Category Archives: Holiday accommodation

Unexpected challenges

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, and I’m sorry to those of you that enjoy reading about our adventures at Court Lodge. One thing we’ve been working away on in the background for the past couple of years is our planning application to the council asking for permission to use Court Lodge as a venue for functions, weddings, business meetings, and so on. We think it would be ideal as a venue in so many ways, and we know lots of other people do too, as we’ve already had lots of enquiries. But we can’t do anything until we get permission to operate commercially.

The main reason for seeking this permission is so that we can raise sufficient funds to carry out the much-needed repairs to Court Lodge and to the garden. Court Lodge doesn’t generate enough money as an accommodation rental business to carry out repairs; it makes just enough to cover its on-going running costs. So we need to find an additional source of income to enable us to repair the building and prevent it from deteriorating further.

Unfortunately, there has been some quite intense opposition to our plans and we’ve had to confront the very real possibility that we might not get the permission that we need.

What will we do if we are unsuccessful? It has been a very sobering experience to explore what our options would be. My family have lived here for nearly 300 years, but if we are not permitted to generate the revenue necessary to repair and restore the building, we will have no alternative but to sell up, thereby ending my family’s connection with Court Lodge. We certainly wouldn’t choose to burden our children with a Grade II listed historic house that they could not afford to restore.

And if we are no longer managing Court Lodge, we would need alternative employment. So it was with that thought that last year I began applying for jobs lecturing in philosophy, which is what I used to do in New Zealand before we moved back here to take over the reins of Court Lodge. I was fortunate, and thrilled, to be offered a position at the London School of Economics, and I started teaching there in September 2015. It has been great to get back into philosophy, and I’ve really enjoyed the teaching and interaction with students. The commuting, not so much!

While I’ve been commuting up to London, Ian has been managing things at Court Lodge, and we have been joined by the wonderful George who has been doing anything and everything that needs to be done. She started by giving herself the job description “Court Lodge Minion”, which soon became “Court Lodge Mini-Ian”! We call her the Court Lodge Marvel!

And then, just before Christmas 2015, life threw us another curve-ball, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment I have had from the NHS has been outstanding, and I am so grateful to all the staff. I have already had surgery, and have recovered well from that. I’m now awaiting further test results to see whether or not I will be having chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy.

Meanwhile we have been waiting and waiting for news about the planning permission. We’ve now heard that we will have a decision by the end of March, so at least then we will have some certainty, and know whether or not we have a future at Court Lodge.

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A lost building of Lamberhurst

A week ago I posted this picture on the Court Lodge Estate Facebook page, asking if anyone knew where in Lamberhurst it was. I found the photo in one of our photo albums that belonged to my great great grandfather, William Courtenay Morland. The photos in this album that are dated are from 1902-1905.

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A few helpful people commented, and it soon became clear that it was a Kentish Wealden Hall House called Walsinghams that was demolished a long time ago. It was located on Town Hill in Lamberhurst, on a site now occupied by a house that looks like it dates back to the 1960s.

I was then sent some more photos of Walsinghams by someone who once came to stay in one of our holiday cottages, and whose husband grew up in Lamberhurst. He remembers Walsinghams being demolished, and just the chimney stack left standing for a long time.

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It was a beautiful old Kentish house. I wonder about the families that lived in it. It must have been one of the more substantial houses in Lamberhurst, so was probably home to a wealthy family. I also wonder why it was demolished. At least we still have these photos.

More restoration at Court Lodge

There are lots of improvements being made at Court Lodge at the moment. We have had two old cast iron radiators reconditioned by The Old Radiator Company in Tenterden to go back in the library. They have been sprayed in ‘old gold’, which will go really well with the new curtains which are also almost ready to go up. As well as looking gorgeous, these beauties should pump out the heat and keep us nice and cosy in winter.

Reconditioned old cast iron radiators finished in 'old gold'.

Reconditioned old cast iron radiators finished in ‘old gold’.

You can see the 1980s radiator in the background which we were thinking of taking out, but Mum had the great idea of painting them the same colour as the walls – Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue – so that they fade into the background. That way we get to keep the heat but won’t notice them quite so much.

When we took down the old curtains in the library we had them remade into curtains for one of our holiday lets, the Dairy. The old curtains were made from a lovely creamy golden silk, and today I put them up in their new home. There are floor length curtains for the living room window, and a door curtain for the living room as well. There are also two roman blinds for one of the bedrooms that Ian will put up tomorrow. Here is a picture of the door curtain.

New curtains made from the old silk curtains that used to be in the library

New curtains made from the old silk curtains that used to be in the library

I think the new/old curtains and radiators both look fabulous. I can’t wait to see the new/new curtains in place in the library. Hopefully it won’t be too long, and as soon as they’re up I’ll post some pictures.

New signage

Yesterday we took delivery of some new signs that I’d ordered from a sign maker in Devon. Our logo was designed by a good friend of ours in New Zealand before we left.

Our logo for Court Lodge Estate

Our logo for Court Lodge Estate

She took the background colour from the colour of the stonework on the exterior of Court Lodge, and the arched window symbol is taken from the central windows on the south elevation. The font is Optima, which I like because it is elegant, but inclusive. (I’m a bit of a font geek, in case you couldn’t tell!)

Court Lodge - south elevation

 

We decided it was time that we had standard signage around the property, incorporating the arched symbol from our logo, and the font, and yesterday they arrived:

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They will be replacing the following old signage:

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A vast improvement, I think!

The only potential problem is that the new slate signs are much thicker than we were expecting, and so they are incredibly heavy. It is going to be at least a two man job to fix them to the wall. Luckily we have Ian and Ted here, so they will be put up very soon.

