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How Hoe Grange self catering is adapting post-Covid

Hoe Grange is a traditional family-run farm on the edge of the Peak District National Park, which diversified into self-catering in 2006. Owners David and Felicity Brown identified a gap in the market for high quality accessible accommodation and have since gone on to win many awards for accessibility including Gold in the VisitEngland Access for All Awards in 2016. In August 2020 Hoe Grange won Bronze in the VisitEngland Awards for Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism.

Hoe Grange are supporters of Tourism for All and have an entry on Tourism For All’s Travel Planner site

Felicity Brown of Hoe Grange has sent us this account of how Hoe Grange has adapted to the word of Covid-19

'At Hoe Grange Holidays we are passionate about providing high quality wheelchair accessible holidays with outstanding disabled facilities and a wide range of specialist equipment. All four of our cosy log cabins have level thresholds throughout and are rated under the National Accessible Scheme.

We also welcome guests with autism and learning difficulties who find Hoe Grange a peaceful haven away from crowds. We have won numerous national awards for outstanding accessibility, including The Catey for Accessibility and two VisitEngland Gold Awards for Accessibility and Inclusive Tourism.

How the pandemic affected our business

The Coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult and testing time for everyone. It severely affected our holiday business as we were physically closed to guests during lockdown from 23rd March until 4th July.

We faced a cashflow crisis as we gave out lots of refunds for cancellations, and there were no new bookings coming in. Times were particularly challenging for us as providers of accessible accommodation as a large proportion of our guests are in the vulnerable groups who were shielding. This meant we also had many cancellations for later in the summer and autumn.

With a minimal grant from the Government and no other support as a limited company, we had to take out a bounce back loan to tide us through.

Our housekeepers were put on furlough whilst David and I put the time to good use by carrying out major maintenance such as painting cabin windows and replacing decking. We, along with our housekeepers, took the opportunity to work through the “Disability and Customer Service” training modules run online by Purple.

Coping during Covid

We are extremely luck to live in a rural countryside location and we were lambing as lockdown started so we had plenty of farm work to keep us busy. Bringing new life into the world is the best distraction ever!

As Farmers we were classed as key workers, but thankfully our location also meant that we were less likely to come into contact with the Coronavirus, unlike many other key workers and NHS staff who were inevitably exposed on a daily basis.

With the farm animals we had a daily routine to follow which helped us cope, but we really missed the social interaction with our holiday guests.

Unable to offer an alternative online product or service we were determined to remain positive during lockdown. We decided to maintain our relationship with guests and attract possible new guests by keeping an active social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We ran a campaign using #fascinatingfact to explain about modern farming and interesting information about the local area.

What extra measures are we taking?

Luckily our log cabins are spaced well apart so social distancing is not a problem. However as a business we have had to adapt to the “new normal” in many ways and have made some changes:

  1. We have introduced a new 100% money back guarantee so guests can cancel up to 3 days before arrival for any reason (including Covid) and receive a full refund.
  2. We worked hard to achieve the new VisitEngland “We’re Good to Go” Mark. This certification means we are following Government and industry COVID-19 guidelines and have all the correct cleaning protocols, risk assessments and preparations in place.
  3. Our housekeeping team have all undergone additional cleaning training for Covid and infection control. We have introduced cleaning checklists and are use antivirucidal sprays on the final wipe down of all high touch surfaces.
  4. We contact guests before arrival to ensure that any accessible equipment is in place in the log cabins before they arrive. We also have links with local businesses that can deliver local Peak District produce to the door, so guests don’t have to go out shopping.
  5. When guests arrive, we are keeping our social distance and operating a self check in, rather than our usual familiarisation tour. However, we remain on hand at a social distance to help with any queries.
  6. We are keeping up to date with which local attractions, places to visit and pubs are open for business and sharing this with guests prior to arrival.
  7. We are asking guests to help us by stripping the bedding and opening all the windows before they leave to minimise the risk to our own staff.
  8. We ask guests whether they have been contacted by Track and Trace or think they have any Covid symptoms.'

Felicity Brown

Hoe Grange website: https://www.hoegrangeholidays.co.uk

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