Meet the Accommodation Providers: Mountain Lodge
North Somerset is home to many wonderful and unique businesses and organisations. This month, we’re delighted to introduce Jennifer and Paul Goddard from Mountain Lodge
How did Mountain Lodge start and how has it developed?
Ten years ago, while working as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist, a special little patient came onto my [Jennifer Goddard’s] caseload, upsettingly he did not have long left in this life, he and his parents shared a very simple dream which was to have a holiday together. Sadly, they could not get away because there was not suitable accommodation available in the UK or abroad. After doing some research, looking at what was available, I was astounded at the amount of accommodation that says it is disability friendly but lacks many of the basic requirements.
The pathway to building Mountain Lodge has taken many years of saving, planning and researching which finally paid off in 2022, the year in which the construction took place followed by the first guests checking in on 23rd December 2022. The first year was so rewarding and uplifting, seeing the realisation of so many families finally being able to holiday together in a relaxed and stress-free environment. The success in year one has surpassed my expectations and with the feedback and ideas from guests I know it will continue to grow.
Why did you decide to base yourself in North Somerset?
When first searching for a location to set up the business and build such bespoke accommodation, there were many factors to consider. It had to be in a location that people would want to come to, with a variety of attractions and activities that are on the doorstep.
While within a niche area of the tourism sector our clientele has such a broad list of requirements including physical, as well as psychological and mental, and blindness and hearing loss, each of which come with differing challenges for the individual and their loved ones.
Mountain Lodge has catered for surfing-mad children enjoying the easy access to the Wave Bristol as well as the North Devon Coast through to guests who want to make the most of our easy links to the City of Bristol for SS Great Britain and dinner on a river boat.
Others have been simply delighted to relax in the hot tub and spend hours reading and socialising with their friends and family in the purpose designed accommodation. The promenade in Weston Super Mare is a great location for wheelchair users to take in the fresh air and sea breeze and I have built relations with many local businesses where I know our customers will be catered for. The range of local activities that are accessible and being able to drive onto the beach mean that North Somerset has something for everyone.
How do you attract talented staff?
As a small start-up I do not currently employ staff. That said, getting to this point really has been a team effort. I would say that throughout the build process the building team were phenomenal. The team truly understood the requirement for the building, making the accommodation such a success for our customers.
I also work with lots of local businesses such as a local farm- to provide veg boxes and apple juice – we are in Somerset after all…, a social enterprise who make crackers and biscuits and a small local jam making business. These items are all part of our welcome pack.
In addition, I have an excellent team of cleaners and anyone who has stayed at Mountain Lodge will know not a spec of dirt is left after they have been in.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Obtaining planning permission and convincing the planning officer as to exactly why a 3-bedroom property had to be quite so spacious. Having the strength of conviction to keep pushing for a building that was truly wheelchair friendly was paramount. I was not willing to compromise on this as this and glad I didn’t otherwise Mountain Lodge would not be what it is today.
Setting up any business requires a huge personal investment: For Mountain Lodge that has been compounded by the increased requirement to design and install clinical equipment into a building that must strike such a fine balance between, function, aesthetics and crucially remain affordable. During the build wondering if I had got it right kept me awake at night.
What are your plans for the future?
It is so early in the journey. While there is the space to expand here in North Somerset more time is required to assess the viability for doing so. In the interim period I would love to help other businesses and organisations to improve their accessibility. Developing sites, accommodation and activities that are truly accessible is a passion of mine.
It dismays me to turn up somewhere and notice that if only they had bought a different table or moved that side table to another area then a wheelchair could independently get in and enjoy the situation like everyone else. I have always found people really want to do something to be more accessible but demystifying how a business can be accessible is so important.
Start small and then build on what you have already done. No matter what your budget something can be achieved to be more accessible and inclusive. Having said all that, I am intending on adding to the equipment list and an accessible swing is a must.
What have been your proudest moments?
- Welcoming Mountain Lodge’s first guests on Christmas eve 2022, and welcoming them back exactly a year later, showing them the further improvements that had been implemented since their first stay. Watching them have an even more enjoyable time than before was heart-warming.
- Being thanked, looked in the eye and customers saying, ‘thank you for doing this’.
- When embarking on a journey that is such a huge personal and financial risk, I had not considered the families that I would meet and get support from, throughout this journey. The community that Mountain Lodge serves and is part of is inspirational. I am humbled by their resilience and sheer determination to let nothing stand in their way each day.
- Being recognised at the Bristol Bath and Somerset Tourism awards with the first year of operating was fantastic. Seeing the quality and scale of the competition, I was flattered just to be nominated, but to win was such a nice surprise.
- Witnessing two lovely men of a certain age race their wheelchairs around our kitchen island because they were so happy to have enough space!!
- Generally reading the guest book and seeing all the lovely comments of how much people have enjoyed their holidays and had a break, something which many of us take for granted.
To find out more about Mountain Lodge and the fantastic accommodation option they provider, please visit: www.lowerlaurelfarm.com