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A Luxurious Country Escape at Stapleford Park Hotel:
You know that you have arrived somewhere pretty special when you approach a hotel via a long driveway, drive past its private church, through an arch, park on freshly raked gravel, and enter the hotel to the smell of a log fire, and be greeted by name.
This level of customer service was apparent throughout our weekend stay at Stapleford Park when we were asked each time upon return if we’d enjoyed the activities that we’d undertaken, and throughout our meals if everything was to our satisfaction.
The privately owned hotel (it was whispered to us that it’s owned by the Queen of Brunei) sets out to create a ‘home from home’ feel, and despite it being infinitely grander than my own Edwardian house, it manages to succeed in doing just that. The furnishings are both comfortable and quirky. I loved the library, now being used as a bar. Evidently, the paintings with the dogs’ heads are satirical. Other rooms with hunting trophies may not be to everyone’s taste, but this is a country house hotel after all, and countryside pursuits are reflected in the decor.
Guests are able to play chess and other board games in the lounge or sit with a book on a settee by one of the roaring fires, or they can borrow a pair of wellies left in the hallway and go for a walk in the beautiful and extensive grounds. The hotel is both child and dog-friendly, and many guests had brought both, indeed Stapleford Park offers bespoke dog beds and a doggy afternoon tea as well as dog sitting whilst the owners enjoy their meals.
In addition to the indoor games, there is an indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, outdoor chess, a croquet lawn, an 18 hole golf course, pitch and putt, pétanque, tennis courts, a gym, and a treatment centre, as well as a landscape designed by Capability Brown (those trees aren’t in a straight line by accident). There are also some special activities that can be booked by the hotel; a falconry experience, archery lessons, and clay pigeon shooting; more of those later.
Our bedroom on the second floor was tastefully decorated in warm neutral colours. We loved the view of the croquet lawn below through the old stone window frame. We also loved the complimentary slow gin, the perfect warm up after our day of outdoor activities, and a nice little nightcap! All the bedrooms have names and all are decorated differently. I would have loved to seem the suite at the front of the house, which spans two stories, with the bed on the upper level with a spectacular view across the countryside. I couldn’t imagine anything more romantic, and I’m sure it’s a firm favourite with brides and grooms getting married at Stapleford Park. There are also cottages in the grounds that can be rented; ideal for the bride and bridesmaids the day before the wedding, or for families, or for recluses – Michael Jackson stayed in the Gardeners’ Cottage when he visited Stapleford Park.
Having arrived fairly late on Friday, we quickly freshened up using the lovely Noble Isle products, got changed and made our way the lounge, where we enjoyed a glass of champagne for me, and a blackberry cocktail with a wicked twist of chilli for Alex, before going through to dinner. The photo below is another cocktail that he had on our second evening at the hotel.
As you would expect in an establishment of this quality, the food was of great quality and beautifully presented. A pianist played whilst we ate; and my, that King Crab was delicious. There were several parties celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, which helped give the place a very happy atmosphere. After dinner we retired to the bar for a nightcap, and then enjoyed a fabulous night’s sleep in our pretty bedroom.
The next morning after enjoying a full English breakfast made from locally sourced produce, we were taken on a tour of the house and told a little of its history. It’s first owner was Henry de Ferrers, who fought at the Battle of Hastings and was rewarded by Norman I. In the 14th century it was owned by John O’Gaunt having arrived in his possession from his wife’s dowry. It passed to the Sherards and was owned by them for 484 years. It’s thought that the men with their legs crossed carved on this exterior relief represent Crusaders.
The Grettons bought it in 1894, but in 1982 Lord Gretton sold the house but kept the estate. Many of the paintings and chandeliers still belong to Lord Gretton, and occasionally he asks for something to be returned to him. The photo below shows 2 periods of house building that look very different, but which were actually only constructed 30 years apart.
Our tour included looking in the old indoor riding school, now used for weddings and conferences, the orangery, private dining areas (with beautiful newly decorated silk wallpaper), and the original kitchen.
The weather brightened up after our tour and we were then able to take part in the activities planned for us. We started with a game of croquet, not a very skilful effort from me I have to say.
We then had an archery lesson which went rather better; I’m very proud of myelf that I managed to achieve a bullseye.
We then went to the falconry and enjoyed a fantastic hour flying 3 of the beautiful birds; 2 owls and a falcon. It’s hard to describe how exciting this is, and what an amazing experience to have. The keeper was so dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable that the time whizzed past. He’d raised the birds from eggs, and knew all their foibles and tricks. That’s Bernard below, who is actually female!
I had an additional special treat at the end of the day when I received a massage in the therapy centre (the old stable block). Highly recommended! I was even chauffered there in a golfing buggy.
As an Organisation Development person, I’m often asked about culture and how to get it to be customer focused. There are so many things that Stapleford Park Hotel does right to achieve this, and the staff are clearly happy in their jobs. None of this happens by magic, it’s a mixture of good communication, feedback, and treating staff well. We observed the breakfast kitchen and waiting staff having a de-briefing about the service, and the beautician told me that the heads of department all meet regularly so that everyone knows what’s happening across the business and that they then cascade it to their staff. She also said how much she loved the place, and always used it for special occasions. If staff want to come back in their free time, you know that the leadership have got something right.
I can honestly say that this was the best weekend away that I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. In fact, I already have; a colleague is booking it for her wedding anniversary next year.
Stapleford Park Country House Hotel & Sporting Estate
Stapleford, Nr. Melton Mowbray,
Leicestershire, LE14 2EF
Tel: +44 (0) 1572 787000
Fax: +44 (0) 1572 787001
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