A DALES entrepreneur is celebrating successfully overcoming a series of disasters.

Clare Gardiner opened a caf in Wensleydale in July 2000 and faced poor summer weather, the fuel crisis and poor autumn weather.

It meant the former garden designer from Winchester was relying on extra visitors in 2001 to pull her through the first 12 months at the Mill Race Tea Rooms, in Aysgarth.

Then foot-and-mouth swept the region and Ms Gardiner decided to try a new line of business - hand-made chocolates.

Eighteen months on, she has made such a success of it that her premises could not cope with demand and she has relocated her Little Chocolate Shop business to Leyburn.

She said: "It all started when I was speaking to a neighbour in Aysgarth, who told me her grandson was a chocolatier in Sheffield.

"The more I thought about it, the more interested I became.

"Eventually, I took up an invitation to visit him to see how he did things and it just went from there.''

She was soon enrolled on a three-day course at the Callebaut Institute, in Belgium, where she learned to make chocolates.

She said: "Word spread, it just took off and it has been going from strength to strength.''

She has now sold the Aysgarth tea shop and is employing four people at the new premises.