It’s been a busy couple of weeks for everyone at West Dorset Leisure Holidays. The 17th March saw the rest of the Touring, Camping and Glamping areas open at Highlands End, Golden Cap and Sandyholme and we have enjoyed a busy month with some excellent weather for the time of year. It’s great to be able to take Harry our Golden Retriever for an evening walk down the Park and see all of our guests enjoying warm evenings and beautiful sunsets.
The maintenance teams have been hard at work keeping the Parks up to the high standards they set and have also been working on gravel pitches and surrounds for our new Safari Tent and Stargazer Bell Tents at Golden Cap, Graston Copse and Sandyholme. These are available from the 7th April and we can’t wait to see the reaction and feedback we get from the first guests who try this new offering.
This morning we stopped off at the Jurassic Retreat Lodge development at Larkfield Holiday Park to see how Grant Brooks and his team are getting on with the concrete bases. We are very happy with the progress they are making and we are looking forward to taking delivery of the first Lodges in April and May – they will be a 2 bedroom Prestige Bowmoor and a 3 bedroom Prestige Forester Lodge. We have already taken a reservation on one of the vacant Pitches and we have just launched a new website, exclusively for this development – www.jurassicretreat.co.uk. Many thanks to our web team at Key Multimedia in Dorchester for working with us over the last 2-3 months to design and complete this website.
It was great to meet with Sam Scriven, Sam Rose and Guy Kerr from the Jurassic Coast Trust a couple of weeks ago at the Cowshed Coffee Shop at Highlands End Holiday Park. Thanks to the generosity of our guests, making a small optional donation of £1 upon booking, we have helped raise over £57,000 for the Jurassic Coast Team since 2008.
Read more about this here
This money helps the Jurassic Coast Trust to look after this spectacular coastline for future generations and we look forward to working with them more closely over the coming months on a number of projects, including a competition, Jurassic Coast talks and guided walks for our guests.
Finally we wanted to share this video with you of the spectacular coastline that the Jurassic Coast Team work so hard to protect. It was taken by James in our Marketing Team and shows an aerial guide of the 95 mile long Jurassic Coast from east to west, showcasing 185 million years of the earth’s history.
With only 24 hours until we officially open all of the WDLH parks for the season we held the pre-season meeting yesterday for both new and existing team members. It was great to be able to update them on some of the main pieces of work we have all been carrying out since our last team meeting in October.
Today we welcome a crane to Golden Cap to pitch the 4th and final lodge of the 2016/17 winter works and I look forward to getting in them all next week or the week after once siting is complete.
Across the parks this week is a hive of activity with tidying, taking down gates and turning the services back on to pitches and buildings.
I expect many of you have enjoyed the first episode of the final series of Broadchurch last night, those of you that don’t know this is based on the harbour that Highlands End overlooks called West Bay. I am pleased we are working with both Visit Dorset and Dorset Tea to run competitions while the series airs to win a holiday with WDLH. Follow the links below to enter.
In Martin’s Bar & Restaurant at Highlands End Holiday Park, we are making progress and I have been asked to be careful what I release on the blog as to not give too much away until we start to open the building again. What I can say is we have finally chosen the lights, a lovely wood burner for the conservatory and we had a fantastic tasting of potential dishes last night from the chefs.
The Cowshed Coffee Shop is becoming more and more popular for food and drink while Martin’s Bar & Restaurant is shut and we are all wondering what our Holiday Home owners will think of the stunning view while enjoying a glass of Palmers Beer from Wednesday night onwards when they return.
Enjoy your pancakes tonight, i’m looking forward to my Lemon and Sugar!
It’s been another busy week on the parks. February half term has been our busiest yet since we started opening earlier 3 years ago. The sunny days have helped and James had to make a decision to open 19 gravel pitches on top of the 37 Hard Standings we already had open, which were full at the weekend. These will now stay open for the season and will be joined by the remainder of the pitches during March. We are on target for the 1st of March opening and the pre-season meeting is just being confirmed for both existing and new team members, who all start in the next week or so.
