Dingle Lane: not your ‘normal’ accountants and management consultants!

David Nicoll, proprietor of Dingle Lane, is an accountant and management consultant with a difference, not least because he is combining his professional activities with developing the small holding he and his wife have recently moved to.

This is David’s account of why he applied for membership of ORB, and his journey to a more sustainable and ethical approach to living and working:


“So why do you want to join ORB?” Jill asked during our telephone interview.

Not an easy question to answer – and yet very easy. In simple terms, a “better way of doing business: a way that is good for business AND a better world” sums up how we do things and have tried to do things for many years. The concept of ORB really resonated with us and we wanted to be part of that movement.

An emerging political consciousness.

Way back in 1989, the environmental agenda hit the national consciousness during the European elections, where the Green Party polled 15% of the national vote. Despite failing to win an MEP, the vote began to put environmental matters at the front of the mainstream political agenda. The UK has come a long way since, as has the general awareness of our impact on the environment.

My “responsible business” journey has followed much of that trajectory. As someone who only qualified to vote at the end of 1986, this made a big impact on my emerging political consciousness.

Back in February this year, in response to the flooding caused by Storm Dennis, the Environment Agency said, “This is not normal flooding. We are in uncharted territory.” Yet we have been building on flood plains for years. (Hint: Their name is a giveaway to their purpose).

When my family moved out of London in 2001, one of our explicit criteria was that we would not buy a property that was subject to a flood risk. We knew we were “ahead of the curve” in management speak (or a bit weird, in the common tongue) but we could already see where local building policy was headed even then.

Embracing localism and sustainability

So once my wife and I went self employed – me in 2005, my wife in 2010 – we were committed to the idea of embracing localism and sustainability. As a caterer, my wife could make this overt – local food suppliers, minimising food miles, embracing seasonality for food, and so on.

We were already committed to supporting organic food supplies by that stage and were, for many years, members of “Garden Organic”. Not for ‘taste’ reasons, but simply because better care for our environment clearly matters to ensure sustainable long-term food security. (Although we tend to find smaller producers tend to produce tastier food, simply because of the care they take over their recipes and the way they manage their product longevity).

This of course impacts on our own diet. We all know that livestock make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, especially red meat production. “Unfortunately”, beef and lamb are also very tasty! So no, we are not vegetarian or vegan. But as a family we do eat comparatively small amounts of meat. And again, we buy locally sourced where possible.

As an accountant and management consultant, it is perhaps more difficult for me. That said, I embraced the advantages that technology gave me for remote working. I was a fairly early adopter of cloud working and data management as a way of giving me flexibility of working whilst reducing my local footprint. (Yes, I am aware of the impact of data storage centres on emissions and energy use too, and so also carefully manage how my data is kept and transported whilst also bearing in  mind client confidentiality and data processing laws). We also carefully weighed up our choice of vehicles. Whilst we are still using fossil fuel vehicles at the moment, we have been looking at things like fuel economy and environmental impact for some time, and in particular choosing the right vehicle for the right use.

Moving to our smallholding

Our latest change to improve our impact has been to move to a little smallholding in the delightful Staffordshire countryside. We are now part of a small village of about 600 people, and are again building our local contacts and suppliers as we increase our own reliance on homegrown produce.

Keeping it simple to start with, we only grow fruit and vegetables, and keep chickens (which we had in our former suburban home garden for several years). Just on a bigger scale.

That has made the COVID-19 lockdown a little more interesting for us. Whilst I haven’t been able to get out and ‘network’ to build a new local client base as I would have liked, there has been plenty to do. In fact, over the last week, my son and I have been building a new chicken run which should last us for decades to come. Some management teams go off and do ‘team-building’ weekends – we do proper ‘building’ projects! It has been hugely rewarding. New skills learned, and tremendous satisfaction from a job (relatively) well done!

Locally engaged – globally aware

Prior to the lockdown, we had also begun to get involved in our local community activities – various village fundraising activities, local charity work, and so on. Our village pub, whilst struggling (like many pubs), acts as a focus for many of these activities and so we have tried to encourage and sustain these activities where we can. It has made a real difference that they have had to shut for the foreseeable future. We also support our local (jolly good) parish magazine through advertising, and intend to put in articles in the future.

In the meantime, we keep abreast of activity through our local email-based village information network and try to do what we can to help our neighbours in need.

It is only a small effort we are making, but it is a start. Only by becoming more locally engaged and globally aware can we really start to make a significant impact on the quality of life of everyone around us, and for the generations to come.

Living in the countryside, we are very aware of how wonderful, and yet how vulnerable, our communities and our environment is. If we can play our part in helping our clients embrace that sense of how local work can have a global impact then we will have started to do our bit.

We can have a high standard of living AND a great world to live in. But only if we lift our heads up out of our narrow little trenches and start to build around the bigger, long term, picture.

Dingle Lane Accountants and Management Consultants, Stone nr Stafford

Telephone: 07715 662020
Email: david@dinglelanefarm.co.uk
Web: www.dinglelanefarm.co.uk