AT 23, Matthew Blair showed drive and determination and always knew what he wanted to achieve in the longer term – to be running a farm of his own.

He had been self-employed for a few years when he decided to take part in the Business Support for Young People programme, launched in 2011, funded by The Prince’s Countryside Fund and The Prince’s Trust.

He used a grant made available through the programme to investigate taking on the tenancy on his grandad’s farm. It became clear that it wasn’t viable, but the programme helped refocus his plans.

Using the loan facility, Matthew bought more of his own sheep and a polytunnel to house and lamb them.

He said: “It meant I could expand quicker, giving me a stronger foothold that allowed me to later buy into a partnership with grandad.”

Matthew explained how the programme gave him confidence and a great network of people who continue to help along the way.

“Getting the right support is key. Building a good network is the biggest thing, along with good relationships with suppliers, banks, your auction. Being part of the business programme, the Farmer Network and Young Farmers opens doors and you could say it helps you create your own luck.”

When the opportunity came up to contract farm for the RSPB tenant at Naddle Farm, Haweswater, Matthew had the confidence to go for it. He soon began farming on the estate which is well over 5,000 acres, running 1,000 lambing ewes.

He had been farming Naddle Farm for five years when tenancies on two Lowther Estate farms came up. Although he was the youngest to apply, he was successful and took on the tenancies of Thrimby Hall and Thrimby Grange with his wife Dani last month.

Matthew is still contract farming at Naddle Farm and works all three farms together with his wife, a full-time shepherd and nine dogs.

At Thrimby they run 800 cross-bred and Swaledale ewes and 150 calving cows plus youngstock and a hive of bees.

“We’ve been lucky to have financial backing and a seriously supportive family. We’re also looking forward to my dad retiring from his job to start working with us on the farm.”

Mark Curr, from Newbiggin on Lune, was one of the original participants. He is now mentoring Georgia Hunter who runs a goat business.

Looking back on the programme, Matthew said an inspiring talk at a programme workshop made a big impact on him. It was given by Tom and Claire Noblet who had worked towards shared farming and now had a tenancy on a dairy farm.

“The course came at the right time and I was in the right place for future opportunities,” said Matthew. “Listening to Tom Noblet was really inspiring – showing that if you work hard enough you can fulfil your ambitions.”

He added: “Make sure you look at farming as a business – you do need the business skills too – and never underestimate the power of networking.

“Surround yourself with the right kind of people - those with a positive and constructive attitude, those who want to help and those who want to find new ways of doing things.”

The Farmer Network programme co-ordinator Kate Gascoyne said Matthew was passionate about young people getting the opportunity to farm.

“He has been offering advice to young people wanting to explore contract farming and tenancies,” she said. “He has volunteered to speak to future groups, and like his predecessors, we hope his story, and our growing list of case studies will be an inspiration to the next group of farming entrepreneurs.”