An update on Martin’s Bar & Restaurant
The kitchen extension is now up to roof height and the wooden trusses started to go up this morning which is exciting and also shows we are on target. Inside all the walls have been plastered and we are pleased it is now starting to be put back together after 5 weeks of destruction. We hope you enjoyed Valentine’s day. Sadly we couldn’t do a traditional meal in the bar this year but next year I think we could start offering romantic breaks during February with a package price for a meal, bubbles and a lodge / pitch for a short break.
We had fun making a short video made from stills of the Portland Lodge for sale at Golden Cap Holiday Park last week. It is our idea to use images to make videos of all the Caravan and Lodge Holiday Homes we have for sale over the next few months, particularly if we cannot use a manufacturers video to show off the caravan or lodge. The team are identifying our customers’ needs as much as possible and I am pleased we are providing as much information, video and images as possible on the website and printed to our perspective purchasers.
In Martin’s Bar this week we have completed (we think) the plans for all the changes and the building team have enjoyed working with a family most of the time as we ducked and dived and made changes. Who would of thought how much work is involved to choose where to put TV’s, speakers, CCTV and Electric sockets not to mention the main bits and pieces. Taking weekly pictures is becoming hard, as unless you are here the changes look minimal but believe me there is a lot so this week so no pictures – sorry.
What I can tell you is that we have chosen the light fittings, the furniture and the layout of the bar is completed. Talking about the bar, Sally and Zoe have really enjoyed attending trade shows, who wouldn’t when you can try Cider, Wine and Beer. I am looking forward to their suggested stock but we need to keep the old favourites. I can release you can expect to see a range of 20 bottles of Red, White, Rose and Sparkling wines all being supplied by Palmers Brewery in Bridport.
Being Creative is something we have enjoyed doing over the last 6 months and last week James from Marketing saw some of his hard work implemented. Working with the Jurassic Coast Team we have produced this amazing map to go in the Cowshed at Highlands and TIC at Golden Cap.
Golden Cap’s Seatown Stores has seen a complete transformation as has the Gents in Block 2 at Highlands End and the washing up sinks at Graston Copse. The team at Creative Solutions have been excellent and worked well with us to come up with some ideas. We have now asked them to a couple of jobs in Martin’s Bar which we will keep secret for now!
This week we have chosen to concentrate on how changing our offering and experience as a family business is important to keep up with our customers expectations and a changing tourism market.
Last Friday, I was pleased to serve the last drink over our bar after serving the first in 1985. This brings to an end the 32 years of Martin’s Bar and Restaurant as we know it and the contractors have already started stripping the ‘old’ bar out. We are keeping the wooden top although we don’t have a use for it as yet… ideas are welcome!
Our siting team have been busy with the caravans I mentioned last week. Many are now sited, including these two stunning ABI Amblesides which will be handed over to their new owners in March.
C G Fry, our building contractor, is getting on well in Martin’s Bar and Restaurant and I am sure over the next 4 weeks we will see some dramatic changes as a section of the roof is taken off the existing building and our new conservatory is built. This image shows the main area of the Restaurant, which is being prepared for refurbishment.
At Golden Cap we are in the middle of a toilet block rebuild for the Big Berries Camping Field and this week we took delivery of the roof trusses which are now being installed.
Many of you know we are proud of our branding and the changes we have seen over the last 2 years with the websites, logo, park signs and uniform. This is continuing to drive forward with the last of the old signage being renewed for the 2017 season. We are fond of the West Dorset Leisure Holidays logo, which has become well known both locally and nationally by our returning guests.
This week we present our logo for the Jurassic Retreat Development at Larkfield Holiday Park. Keeping in with the name we have chosen an ammonite for its identity and the new website should be launched shortly. The team are busy finishing the road and the first 2 Lodges are arriving in April.
It amazes me how much the team accomplish in what now seems a very short winter. I was reminded of this this morning when we welcomed back our first Touring and Motorhome customers for the new season.
