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Date Published: 11th January 2019
Somerset company that kits out top wildlife watchers is on the move
What have Bill Oddie, Simon King and a host of top names in wildlife watching and ornithology got in common… apart, of course, from their shared love of the natural world?
The answer is that all of them invariably venture out into the countryside wearing the purpose-designed clothing lines developed by specialist Somerset company Country Innovation – indeed, both Bill and Simon have played key roles in designing products for the company.
Now, after over 20 years since Maria Chilvers established the business – which today exports a large proportion of its products to countries all around the globe – Country Innovation is moving out of its Congresbury shop and into new premises at The Stables Business Park, near Rooksbridge on the A38.
Country Innovation will be taking three staff to their new premises in February, when they move into the 600 sq ft Granary suite.
“It’s a big move for us,” says Maria, “and we’ll be very sorry to be leaving Congresbury where we’ve made so many friends over the years.
“But ours is now almost entirely an online business: we really need premises where we can still have a showroom for those customers who drop in from all around the country (and even further afield) to see what we offer, as well as more space to focus on fulfilling the Internet orders we receive.
“The Stables gives us all the space we need, ultra-fast broadband to keep us in touch with our customers, and easy parking for distribution. It’s also only a few minutes from the M5 – making it easier for customers to see us – as well as for our suppliers to make deliveries.”
Country Innovation, established in 1996, is now recognised as the leading provider of specialist outdoor clothing for the large and growing number of people who spend their time watching birds and other wildlife – specifically clothes that don’t rustle when a person moves, can withstand the rain, have plenty of large pockets and are highly durable.
While it now has a wide range of lines, its success has been founded upon a material that was first developed in the war to keep RAF pilots alive if they had to ditch into the open sea: Ventile®.
This is a 100% cotton fabric with an exceptionally close weave which prevents the ingress of water. It also does not rustle when the wearer moves (as happens with man-made materials) and it’s breathable. “While it’s not the cheapest of materials,” says Maria, “it lasts for years and years. We have customers still wearing jackets that we sold them in the first years of setting up business.”
The product she first developed from Ventile® - the Rover jacket - remains Country Innovation's best-selling garment to this day, outselling their fleeces, boots, bags, hats and other accessories.
TV celebrity Bill Oddie has been a fan of Country Innovation products right from the start and has been instrumental in the design of many of the specific birding garments - and can regularly be seen on television sporting Country Innovation jackets. Simon King has also been involved with the development of the company’s “Linnet Jackets” and a £10 donation is made to his wildlife charity, the Simon King Wildlife Project, for every jacket sold.
TV cameramen and professional photographers are also keen customers: the company sponsors a number of prestigious photography competitions and has won awards for many of its garments within photography magazines.