They would be the first to admit it has been an exciting and exhilarating journey and occasionally a bit overwhelming. “We’ve reached an incredible milestone and are extremely proud of our success but couldn’t have done it without the support of our amazing team and the wonderful holiday homeowners and guests who make the park what it is today.”
It’s the summer of ’98. Please explain how and why you took the plunge and invested in Pearl Lake?
Glenn: So, during my early thirties I’d branched out from the family business and was trawling the country from Cornwall to Cumbria looking for a suitable place of my own. Dad, who taught me most of what I know about caravan parks, had tipped me off that an absolute dream opportunity had come on the market locally. An 83 acre site, set in a stunning location, consisting of 20 acres of ancient woodland and the largest glacial lake in Herefordshire, was for sale right on my doorstep at Shobdon! What was there not to like?
Hannah: I was involved with Pearl Lake pretty much from its conception as I’d just started going out with Glenn and happened to be working with accountancy and administration locally. My skills contributed to the initial business plan.
From my memory our courtship was a whirl of facts and figures and quite soon I became totally committed to the future development of Pearl Lake and of course our relationship which went hand in hand.
Has the holiday home industry changed from the turn of the millennium up to the present day?
Glenn: Fundamentally the industry hasn’t really changed much since my parents, Alwyn and Olive, opened their first park in Mid Wales at ‘The Smithy’, Abermule, back in 1968. The customer base remains more or less the same – successful people from the Midlands, the Wirral and the Southwest area who are looking for affordable holiday homes in the nearby countryside.
Hannah: What has changed is customer expectation! The days when holiday homeowners were content with a two or three bed static caravan with pull down beds and gas mantels are long gone. People want large and luxurious holiday homes these days, that are set in magnificent surroundings with on-site entertainment and state-of-the-art leisure facilities to hand. At Discover Parks, and Pearl Lake in particular, we feel all those desires are catered for.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout the development of Pearl Lake?
Glenn: Without doubt, Covid was the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced – a real crisis that altered on an hourly basis testing us to the limit at times. Testament to our team who helped us keep homeowners, self-catering and touring customers well informed and secure in the knowledge they could visit again as soon as it was safe to do so. Joining up to Vistage, a regional business owners group that supports and coaches its members, has certainly helped us get through many challenges both with our customers and our staff. The creation of our company values were as a direct result of their guidance and it’s enabled us to continue building on Discover Parks success.
How involved are your family and children in long term decision making?
Glenn: Family are at the heart of everything and our children Cerys and Rhodri are often involved in decision making and on-park activities and our business plans are usually based around being ‘home for tea’ every night.
As they’ve grown up, one of us has always been there on hand to ferry them around to after-school activities hence, our sister parks acquired after Pearl Lake are all within twenty minutes of home.
The latest development on our Rockbridge Park at Presteigne is a typical example of family involvement. We’ve recently been planning the landscaping around the new holiday homes which involved us all walking around the site together on a Sunday afternoon with sketch books and iPads to map out design ideas before going home to watch the rugby.
Hannah: The children are probably more involved than they want to be! They can’t escape the ‘how has your day been’ chat around the dinner table, although they seem to enjoy it and often contribute, bringing a different perspective. Working so closely as husband and wife is sometimes difficult and challenging but usually rewarding. Personality profiles reveal Glenn and I as opposites who complement each other. Glenn, highly energetic and creative, and always ready to make quick gut decisions while I tend to be more practical and comprehensive so can often act as a calming influence – we dovetail together very well.
What is a typical working day for you both?
Glenn: I’m always up and away by 7 am and after a swift breakfast usually head straight for Pearl Lake to meet up with the maintenance team, marketing and sales staff and anyone that needs to see me while Hannah goes to head office at our nearby Arrow Bank park to deal with finance and HR matters.
We all meet again at tea time around 6-ish and recap, discuss the day and make any business decisions that are necessary before we either relax and watch some television at home or go out to meetings and social events. I attend choir twice a week which is great relaxation, and we often venture out to meet up with friends for a drink or a meal.
What do you like to do on a rare day off?
Glenn: There’s nothing better than a day out looking at other parks and the competition or going out to eat. A Sunday roast at one of our favourite pubs on the border in Knighton followed by some sport on the television maybe? We both love the theatre and are big supporters of the Courtyard in Hereford where we often meet up with family. Real time off on a holiday away involves at least a week usually in Devon or abroad when I allow myself to look at emails just once a day to make sure there isn’t a crisis on any of the parks.
Hannah: A perfect day off for me is relaxing with a good book, meeting family and friends, cooking a Sunday roast at home, or having a meal out at one of the fantastic restaurants and pubs we are lucky enough to have locally. Last year we had a long family holiday (two-and-a-half weeks) which I loved – it’s hard to get Glenn away for that long, however the team managed perfectly well and so I hope we can do this more often.
What have been the highlights of the twenty-five years at Pearl Lake?
Glenn: In the very early days it would have been manning the fort single handedly, camping out with just a mattress and sleeping bag in the make shift reception. Getting married in January 2000 and Hannah leaving her accountancy job in Ledbury to work full time with me at Pearl Lake.
The journey of improving the park and building the team, working with nature and people keeping that fine balance as we extended and put in things like the adventure playground and the nature hide in the woods. Moving and extending the golf course, managing the woodland and winning a succession of David Bellamy Awards for our work with wildlife. Working together and bringing up our family in such a beautiful county is a special thing to do, I never forget how blessed we are.
Hannah: How could I forget, water running down our necks on our 1st wedding anniversary as we hammered in pegs to mark out proposed plots overlooking the lake! Seeing the outcome of that day twenty-five years on – the stunning new holiday lodge development at Pearl Lake – still fills me with pride.
I love walking around the parks looking at the gardens, the wildlife, the open spaces we have preserved – how the park looks and feels is very important to me. Growing the team is fantastically rewarding too. At first Glenn and I did everything, from manning reception to unblocking drains; from creating the initial website, to drafting our first Health and Safety policy, plus meeting and greeting guests and selling holiday homes to our lovely owners. Now we have friendly and experienced teams doing all of this and more.
What of your future at Pearl Lake, will there be another twenty-five years?
Glenn: To have gone from a two-person team to a semi-corporate company with nearly fifty employees working across three parks is without doubt a fantastic achievement. Credit must go to my parents Olive and Alwyn who have given us invaluable advice and huge support throughout the journey, particularly in the early years.
The location remains the same, stunningly beautiful and the 10,000-year-old lake will continue to survive with or without us. We certainly don’t have any plans to pack up and retire but when we do, hopefully, our team and possibly our children will carry on in the same vein.
Hannah: We still have lots of plans for improvements across our three beautiful parks including a new reception building and touring area at Pearl Lake. Our ethos is continual improvement and investment so things such as adding new equipment in the children’s play area, putting in new leisure facilities and updating our self-catering homes will continue to happen alongside maintaining our high standards around the park.
In twenty-five years time I would love to walk around and still see the open green spaces, the trees and wildlife habitats that make Pearl Lake so special. Attention to detail is paramount and we know that our team manage perfectly well without us being hands on.
Friends, family, guests and owners joined Glenn and Hannah recently to celebrate their remarkable achievement. Here are a few photos.
Country Holiday Park
Herefordshire HR6 9NQ
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