This is a selection of the latest news and events from the park.
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Last week we heard about all about Sally and her role at Broadhembury. This week, we hear from her partner-in-crime, Lee!
Lee, tell us a little bit about life before Broadhembury!
After school I began a four year apprenticeship in the print trade as a high-end system operator and remained in that industry until 2007. During this time print went through a huge amount of change and I realised that, with no dependents and a relative degree of financial security, it was the right time for a total career change. I’d always had a keen interest in wood, and DIY projects, so carpentry seemed a good choice. So, I went back to college, the oldest by far! I also sought out a very well respected local carpenter and asked if I could work with him to gain practical experience. We worked well together and embarked on several restoration projects; one of these featured on Channel 5’s “Build a new life in the Country” – this project involved converting a 500 year old, timber-framed building in the centre of Canterbury to a residential dwelling.
Going back to scratch wasn’t easy, but I do think changing career so completely helped when I then made the change to Broadhembury.
We know that you run all things outside! Tell us a little bit about the tasks this covers and a typical day at the park for you.
I cover all park maintenance projects; manage our small team of ‘outdoor workers’; stock control; gas; meter-readings; oversee waste-management; liaise with any external trades we are bringing in; am the first point of contact for any campers’ queries with their pitches, or static caravans; deal with our technological requirements, CCTV and security; and, also our print design and literature. I should also add, that if we are short staffed, I clean too (unlike Sally!).
Typical days are rather few and far between and also hugely different according to the season. The summer months are full of pitching, camper interaction, mowing, cleaning and immediate responses to a maintenance need (we wouldn’t be doing any scheduled maintenance once the season starts). But in the low season, a typical day might be as follows:
08.00: Meeting with Wardens re any issues that have cropped up the night before. First thing, we also check the boilers, water temperature and pressure in both facilities every morning to ensure everything is as it should be before the day begins.
08.30: Direct the staff according to what each of them is doing that day – this requires a degree of flexibility due to the weather.
09.00: It’s out onto the Park; at this time of year we’re all very focussed on finishing the various maintenance projects to get ready for the upcoming season.
10.30: I’ll try to get back into the office around this time; it’s also an opportunity to catch up on some emails. We’re improving some signage around the Park at the moment, so I might get some of those proofed and approved during this time.
11.00: Back outside to continue with the various projects and to check how the men are getting on with whatever tasks they’re tackling. I should probably add that on a typical day I would also likely been radioed once or twice by now; by our cleaner (Louise) to say that a light bulb needs my attention, or a tap is dripping; or by Reception because a camper needs a hand; or by one of the maintenance team because some equipment needs fixing! Interruptions are a regular part of my day, but at least I never get bored!
17.00 We’re fortunate we can get away earlier in the winter months and I tend to leave around this time if possible. First though, I’ll meet back up with the guys in Reception and discuss any changes to the plan for the coming days, what we’re hoping to achieve, and what effect the weather/other external factors might have.
I usually get some work done at home in the evenings too; it’s sometimes easier to focus on things once I’ve had a break away.
Being a carpenter in your previous life must help a great deal with your day-to-day duties on the park. What new skills have you had to learn to enable you to manage your side of the business?
Managing people to the extent I do now was new to me. Managing the team, whilst also meeting and greeting new campers every day and responding to whatever needs they may have, has involved skills I either didn’t have before, or didn’t know I had!.
Knowledge-wise, I didn’t know anything at all about caravans or tents, or the industry, so that’s been a really steep learning curve. At the same time I also needed to learn as much about the Park as possible; what was done when (i.e. hedging), where ‘underground’ services were, how the systems worked (those are numerous, the rainwater harvesting system for the Beeches, the hot water systems on both the facilities, etc. etc). We can laugh about it now, but lots of this had to be gleaned from Keith (Sally’s Dad) whilst he was trying to recover from major heart surgery in Kings Hospital. Sally would go up to London to visit him with a list of questions in her handbag and the aim of getting them answered for me before she had to return home (or Keith fell asleep!).
How do you manage the health and safety aspects of the park?
