Mallory Meadows

A young Leicestershire-based business offering year round accommodation in a range of heated cabins.

Mallory Meadows accommodationEmily Jane and Chris Tams are three years into their six unit business having just opened their latest builds – two bespoke roundhouses. We talk to Emily about her love for welcoming guests, shopping for interiors and running a lifestyle business.

What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
Chris and I met while working at a local restaurant during our student days, married in 1999 and have three children. I was a nurse and Chris still is a computer software engineer. As a farmer’s daughter, I have always loved being outdoors, so offering the Mallory Meadows style of accommodation ticked our boxes, the outdoor lifestyle and the joy of welcoming and chatting to guests while on holiday.

What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
We bought Keepers Cottage and 2.5 acres of land in June 2016 with my mum, knowing that we wanted to offer self-catering accommodation on site. We opened in January 2018 with four cabins, and added the roundhouses, Jenny Wren and Robin’s Retreat, opening them in October 2019.

How did you research the business before entering it?
We explored all over the country looking at readymade holiday businesses for sale, but concluded that our friends and family were in the Leicestershire area and the children were settled at school, so we decided to make something work there.

We looked at local tourist provision and found a lack of accommodation around where we live, then this property came up for sale. We visited a few rural development and glamping shows and a plan was hatched. We also chatted with a few letting agents about emerging trends and possible income from different types of offering. This helped when we were producing our business plan.

Tell us about your location and site
Mallory Meadows is situated in rural Leicestershire in the small village of Kirkby Mallory. Our house is the old gamekeeper’s cottage for the large estate that is now Mallory Park Circuit, famed for motorcycle racing. We are next to the village church and surrounded by mature trees with all the owls, badgers and wildlife that are a joy to watch.

Our site is rural and quiet but within 10 minutes you have villages and towns to explore, the Battle of Bosworth site, Twycross Zoo, Bradgate Park and the city of Leicester.

Mallory Meadows accommodation living spaceHow did you tackle getting planning?
We used a fantastic planning agent, Phil Plant of Midwest Planning, who organised all the surveys and consultations. We have a badger’s set on site which needed careful consideration, as did the many beautiful old trees that required additional protection when we laid the drive. We didn’t mind any of this as these are the things that make Mallory Meadows the site it is. Honestly, with the assistance of an agent, planning was quite a smooth process in retrospect. We were granted permission for six units in the summer of 2016.

How did you finance the project?
We financed phase 2 with a business bank loan from HSBC. For the roundhouses of phase 2, we applied and received a LEADER project grant and some additional business borrowing allowed us to provide the extra accommodation.

What glamping accommodation do you offer?
We are an all year provider of six heated wooden cabins in three styles. They are fully equipped with kitchens, self-contained shower rooms and free Wi-Fi (guests can choose if they log on or not!). The private hot tubs help with the out of season bookings.

Ideally, we would like to see Mallory Meadows be our lifestyle business and maintain a family run ethos. We chose our first cabins when we saw them at a show but three years on we are wiser and when sourcing our roundhouses we knew exactly what we were looking for so contacted Morel & Co. They designed and advised throughout (including landscaping, which made a huge difference to the privacy of each unit). One of their build partners, a super friendly family-run firm, built two quality units that guests absolutely love staying in.

How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
We currently use Hoseasons as our marketing agent. For complete beginner park owners they have been a very useful source of information and support. They also meant we got off to a flying start with a high occupancy rate in our first year. We are currently exploring the options available to us to begin to take more independent bookings. We hope that Mallory Meadows is seen as a great place to relax and enjoy some green space with loved ones.

Mallory Meadows accommodation bedroomHow would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
I hate questions like this, but it’s an important one. We are a family run, owned and managed small business, we take great pride in our natural environment and try to be as environmentally sound as possible. We want to provide an experience where guests can relax and enjoy the surroundings year-round, but also feel familiar with our offering in a home from home feel.

Leicestershire isn’t your traditional holiday destination, but is an absolute undiscovered hidden gem.

How did you choose your interior decoration?
For our first four lodges I created the colour schemes alone. We wanted a relaxed country theme, helping guests feel instantly welcome and surrounded by nature. In such small spaces you have to think carefully about all the fixtures and furnishings, so for the roundhouses Kate from Morel & Co helped us develop a theme. She designed the fantastic headboards which create an immediate impact as you walk in, and created a stylised version of our logo for one of the bathroom walls. We love the use of the bold colours behind the headboard and shopping for fabrics and accessories with Kate was a great experience, we are delighted with the results.

What challenges have you faced?
Gosh, where to start! Every day throws up new challenges; learning how to offer great customer service without being a pushover, maintaining hot tubs is an ever challenging but an essential part of our business model, and currently there is the Covid-19 challenge that is affecting everyone around the world.

What are your plans for next season?
To stabilise after spending the autumn developing the roundhouses and the spring/early summer closed. We want to be able to settle into a rhythm and allow guests to enjoy the surroundings while our finances settle!

Describe your average day mid-season
My normal Monday: Get the children off to the school bus by 8am, walk home, call at the shop for milk and then back to start the hot tubs draining. Organise the cleaning supplies for each lodge and check any maintenance planned for a changeover day. Chat to guests about their stay as they check out and wave them onwards. Meet the cleaners and help them get started. Then it’s clean all the hot tubs, get them filling while I mow the grass and tidy up the outside areas. We make all the beds together; it’s much more fun with two.

Then it’s my favourite time, getting the welcome packs together and dressing the lodges for guest arrivals. I love making sure everything is just perfect and turning on the fairy lights. I try really hard to get all this done before it’s time to meet the school bus, then it’s hot drinks time and a catch up with the children about their day. When guests start to arrive it’s fun finding out their plans for their stay and suggesting places to visit, eat out or takeaways we love to use.

Tea time, answer any questions from guests, check emails then it’s about bed time. It’s not unusual to clock up 20,000 steps on a changeover day and I always sleep well!

Mallory Meadows accommodation kitchenDo you enjoy the business?
I love it! It’s fun, we get to work from home together and I get a great work out twice a week. It’s definitely challenging and we have learnt so much over the last three years that I think the day to day things are getting easier and we can focus on building on the foundations we have created.

What are you most proud of?
Working with Chris, making decisions together and waking up looking out of the window and seeing the environment we have created. The smiles on our guests’ faces when they arrive and start to relax.

What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Love it, embrace that it is hard work but such a great feeling when guests book for their fourth visit and leave amazing reviews. Do your research, ask loads of questions and get impartial advice from people who know the industry. Be prepared to make bold and brave decisions at times. Chris and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Mallory Meadows accommodation exterior


ADDRESS BOOK

ROUNDHOUSES
Morel & Co (with build partners Cedar Tree Pods www.morelcompany.co.uk

HOT TUBS
Jacuzzi www.jacuzzi.co.uk
RotoSpa www.rotospa.com

INTERIORS
Morel & Co (for the roundhouses) www.morelcompany.co.uk

BOOKING
Hoseasons www.hoseasons.co.uk

BRANDING/PR
Lupella Digital Media www.lupella.com

INSURANCE
NFU Mutual www.nfumutual.co.uk

PLANNING
Midwest Planning www.midwestplanning.co.uk

BUSINESS CONSULTANT
Morel Consultancy www.morelconsultancy.com

Mallory Meadows


DETAILS
Mallory Meadows
Barwell Road
Kirkby Mallory
Leicester LE9 7QA

01455 841867
www.mallorymeadows.co.uk

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