Describe The Grange in a nutshell.
A fine-featured, family run, 18-bedroom country house hidden away in the rolling Dorset countryside. We’re small but perfectly formed; cosy, comfy and with bags of character and a charm that you can’t quite put your finger on.
How many family members actually work in the hotel?
I’d say four…and three-quarters. There’s Ken – who’s known as Pops to the family – most frequently found pouring a glass of sherry or sharing one with guests. Karenza – known as Granny – generally looks after everyone but also has an enviable attention to detail, ensuring everything is always spic and span. Jon and I will usually be juggling plates, staff, guests and our children’s lives – which leads me to the three-quarters part. This is Beau, our five-year-old daughter, who adores her extended family of hotel staff and guests and Wyn, three, whose ability to shift furniture before functions must make him the strongest boy in Oborne.
How did you and Jon come to work together?
It was more luck than judgment. I grew up in my parent’s hotel in Brighton and swore I’d never choose a career in hospitality, heading off to university instead to study drama. But as a student I turned to what I knew, working in a hotel throughout my studies for extra money. Likewise, Jon had no burning ambition to run a hotel; he took environmental studies at university. Then after graduating we wanted to travel and Ken and Karenza happily volunteered to take a year out so that we could work at their hotel and save money. One crazy year later we set off with our backpacks but on our return my parents promptly retired and we bought The Grange and fell in love with the job. The rest is (family) history.
How do you find working as a married couple?
Well it’s been 13 years now, so it can’t all be bad! No – it is wonderful. We balance each other, bounce ideas around, but we also each take the lead on different things. It creates a sense of purpose and vision and the fantastic family feel that runs through this lovely building.
What do you love most about The Grange?
Christmas. It’s like the building was purpose-built to host the occasion. We have seven real trees, open log fires flickering away, candles and an unlimited supply of mince pies. The hotel has a real festive family buzz about it and although hard work and long hours, it is one of the most rewarding times of the year for all of us too. If we don’t have at least one guest happily nodding off after lunch on Christmas Day by the fire, we haven’t done things right.
Tell us your favourite memory from running the hotel.
My sister’s wedding. After we moved to The Grange we undertook a large building project to double the size of our little hotel and add two function rooms. The day before Julia’s wedding it was all hands on deck to get the hotel finished. We had plumbers cleaning windows, carpenters laying tables, waitresses stocking the bar as the varnish dried. The gravel was only just down as the red carpet was rolled out. It was a team project but Julia’s wedding marked the amazing culmination of a year of hard work and the beginning of our even bigger project – opening the doors to our guests.