Ahead of the end of the 5 per cent reduced VAT rate for the hospitality…
Sometimes climbing the hospitality career ladder can be good exercise, not just ticking all the boxes for your managers
Ever thought how many floors you’ve travelled up and down in lifts, the miles clocked up pushing a trolley, or wondered about the number of times you’ve plugged into a power point a piece of the equipment armoury we use every day?
Now enter a very different housekeeping world, where quad bikes replace the trolleys, there is no handy electricity supply or store cupboard along a corridor for necessities in need of replacement… and don’t even dare think of phoning the office for assistance – because this ultimate guest experience is miles from a decent signal.
We’re talking luxury eco-friendly treehouses, out in the wild where couples and families take a break to get away from it all. The Living Room Treehouse Experience is in the secluded woods of a Welsh sheep farm in the Dyfi Valley, Montgomeryshire. Mark Bond, who runs the operation with business partner Peter Cannon, is full of praise for the small housekeeping team who relish preparing the extraordinary properties between guest departures and arrivals.
There’s Julia Shaw, who often takes her dog with her, and Jasmine and Caroline Jones. The latter, at 16, is a new recruit in a business providing work for local people – and we expect she won’t mind Bond describing her as a ‘rugged, outdoorsy type’ as anyone else would find the task a real challenge, particularly when it’s raining.
The six treehouses are spread out and some distance from the main entrance, so parties of guests are usually matched to one which best suits their circumstances. For the housekeepers the task starts with taking everything they will need in sealed drybags. When they arrive, there is a winding climb up steps high into the tree canopy, some 40 feet above the ground, and unusual tasks which go well beyond changing beds.
For instance, the treehouses have Swedish-style compost toilets, a lot of hard surfaces and some beautiful fabrics to care for. It all reflects the surrounding countryside and features very ornate woodwork produced by local craftspeople. There are woodburning stoves to both heat the treehouse and spring water showers and water evaporation fridges. As night descends the rooms can be lit with lanterns, tea lights and lamps.
“This is definitely more than cleaning,” Bond says. “The girls appreciate the artistic side and how it reflects the natural environment. They are very much involved in ensuring guests have an experience that sticks in the memory.” Just how sought after a stay is at The Living Room Treehouse Experience is demonstrated by the fact that it’s just about fully booked until autumn of next year.
Housekeepers in rural areas are certainly going to have some intriguing challenges in the years to come as the ‘back to nature’ staycation market grows, with some offering modern-day ‘luxuries’ alongside the rustic setting. Opening this summer in West Dorset at Mallinson’s Woodland Retreat is Dazzle and Pinwheel Treehouses. At Dazzle, already welcoming guests the fully equipped kitchen opens onto the rear deck, with its hot tub and cargo net daybed, suspended above the stream and beneath an oak canopy. There’s a barbecue and pizza oven, while inside a wood-burning stove sits between the sitting room and bedroom, while an en-suite shower room (with proper flushing loo) completes the luxury treetop hideout. The design was a collaboration between Guy Mallinson and Keith Brownlie of BEaM and built entirely by Guy and his team of highly skilled wood craftspeople.