Pat and Dave were invited to the Cornwall Tourism Awards on Thursday 12 November and found themselves sitting on the ‘top table’ with the judges and special guest speaker Rory McGrath. Half way through the evening Pat was called up on stage to accept a special award – for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Cornish Tourism’!
Before presenting the award, Malcolm Bell, Head of Visit Cornwall, spoke about Pat’s passion for providing the best possible experience for visitors to Cornwall and how she is always keen to share her knowledge and experience with others. Needless to say Pat was amazed and very proud to have been singled out by the judges for this special accolade. Here’s what she has to say about winning the award and what it means to her.
I have been involved in the tourism industry in Cornwall for 35 years, almost half my lifetime. It was not my chosen career path, having been a geography teacher prior to moving in 1978 with my family from Worcestershire to a farm at Lanhydrock, near Bodmin.
The farm was near derelict, with a rambling old Georgian farmhouse, a range of granite barns and little else. We set about converting it to a dairy farm and with the eternal optimism of youth relished the challenges we faced on a daily basis. The daily demands of looking after two children under four and making the house habitable (it had 22 rooms and the furniture from our previous tiny cottage fitted into two of them!) and constructing farm buildings meant that returning to teaching was not an option. The farm was eating up all our reserves and I needed an income. What could I do?
One option was to start welcoming guests to the farm – the house was big, we were close to the Lanhydrock estate (run by the National Trust and always popular with visitors to the area), and my neighbour Jean was doing well with her B&B, so I thought I’d give it a try.
However, I had no money, no furniture and the rooms were a mess. I also had no experience, young children, and I was needed to work on the farm. Was this idea ever going to get off the ground?
But one by one, I managed to find the solutions to my problems. My pedigree pig herd was not doing so well in Cornwall so I reluctantly sold them and used the money to buy paint and wallpaper to do up the best bedroom with my mum and dad’s help. I travelled to Hampshire with a van to collect old pine furniture from a friend selling her farmhouse and downsizing, put my dining table and chairs in the wood panelled study, stuck an advert in The Lady magazine and with fingers crossed and high hopes went into B&B!
As they say, the rest is history! One guest room turned into three, the old barns were converted into eight holiday cottages and the business flourished for the twenty years we lived there. In 1985 I got a group of like-minded farmers’ wives together and founded the ‘Cream of Cornwall’ farm holiday group, which is still flourishing as Cornish Farm Holidays.
We sold the farm in 1997 after struggling with BSE and milk quotas and sought pastures new, pausing to completely renovate an old vicarage to keep us busy! A new opportunity beckoned in the form of Bosinver, a slightly run-down holiday park. We instantly recognised that it was a very special place with great potential, and that we had the skills to turn it around and make it a success. The task was huge and during the first year or two I must admit that I cried a lot! That was 15 years ago. Since then, we’ve won many awards at Bosinver, including the prestigious Visit England Gold Award for ‘Self Catering Holiday Provider of the Year’.
Winning an award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Cornish Tourism’ at the CTA last week felt like a lifetime achievement award for me – being recognised by my peers from across the county was an unforgettable moment. I could not have achieved this success without my amazing team at Bosinver and my long-suffering husban, Dave, who holds the fort whilst I am out attending meetings or gathering ideas for projects.
I still feel slightly overwhelmed as I don’t consider what I have done to be particularly remarkable. I’ve just followed my dreams, believed in myself and always done my personal best, – something I learned from my mum and dad. You won’t always win or pass every exam but as long as you do your absolute best you cannot be disappointed with your achievements.
It’s been a long road to reach the point that I find myself at now, but I have certainly enjoyed the journey! Cornwall has been good to us – I love living here and hope that along the way I have encouraged and inspired others to believe in themselves, work hard and follow their dreams. As Dave always says, ‘getting better results takes dedication’ and I say, ‘live what you love!’ Teamwork!