I think 2017 is going to be both interesting and fun while we see everything come together.
More photos are available for viewing on our Facebook page, please click here 😃
Today sees the last function in the bar as we know it before we hand the full building over to the contractor. Tonight I plan to attend the function as a customer but then slip behind the bar for the last hour or so. I wish to serve the last drink over the existing bar, particularly as I served the first in 1984. The investment into the building this winter will make the bar nearly 10 times larger than it was in 1984 and I am pleased as a family of what we have achieved.
We took Sally and Zoe to the Hospitality Show at the NEC this week, it was great to see everything on offer and now they are busy putting mood boards together to cover a range of products we need to purchase. These include glasses, cutlery, boards, plates and furniture to name just a few. We are also researching what we should stock, I never knew we had such a great range of local drinks on our doorstep which will match in with our local food purchasing we have done for many years. I am pleased the team are getting behind the refit and coming forward with ideas, I smiled when we found a cider made in Purbeck named after my Grandson Joe……
In the kitchen we are concentrating on developing our successful menu of 2016, mainly reviewing the range of ingredients and also inparticular what times we should be open. Everything is an option and as a family and as a team our biggest hurdle is how we change successfully but not lose our years of success.
Elsewhere on the parks, we have caravans being delivered every other day to upgrade our hire fleet or to go up for sale. The parks are really coming to life early this year in preparation for the new season, that said the winter has gone fast and we will be welcoming back our first Tourers and Motorhomes next Friday for the season.
It has been an exciting and busy January at Highlands End. The biggest project we have undertaken for a few years has started. Our building contractors C G Fry arrived after the Christmas break to undertake the refurbishment of Martin’s Bar and Restaurant. Over the next four months we will see a full transition from what you have all come to know as the Bar and Restaurant at Highlands End.
The refurbishment includes two separate extensions. One for the back of house which includes increasing the size of the kitchen and storage to double the size it is now. The other extension sees the ‘main room’ being extended and the flat roof being replaced by a pitch roof. Plus a complete refit including the bar, new furniture and colour scheme. Don’t panic we aren’t losing the Fire Memorabilia!
The team have been planning for the coming months and we are moving into the Cowshed Coffee Shop for the month of February. In the Cowshed, we will be offering a food and drink service to our visitors when the park re-opens for Motorhomes and Touring Caravan holidays in Dorset.
Back outside C G Fry have completed the footings and the concrete slab has been poured this morning for the new walls. These should start going up next week.
It is an exciting time, particularly as we complete our last functions over the next 7 days before the real refurbishment starts. These will see us welcome the Melplash Show Society on Friday. Followed by a private birthday party on Saturday and the Rotary’s annual Casino Night next week (27 January) will be the last drinks served over at the existing bar.
We are going to publish an update each Friday. So keep an eye out and we look forward to sharing our developments with you as well as reopening fully in May 2017.
We’re excited to have been sent some images of the prototype ‘Lotus Stargazer’ Bell Tent today and wanted to share the images. When we visited The Glamping Show at Stoneleigh in September we liked the tents manufactured by independent manufacturer Lotus Belle and thought they would work well on the parks.
Knowing how much visitors to the parks enjoy the clear night skies and being able to see the Milky Way, we suggested it would be great to have a clear roof on the tents so that guests will be able to see the spectacular night sky from the warmth and comfort of their glamping accommodation.
Lotus Belle have delivered and these images show the prototype they have created with a clear PVC roof at the top of the tent. We are delighted they were able to create this product that will suit our parks so well and further improve the glamping experience our visitors receive.
These tents will be available to hire at Golden Cap, Graston Copse and Sandyholme Holiday Parks. With a strong waterproof lining, the Lotus Stargazers will sleep 4 people with a double bed and 2 single beds, have an electric hook-up and an outside picnic table, all creating a more comfortable and luxury camping experience.