Fully booked in the holiday flats for the first time

Our third holiday flat has only been ready for guests for a week and a half, and it has been full for all of that time. We haven’t even had a chance to take any photos of it yet to advertise it online! Today all three holiday flats are occupied, so we are officially fully booked! And bookings for this year are looking good too. We were lucky enough to be found on holidaylettings.co.uk by a group of builders a few weeks ago, who come from Preston, and were working on building the steel frame for a new Audi showroom in Tunbridge Wells (not an Aldi supermarket, as we originally thought, much to our disappointment!). They have stayed in the Nursery for 5 weeks, going home at weekends. They are now in the Dairy (the new holiday flat), and have kindly spread the word to other builders on the same site, who took up residency in the Nursery today. These guys are cladding the steel frame, and they come from Burton. They may be staying with us during the week for some time to come. It is really nice to be able to provide a home away from home for these guys, who have really appreciated our accommodation. We also have a couple who are in the midst of moving house staying in Courtyard Cottage, our one-bedroom flat, at the moment.

Since our first furnished holiday flat became available in the middle of last year, we have provided accommodation to a much more diverse range of people than just holiday-makers. As well as builders and those moving house we have had people building a house, a couple visiting their family over Christmas, people convalescing after an operation, and many holiday-makers too. I’ve really enjoyed meeting all these people, and it’s very rewarding be able to provide accommodation for which there is clearly a big demand. It’s also great to see Court Lodge being appreciated and enjoyed by such a large number of people.

Living and dining room in The Nursery

Living and dining room in The Nursery

View from one of the bedrooms in The Nursery

View from one of the bedrooms in The Nursery

The Heroes of Court Lodge Estate!

Most days working at Court Lodge are varied and interesting, but every so often things go a little crazy and nothing would surprise me. Today was one of those days. It started off with an immersion heater failing in one of the flats (a surprisingly common occurrence, I might add), so our poor resident had to start the day with a cold shower. We called a plumber, but he couldn’t come out until tomorrow, so we called Christian Hawkins, our electrician, as immersions are a joint plumber/electrician job. Christian came out straight away and fixed the immersion (hooray!), but as he and his assistant were leaving they noticed a leak in the ceiling of the entrance hall. After further investigation it turned out to be a washing machine that had been badly installed in another of the flats, and had been leaking for about 6 weeks. Christian came to the rescue and fixed it for us. What a hero!

As well as urgent and unexpected repairs, lots of other exciting jobs were underway today. Mark Truman, our fantastic general builder/decorator/handyman, has been here this week, and is working on the redecoration of the library. He has been cleaning the ornate plaster cornicing with sugar soap and a toothbrush (I kid you not!), which as you can imagine is a pretty laborious and soul-destroying job. But Mark is a trooper, and takes real pride and pleasure in bringing our forlorn old Country House back to glory. When the library is finished it is going to be stunning. But he reckons he’s got another couple of days worth of cleaning plasterwork with a toothbrush still to go. Another hero!

Mark Truman cleaning the cornicing with his trusty toothbrush

Mark Truman cleaning the cornicing with his trusty toothbrush

You can see here the difference that it makes

You can see here the difference that it makes

Katie is another fairly recent addition to our team, who is doing absolutely sterling work in helping us make Court Lodge a viable business. She has been helping us with important financial decisions, like which biomass boiler supplier to go with, and how to fund it, and how to progress towards being a fully functioning wedding venue. She has helped us choose and hire architects, surveyors, structural engineers, and planning consultants, and her job is varied too, as she also works on finding us a supplier of temporary toilets so we have enough to apply for our license to hold weddings! She has really helped move us along, and Ian and I both feel we are going to reach our goals much more quickly thanks to Katie. Another hero!

Ted, one of our volunteers, and a resident of one of the flats at Court Lodge, has been hard at work today with the chainsaw that Ian bought the other day. Ian still needs to go on a course to get chainsaw qualified before he can wield one, so Ted very kindly offered to start cutting up all the trees and branches that came down in the Christmas Eve storm. It’s a huge job, and there will be lots of tidying up for us to do this weekend, but we will have a big bonfire! Thanks Ted, you are another of our heroes!

And another thing that happened today was that we were visited by Jayne, a representative from Visit England, to give us a star-rating for Courtyard Cottage, our one-bedroom holiday let. We were very proud to be given a 3-star rating, but Jayne told us that we were a high 3-star! We even got 4 stars for cleanliness (and that was down to me, so I’m pretty pleased with myself!)

We have also recently taken our first booking for the hire of the library, to Angela Mason, who will be holding a ‘Touched with Sound’ workshop at the end of March. That gives us a clear deadline for Mark and his toothbrush!

Life at Court Lodge is certainly never dull!

The Nursery is (almost) completely ready!

Over the last couple of weeks Ian and I have been putting the finishing touches to the Nursery, which is our new holiday flat. We already have a booking for December, so we have a deadline to work to. We have cleaned away all the builders’ dust, put up curtains, put books on the bookshelves, hung pictures, bought the duvets and pillows, and made up the beds with the new linen. The appliances were delivered, but haven’t been installed yet. We have one final trip to Ikea to make, just to get all the things that are still on the list, like cutlery, kitchen utensils, a washing basket, a chopping board, a wardrobe and a couple of bedside tables. So we really are nearly there!

mxn51y--tw656dsc_0027.jpg mxn51y--tw656dsc_0016.jpg mxn51y--tw656dsc_0051.jpg mxn51y--tw656dsc_0061.jpg mxn51y--tw656dsc_0075.jpg mxn51y--tw656dsc_0109.jpg mxn51z--tw656dsc_0130.jpg mxn51z--tw656dsc_0154.jpg mxn51y--tw656dsc_0119.jpgHowever, I thought it was good enough for some ‘after’ photos to contrast with the ‘before’ photos that I put up a little while ago, so here they are. Enjoy!