Health & safety is a big issue for us on the Park, in respect of our campers and our staff; it’s an area in which we need to be constantly vigilant. Sally ensures we have the appropriate insurances in place and will contact the insurers directly quite frequently to clarify any matters we’re not sure about. Jenny (Sally’s mum) is officially our ‘Health and Safety Officer’ and will perform visual checks on all Park aspects, reporting back anything that needs attention immediately. In addition, we have daily checks for the cleaning which also double up as Health & Safety checks.
In respect to our staff, a lot is common sense – and I have been known to get very cross if someone is not wearing a high-vis or carrying a radio!
How does the weather affect things for you?
The weather is a huge issue in our industry; it affects us in terms of what we can achieve project-wise on the Park, what the Park looks like, how happy the campers are, and what level of bookings we will take. Fortunately it’s something we end up being quite pragmatic about, but it’s still a shame when it messes with our plans - especially if it means we can’t achieve something we have said we will.
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
The best thing is being able to achieve the things we want to with the business. If we think something is a good idea, and financially viable, we’re able to just go for it with no need to seek approval from others. Leaving early on Thursdays to watch Lewis play in his matches, is a pretty special bonus as a Dad too!
What is the hardest thing about working in a family business?
Obviously I didn’t grow up with the business like Sally did, sometimes it can be rather ‘all consuming’ and that takes some getting used to!
Also, going home with the person that has annoyed you at work that day isn’t always an added bonus! Most of the time we work brilliantly together, but learning when to stop talking about work, and when to compromise, are two things that we have both had to learn pretty quickly (although some of the staff, and our children, may report we are both still learning!).
What 3 words best describe Broadhembury for you?
That’s a bit unfair because Sally has already taken three good words (tranquil, friendly, quality); so I would add...constantly evolving, fun and challenging (Ok, I realise that’s 4, but I did have to go second!).
Broadhembury is a 2nd generation business which has been running for 48 years and up until 2016 was run by Keith and Jenny Taylor. In 2016 Keith and Jenny’s daughter, Sally, and her partner Lee took over and they now run the park entirely, alongside a team of fabulous and many long-serving, staff.
Sally, tell us a little bit about your background and how you decided to come on-board with the family business?
After school I studied Economics at Exeter University and then straight on to Deloittes in London to train as a Chartered Accountant; working primarily in financial services audit. After nearly 8 years with Deloittes I decided to leave Practice, and London, and returned to Ashford taking a job as Financial Controller of Seafrance in the UK (well before they went broke, I should add!). By this time my parents had realised the economic advantages of having an Accountant in the family and I had become heavily involved with Broadhembury’s accounts. During these years I also began to take on more ‘admin’ roles from my Mother, such as advertising, staff contracts and also worked in Reception. It really wasn’t until this stage that I fully realised what a fantastic business Broadhembury is and that I really wanted to be involved with its future. At the same time, my parents were fast approaching their 70s and realising that we needed to start some serious planning with respect to the future of Broadhembury. My parents & I began talking about succession, but I knew that with a young family, I couldn’t do it without Lee’s support. I asked Lee if he would be prepared to ‘hang up his tools’ (he’s a Carpenter by trade) and come to help me run Broadhembury. Fortunately he agreed!
We’ve been exceedingly lucky to have had the full support of my parents throughout the transition process – although they do say we have to ‘make our own mistakes’ (I hope we don’t make too many!). My sister lives in Barcelona and supports me with childcare during the holidays. Fortunately my Mum & Dad and sister completely understand the pressures we’re sometimes under and so step in to help whenever they can.
What is your role at Broadhembury? How do you split things between yourself and Lee?
I look after all the ‘front of house’ reception duties, our booking system, the accounts, the advertising, the staffing, the external accounts (such as insurances and waste management), our seasonal contracts and holiday homes.
Fortunately we have a superb team of staff who help to make this a real pleasure rather than a chaotic mess!
Can you describe a typical day for you at Broadhembury?
That’s a really tall order because there truly isn’t a ‘typical’ day, that’s why it’s so much fun!
