Tittleshall dad battles back to start his own business

After a decade of unemployment, a Norfolk father has overcome ill health, completed an agricultural course at college, and set up his own business, as he battles his way off benefits.

When Stephen Olley was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2000, it sparked the beginning of a decade of unemployment.

Spending seven years in and out of a wheelchair, he was told by doctors to 'enjoy the life you've got'.

But after a change in medication allowed him to return to college, the Tittleshall dad has just started his own agricultural business and hopes to finally free himself from benefits.

After suffering with headaches while at work at Bowes in Watton, he underwent a series of scans to find out what was wrong.

Doctors decided it was a calcified mass on the brain – a non-cancerous tumour – which was deemed inoperable.

Mr Olley, 40, who had to give up work and lost his home, saw his health deteriorate to the point where he was reliant on a wheelchair to get around.

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But after developing blood pressure problems in 2007, doctors carried out another scan and discovered the lump was actually a mass of blood vessels. Although still inoperable, medication has got the condition under the control.

He said: 'Through stubbornness I managed to push myself forward and went from being in the wheelchair, to using two sticks. Now I'm using just one stick to get around.'

As he began to make progress, Mr Olley attended an open day at Easton College to find out about some short courses. By the end of the day he had signed up for a two-year national diploma in agriculture which he began in 2008.

'I worked my way through it thinking I would struggle to pass but I came out with the highest-possible grade – a triple distinction.'

During the two years Mr Olley also gained his teleporter licence, crop spraying licence and veterinary medicine licence.

At a prize-giving ceremony in July he was presented with three awards.

He then set out to find a job and at last get back into work after a decade on benefits. But when he began looking for a job he found it more difficult than expected. In January this year, after six months looking for a job, he decided to start up his own business – Olley Family Farming.

He plans to take on agricultural contracts for Norfolk farmers, carrying out work including ploughing, hedge cutting, mucking out, spreading, and farm maintenance. Mr Olley said he would also take on livestock work – such as lambing –and domestic odd jobs.

He said: 'By having a broad spectrum of what I can cover, I can adapt to the conditions. Arable work can die off at times, especially this time of year, so I can focus more on maintenance or livestock work.'

The father-of-three has called his business Olley Family Farming and hopes children Jake, 13, Tazmin, 11, and Morgon, nine, will be involved in the future.

victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk