Some mutterings from Anne Way
The fact that this strange lockdown has coincided with the life changing decision that we made and led to us selling our two much loved hotels in South Devon earlier this year, makes life for me now seem even more dramatically different on a day to day basis than I ever could have imagined!
After 37 years of considering the Royal Castle and the team there as so personal to us as a family it was a great wrench to let go and an emotional time for us especially to know that it will never be privately owned again in this very corporate world that we all now live in. We moved in and lived there for a while with our 2 children when Tim was 3 years and Becca only 6 months old before we eventually moved into a house in Dartmouth which was a challenging but happy time! I also have my own very personal feelings about the Royal Seven Stars at Totnes as it has played a huge part of my our own life – I and my family lived locally and I had worked there in the early 1970s as a teenage receptionist and Nigel and I had been fortunate to own it from 2005. It had become very sad and neglected and over the years we had lovingly restored its fortunes and importantly it was our favourite venue for all our major family gatherings – both celebratory and sad – parents and children and other family birthday parties and anniversaries etc – the ballroom feeling on those occasions felt like our own personal family space! The sadness of leaving behind life at Dartmouth and Totnes was of course combined with the excitement of being able to look forward and plan on spending more time, energy and resources into developing our fabulous properties and teams in Dunster and Porlock Weir.
However, the eventual timing of this transition was amazing (does Nigel have a direct line to Mystic Meg?) and the pain of all this disruption in February has since been overshadowed by a sense of relief that we now suddenly have fewer responsibilities and worries than we would have been faced with. With this unprecedented crisis of lockdown nobody really has any answers at the moment but it seems that there will be lots of problems that bars and restaurants will still be facing once everything is lifted. We will all have to think of ways of implementing effective social distancing measures and deal with the ongoing fears of customers and staff even after the government allows reopening.
At The Luttrell Arms and The Porlock Weir I think we are very fortunate to be situated in rural areas where we will be in a much better position to offer people plenty of open spaces and clean air both inside and out rather than in busy urban town centre locations where there is no expectation of ‘getting away from it all’ – our intention at Porlock Weir has always been to use the remote location as an ideal backdrop for peaceful relaxation and perhaps some introduction to mindfulness and wellbeing practices – walking, yoga, painting classes, canoeing etc being more important at times than socialising and shopping!
At the Luttrell Arms we are already established as a relatively peaceful location where guests are always encouraged to relax either by a roaring log fire in winter or in the sunny garden in summer or enjoy being indulged with a massage or facial in the luxury of the health and beauty studio. Regular long standing customers and friends of the ‘Lutts’ enjoy the quiet rather sleepy village atmosphere that Dunster enjoys for most of the year and the wild beauty and open spaces of Exmoor that surround us at Dunster and Porlock.
It is frustrating at the moment not to be able to be getting on with our plans – I can’t remember ever spending so much time at home – I haven’t driven my car for over 4 weeks now which is historic for me as I have spent the last few years regularly on the road between South Devon and West Somerset! The weather has been really hot some days and the garden at home has never had so much attention. We are very lucky that Becca and Greg and our 2 year old granddaughter Georgia were already staying with us here when the lockdown was imposed as they were in the midst of moving house and everything suddenly stopped mid move. We are all together and this makes us feel very privileged when so many of our friends have not seen their families for several weeks now and missed out on Mother’s Day and Easter family gatherings.
Every day tends to feel very much the same and so to try and retain some structure to the week we are having a proper Sunday lunch every and cooking for some neighbours who are alone which makes it more worthwhile – its takes absolutely ages to prepare the meal and clear up afterwards and so this takes up most of the day – probably because as hoteliers we have always been used to serving customers rather than doing all the background work – Nigel had his first Easter Sunday off for 40 years he tells me! There are arguments about timings and cooking procedures and results are variable sometimes and no help in the house now I realise how much time consuming work is entailed in cooking a family meal. I realise now why everyone enjoys going out to eat in hotels like ours for major meals like Sunday lunch! On a Sunday night I find myself looking forward even more to the hotels reopening and getting Barrie and Miguel and their teams back in the hotel kitchens.