As well as this, we will be introducing Safari Tents at Golden Cap, Graston Copse and Sandyholme, sleeping 4 people with separate bedrooms and many extra luxuries such as a hob, fridge, dining table, sofa and outdoor decking with table and chairs. Please note the images below are included to give an idea of roughly what the Safari Tents will look like and are not representative of the exact facilities and furniture in the finished product on our parks.
Both the Safari Tents and Lotus Stargazers should be available from April 2017 and will be included on our current low and mid-season Saver Deals with 10% off 3 or 4 night breaks, 15% off 7 night breaks and 20% off 14 night breaks. We hope to be able to start taking bookings on these in the next few weeks so keep an eye on our websites and social media for the prices.
We are getting ready to go into our 10th year working with the Jurassic Coast Trust. Thanks to the donations of our visitors when making bookings with us and our Caravan Holiday Home Owners, we have been able to raise over £57,000 over the past 9 years. It will be great to celebrate 10 years of raising funds to help conserve and promote the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Site on our doorstep.
Over the years our monies raised have helped provide educational boards along the coast as well as an educational DVD in our Tourist Information at Highlands End Holiday Park which is amazing for both children and adults alike.
We will be meeting shortly with the trustees to review how our contribution is helping the trust develop its objectives and plans. As a company we are proud to of raised such a large amount of money for such a great cause and just want to say a great big THANK YOU to all of you that have donated over the years, well done!
It has been a while since our last blog post and we hope to soon update you with the winter work the teams are getting on with. The parks are still open and we are enjoying a busy half term week while the owners can enjoy another 4-5 weeks on the parks with the season dates 1st March to 30th November. We spoke recently to Jennifer and Robert Crockford who are Caravan Holiday Home Owners at Highlands End to get a flavour of what’s attracted them to West Dorset and Holiday Home Ownership…
Jennifer and Robert Crockford at Highlands End Holiday Park
Jennifer’s parents first came to Highlands End Farm in 1959, as it was just the place for a static caravan – well before they were known as ‘holiday homes’! Eype was a hidden gem, with its ‘secret’ valley and secluded beach set in beautiful countryside. The nearby unspoilt town of Bridport was a further bonus.
Since then Jennifer and, soon after, her husband Robert have kept up their family tradition at Highlands End, a ‘top spot’ for their children and grandchildren. The whole family loves the scenery, the wildlife, the beaches, the many walks and Bridport itself with its markets and shops close at hand.
Years ago, park facilities were fairly basic – no electricity, no running water – just gas lighting; the caravans were small – but for Jennifer and Robert this was all part of the fun. Since then there has been a steady growth both in the quality of the caravans and in the amenities on park and there is so much for the family to do safely in and around the park – shop and coffee shop, bar, restaurant, swimming pool, laundry, fitness suite, tennis court, pitch and putt. play areas, etc. Martin and Vanessa Cox achieved all this whilst protecting wildlife and raising environmental standards generally.
Highlands End lies on the Jurassic Coast and Robert has always encouraged his family to look for fossils and interesting rock formations – starting with Eype Beach. Meanwhile Jennifer finds that the Bridport area has so much to offer in local arts, crafts,. books, antiques and agricultural history. In fact right next to Highlands End is Eype Church, now also a popular ‘Centre for the Arts’ –and source of many pictures in the Crockford home.
However, there is one other aspect of Bridport which Jennifer and Robert enjoy and foresaw many years ago. It is now one of Britain’s ‘hot spots’ for the best local produce, food, drink and restaurants. They have rather a long list of personal favourites but suggest that the annual Bridport Food and Beer Festival in June is a good place for starters! They do add that over the years they have eaten well at what is now “Martin’s Bar and Restaurant” on the park; theverylocal specials are always a favourite!
Finally, they say that the ‘star feature’ of their van is THE VIEW! They would be very rich if they had a pound for every visitor who exclaimed WOW! on looking out from their picture window. Where else is there a panorama from Lyme Bay, National Trust land, Eype Down, Colmer’s Hill, the Marshwood Vale and back round to Eype Church, in an ever changing land and seascape?