Stoke by Nayland: Refurbishment and wifi keep hotel, golf and spa complex up to speed
PUBLISHED: 06:00 26 August 2014
Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa, which is set in 300 picturesque acres on the Suffolk-Essex border, is continuing to invest to make sure that its facilities match up to the expectations of the 21st Century traveller. DUNCAN BRODIE spoke to director Tarama Unwin about the latest developments.
Just a year on from launching a complex of five-star lodges in its grounds, Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa has invested a further six-figure sum to upgrade its four-star hotel’s facilities to offer a similar level of comfort.
The family-run business, which is owned and managed by the descendants of the late Devora Peake, has completed a major refurbishment of its reception, lobby and lounge areas.
Half of the hotel’s original 30 bedrooms, which opened in 2000, have also been refurbished, with work on the other half due to follow in the coming months.
The hotel, which now has a total of 80 bedrooms as a result of subsequent expansion, has a four-star rating from both the AA and Visit England, with the latter grading having recently been upgraded to four star “silver” status.
Tamara Unwin, one of the family directors, says that the changes to the public areas of the hotel have “created a whole new space where people can, sit, chat and have a coffee or tea.” They also include a new stairway from the lounge to a gallery for dining and functions.
New lighting, speakers and heating have been installed, enabling the “mood” to be adjusted to the occasion or time of day, and new revolving doors have also been introduced to offer greater ease of access as well as creating a grander entrance.
The new look to the interior, described as contemporary “boutique style” and featuring shades of grey, lemon and blues, is the work of local designer Lindsey Rendall, another member of the family,
It includes hand-embroidered silk walling depicting cherry trees in blossom which, besides providing a “wow factor” for guests on arrival, also links the hotel with the family’s heritage of fruit growing.
The business began as a 120-acre apple farm in 1938. It led to the creation of the Copella fruit juice business, which is still based nearby but is now under separate ownership, and, in 1973, a golf course out of which the diverse leisure business has grown.
Today, the business includes two championship golf courses, the Constable and the Gainsborough, with associated retail facilities, and a spa and gym complex, including an 18-metre indoor pool, spa bath, steam room and sauna, as well as the hotel, with its own Lakes restaurant, Pippin shop and nine function/conference suites of varying sizes, with terraces and views over the golf course. The farming business, meanwhile, continues to operate alongside the leisure operations, including fruit growing, packing and storage.
Tamara says that the addition of the five lodges last year, combined with the provision of 100mbps wifi, has led to a significant increase in corporate business.
The lodges, which can accommodate up to 12 people, include open-plan living space and a meeting room, making them idea for corporate retreats. Although there are kitchen facilities for self-catering, a “take away” service is available from the hotel kitchen or a chef can be provided to prepare a meal at the lodge. A porter is also available 24 hours a day for fetching and carrying, which can include driving guests the short distance to the hotel and the other facilities.
The wifi provision, achieved through a radio-based system, has also been used to good effect by on the farm, and in 2013 the business won the Business Broadband category of the East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards.
“The wifi has made a huge difference to the hotel business as well as the farming business,” says Tamara. “We are getting more corporate business in the hotel and in the lodges. Guests can play golf or use the spa when not working, and eat in the restaurant.”
The latest refurbishment work at the hotel represents an investment of nearly £500,000. Besides the lodges, another recent addition on the site is a Lee Westwood Golf School, a £400,000 facility for 16- to 19-year-olds, which received its first students in 2011 and was officially opened by Lee Westwood, one of England’s foremost professional golfers, in May this year.
And the investment does not end there. The farm business is currently planing new orchards, including dessert cherries, and is involved in a £2million project to install an anaerobic digestion plant, due to be completed later this year.
This will convert organic material from the farm and the neighbouring Copella factory into green energy which will power the fruit juice operation and part of the farm.
As for the future, although there are no immediate plans to start work, planning permissions have been obtained for a nine-hole par three golf course and for a further 10 lodges.