How and where we spend our childhood often has lasting influences on our interests; and growing up on a
Shropshire smallholding as a ‘free-range’ child certainly forged my life-long appreciation and respect for country life.
It’s hardly surprising that I’m still passionate about all things rural, and eventually found my way to a
After ‘A’ Levels and Art School, one thing became my overriding objective – travel. Over the next few years I visited Europe, the USA and South America. These experiences left me with many fantastic memories that never fade.
I camped in an olive grove overlooking Florence which glittered below at night, slept in remote island beach huts among palm trees, watched iguanas from a Mexican cabana, and my Florida Keys boathouse neighbour was a moray eel… I have many more memories. It’s called ‘experiential travel’ these days. Such places can now easily be found on the internet, but 30 years ago we had to get out there and literally find them, quite an adventure.
The quirky dwellings and lifestyles provided me with much wide-eyed inspiration, and still do. But it all needed paying for, so travel was interspersed with work in hotels and restaurants operating to high levels of hospitality. I quickly learned how important it is to exceed customer expectations, and still apply this to my own holiday rental and glamping advice.
Returning to the UK in my mid 20’s, I settled down, took a telesales job and moved quickly on to field-sales, then area manager positions covering London and the SE. After five years on the road, I joined an international corporation’s UK division, managing the export department with a multi-million pound turnover, and went on to set up the UK international licensing department. It was all excellent experience but as time ticked by an urge to return to rural life prevailed, eventually prompting the purchase of a run down smallholding which required more work than my husband and I imagined. This was my first property restoration and landscaping project and I learned a lot – mostly the hard way! Other properties followed, as did running events and festivals, and a wedding design business.
In 2010, circumstances initiated a move to Wales and it was there that I joined holiday agency Quality Cottages, it wasn’t long before my enthusiasm was noted and Tim asked me to help with his new sister-company, glamping agency Quality Unearthed. Glamping wasn’t well known and nobody understood what I did – ‘what, furnished tents – with proper beds?!’ but I soon realised that this new phenomenon was a perfect match for my skills, experience and interests. I think it’s called ‘serendipity’, who knows. My role at QU was very hands-on in the first few years and I learned a lot about every aspect of setting up and marketing cottage and glamping holiday accommodation, we were a great team.
However, life moves us on and after leaving QU to return to England earlier this year, I decided to start my own independent advice and design service. I’ve watched glamping increase in popularity over the years and lately noticed a need for objective, informed advice so my aim is to support and promote glamping as a viable business opportunity for both small and big operators. Running a small to medium glampsite is often a lifestyle choice for the owners and having run my own rural business, helping others realise their dreams is incredibly rewarding. For larger companies and organisations, glamping is a strategic diversification move, and given my previous corporate experience I know how to deliver what they need.
Crucially however, we must always create memorable experiences for guests, because if we lose sight of what drives a hospitality business, we might as well pack up and go home. Integrity is important to me, I only collaborate with suppliers who provide a quality product, and congruent people who know their business and want their clients to succeed. I’ve been told I’m ‘old fashioned’ and maybe it costs me here and there, but you know, I can live with that.
Most of my work has been in the UK, but I’m increasingly approached to advise landowners from abroad and have supported companies and tourism organisations throughout Europe, Australia, the Bahamas and South America, which continues to widen my knowledge base, experience and contacts.
I also appreciate the opportunity to share my knowledge by giving talks at shows such as The Glamping Show and Farm Business Innovation, and by contributing to magazines Glamping Business and Open Air. I always fully support relevant organisations and events.
Finally – ‘hobbies’. Well, I’ve been foraging since childhood and love trying new ‘wild recipes’, outdoor cooking and beach BBQ’s are also favourite pastimes, as are beach combing, teaching bushcraft, exploring wild places. Inspired by Jocasta Innes, I’ve been hand-painting furniture and creating murals since the 80’s, but sadly lost the photo’s of a house I hand-painted from top to bottom (it really should have featured in ‘Country Living’!). I’m eternally fascinated by archaeology, architecture, mythology, photography, psychology, astronomy, and all things historical and heritage. I sometimes put paint to canvas, and I take some type of course to learn something new every year.
I don’t have a motto, but if I did it would be something like: life is way too short, if it gives you lemons, buy gin. If it doesn’t, buy gin anyway.