At this time of year (beginning of March) we’re really busy getting everything in place for the new season. In the low season I do a lot of my admin work in Reception so that I can answer the phone and address any booking enquiries whilst getting some emails answered or accounts done at the same time. So, a “typical” day might be something like this:
8.15: Arrive in Reception and cover off with the wardens any issues that have arisen since the time we left the day before. This week topics have ranged from parking options when we’re very busy on hardstanding positions, but the grass is too soft to use; through to whether or not we’re going to have a maximum group number; through to whether or not we can accommodate 48 hikers in May!
09.00: I’m usually sitting at the computer by now. I look at the online bookings that have come in over-night, making sure we’ve accommodated any ‘special requests’ that may have come in with these. I really interrogate the system to check it’s allocated the best pitches for our visitors – availability permitting, I want everyone to be on the very best pitch for them. For example, if someone’s listed ‘infants’ on their booking I’d always look to get them as close to the facilities as possible (unless they’ve stated otherwise) and mark on their booking to offer them the Family Bathroom key on arrival. We also receive quite a lot of email enquires and I like to answer these straight away; so people can begin planning their breaks.
10.30: Usually Lee & his team will come in for a quick coffee and I’ll run anything past Lee that’s come up....like “I’ve had an enquiry from a 12 meter motorhome, and I’ve only got 2 hardstandings free, which one will be easiest for it to get onto?” – Lee knows about things like that!
11-1pm: In between taking calls I’ll get some admin done. I also like to head out for a walk around the park; it’s good to get some fresh air but also it’s another pair of eyes for spotting things promptly that might need attention.
1pm: Our official arrival time is 2pm for touring, but at this time of year we’re often able to accommodate visitors earlier and from around 1pm they’ll start arriving. Although it’s low season, mid week we’re still having around 4 arrivals a day. I love that in low-season we’ve more time to spend with people helping them get the very best from their stay; this might be booking a special restaurant for them, or talking about which gardens and castles are best to visit at this time of year.
3.30pm: I leave at varying times through the winter months, but do try to do the school run a little more often than I can in the summer. So the wardens will come in around this time to take over from me. I’ll communicate any issues that have cropped up during the day, let them know which arrivals we’re still expecting, and then head off to school.
Broadhembury initially started out as a small farm, but your parents quickly decided that camping and caravanning was the way forward. Lots has changed over the years whilst the business grew, can you tell us a little bit about any changes you have made since you and Lee took over and what your plans for the future are?
Since Lee & I have taken over Broadhembury, we’ve made the following changes:
- Brought in a fully computerised booking system (amazingly until then we were still ‘paper based’!)
- Fully renovated and refurbished Reception & tourist information
- Extented the Park road around the lower Meadows area
- Put in 4 new hardstanding positions and 2 new fully serviced positions
- Added a barrier onto the Adults’ Meadows area
- Redecorated the games room
- Installed ‘Paxton’ software for both the barrier and the electronic gate which is fully integrated with our booking software; meaning that each camper has their own specific gate code for the dates of their stay
- Thoroughly investigated our Wifi options, resulting to us moving over to a ‘bonded line’ to get the best connectivity for the business and our campers. This has meant a large investment in new equipment. Our rural location will always limit us in this regard, but we now know we are definitively doing our very best in this area.
The big plans for the future include getting the Glamping arm of the business fully operational and then a full upgrade and refurbishment of the Hollies building on the Family Park.
Why did you decide to launch Glamping at Broadhembury?
I had initially been worried that those who wanted to go Glamping would want ‘wild camping’ rather than a 5 star touring park. But then I realised that there’s a whole lot of people that would still like 5 star facilities whilst glamping; that they would like our underfloor heating in the facilities, the endless hot water, well equipped campers kitchens and great children’s play areas. Broadhembury’s offering is very different to ‘wild camping’, but there’s a large market for it nonetheless.
What 3 words best describe Broadhembury for you?
Tranquil. Friendly. Quality.
Having grown up at the park, do you have any favourite childhood memories?
The park was much smaller then and my Mum would put the ‘back in 20 minutes’ sign on the reception door when she left to collect me from school. Usually there’d be a queue of campers outside by the time she got back! On the way home she’d often tell me about some children that had arrived that day and we got home I’d wiz up to whatever pitch they were on to ask if they wanted to come and play. With families returning year after year some wonderful friendships developed (one really survived the test of time and I was a bridesmaid at her wedding!).
