love, in the beautiful outdoors. I wished I'd found Shaw Trust and done this years ago."
It was Martin's mum, who still lives in Canterbury where he was born, who spotted the advert for Shaw Trust, which is the UK's leading provider of employment services for people disadvantaged in the labour market due to disability, ill health or social circumstances. Martin and his wife Shirley had moved to Scotland back in 2003 for a new life in the area where his gran came from, and Martin was happily working as a bus driver when disaster struck two years later.
Martin, who was finding it increasingly difficult to cram his six foot seven frame into the cab, was on holiday doing up the kitchen at his Dunscore home when he was floored by an almighty pain. "It turned out to be a prolapsed disc, but all I knew was that it hurt, big time," he recalled. "I lost all feeling in my legs and the doctor warned me I wouldn't walk again without intervention. I was rushed to the Western General for an emergency operation."
At first Martin was in pain, but pretty optimistic as he recovered at home. "I was quite happy, because I got benefit help and thought I'd get heaps more time for salmon fishing," he admitted. "We're in the most beautiful area, with the southern uplands on our doorstep, and plenty of opportunity for shooting and fishing. That's why we came here." But a life on the end of a line soon began to pall and Martin, who has worked all his life in a variety of active careers, yearned to be able to get back into employment.
He knew doctors would never give him the go ahead to go back onto the buses and he worried that no employer would look at him twice once they knew he has to use a walking stick and take frequent back rests. He was casting around for a way to go self-employed, when a riverbank pal suggested they restock at a nearby worm farm. Martin already has 10,000 little wrigglers, busily breeding like mad at his worm farm. Orders for logs are also coming in, and Martin is planning to diversify even more. "I'm already ready to open a fishery, which will go hand in hand with my worm farm, and I'd love to launch fuel supply business a bit further down the line, because it was a career I loved back in Kent," he said.