In those days the Park closed through the winter months and we used to exercise our ponies on the sports field. One time I decided to ride my pony under some wooden football posts we had...we both got very stuck!!
Do you hope that your children one day take over the reins?
I’ve got mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, as we were lucky enough to have inherited Broadhembury, I do have a very big sense of ‘looking after it for the next generation’; that we are ‘guardians’ rather than ‘owners’.
However, it needs to be the children’s decision and not ours. To successfully run any small business I believe you need to have a real passion for it; and Broadhembury is too demanding to be able to take on without really wanting to do it.
I guess the short answer is ‘yes’, but it needs to come from them and not under duress. If I had a real ‘wish list’, I’d also like them to have gone away and experienced life, and working elsewhere, first. That way they’ll return better able to put their own spin on things (they might even teach us a thing or two!).
What do you like most about working at the Park?
It’s difficult to pick one thing and I’m so emotionally attached to Broadhembury that it means so many different things to me. Overall though, I think the best thing is the challenge of it. It’s so demanding and varied. I love meeting all the different campers; it’s such a ‘spice of life’ kind of environment! Lee & I couldn’t run Broadhembury without the tremendous help and support we get from our staff; to whom we extremely grateful.
Our beautiful Lotus Belle tents are located on our Family Park and also on our Adults’ Meadows site.
On the Family Park they are conveniently located close to the main facilities and play areas; but within their own private spaces. On the Adults’ Meadows they are situated in the most tranquil part of the Park.
All tents are warm and cosy; this is sleeping in a tent with a real difference. We provide real beds and mattresses on solid wood floors.
Tents are equipped with electricity for heating (Family Park) and lighting during your stay. Our Adults’ Meadows tents are equipped with stoves for cooking and heating also.
We provide warm duvets and pillows with guests bringing their own linen and towels. This is particularly good with younger children who love to have a little bit of home like their own duvet cover in their new and exciting surrounding. For a small charge bed linen can be provided. If you don’t fancy BBQ-ing then you can order in a range of Take-aways; alternatively our staff will be happy to recommend one of our local excellent pubs and restaurants. You can order fresh croissants and bread daily from our local family bakery; and for extra convenience Tescos is just 5 minutes away too!
You can enhance your stay with a whole range of optional extras.
Enjoy a fun filled break in your Lotus Belle tent for 4. Equipped with 1x double bed, 2x single beds, bedding (you can hire bed linen for an extra charge), lighting, electric heating, crockery, cutlery, BBQ utensils, cool box. Outside you have your own covered charcoal BBQ, a picnic table and swing ball!
Find a little romance in our beautiful Lotus Belle tents for 2. Equipped with 1x double bed, bedding (you can hire bed linen for an extra charge), lighting, Frontier stove for cooking and heating, crockery, cutlery, BBQ utensils, cool box. Outside you have your own covered charcoal BBQ and picnic table.
Assistant Warden Couple Vacancy
Broadhembury is looking for an enthusiastic warden couple to work alongside our present team, from March 2017 to September 2017. The role will involve 2-3 days wardening duties on our busy 5* park.
Flexibility will be a key attribute for the successful couple; along with good team skills, people skills, friendliness and a willingness to go the extra mile for our campers. The roles will involve reception duties, cleaning, meet & greet, and maintenance. Experience of the above would be preferable, but not essential
A touring caravan or motor home will be needed as it is necessary to live on site for some nights of the week, although days and nights off are regular.
Previous park experience would be ideal, however, in-house training will be given and the opportunity of Welcome Host courses where applicable.
One person must be computer literate and able to operate the sites booking system and the other person will be more involved in grounds maintenance and cleaning and must have a full clean driving licence.
The couple must be; enthusiastic, confident, self motivated, with some administrative experience, physically fit and most importantly possess great customer service qualities. The couple we are looking for will enjoy meeting people, be versatile and easy going.
The couple must be flexible and if necessary must be prepared to take on any task required to ensure the safe, efficient running of the Park.
This is a part-time position, and we would have some flexibility with regard to hours for the right couple.
Broadhembury Caravan and Camping Park
Steeds Lane, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent. TN26 1NQ England
Tel: (+44)(0)1233 620859
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