Wednesday, 18 July 2012

10 Years in the Gardens

This is John Wainwright, he is no ordinary man. He's the Head Gardener at Holdsworth House.

Central to the maintenance team, John has worked tirelessly for over 10 years to preserve the historic gardens at the hotel for everyone to enjoy. Without doubt he's an important part of why many brides choose Holdsworth House for their wedding day, why businesses enjoy holding their events here and why sitting out front sipping afternoon tea (or a G&T) is so wonderful.

Demonstrating a wealth of knowledge, John has creatively conserved the character and history of Holdsworth House and its walled gardens through creative planting and careful restoration and maintenance.

From Hoe to Mow

The truly delightful aspect of the garden is its variety. There are around 2 acres for John to tend, wonderfully divided between wide lawns, deep borders, shady walkways, huge screening trees and sunny seating areas.

You'll find something for every season, from the confetti-like pink cherry blossom and the angelic climbing clematis to the die-hard winter holly or the summer bedding plants, whose annual colour must be from where fashionistas take their inspiration!  But its not just planting, there are ancient stone walls and steps to preserve, including the immense gateway, which leads from the gravel driveway to the old manor entrance.

Around every twist and turn there are little gems to discover and much of the beauty of Holdsworth House is in the detail: a hidden urn, a moss covered wall, a lamp post taken straight from the stories of Narnia.

Land Before Time

The gardens have been here long before John of course! Holdsworth House was a former private manor, owned in the 19th Century by the Wadsworth family, whom we feel sure must have been contemporaries of the Brontes in nearby Haworth.

The two weeping ash willow trees on the main lawn are fine examples of the historic planting that are now under John's wing. Planted by the Wadsworths, these rare trees thrive in the Halifax climate. When the manor house was purchased by Freddie and Rita Pearson in the 1960s a third weeping ash willow was imported exclusively from Italy and planted in line with the original two in a 20th Century nod to our predecessors.

For Better For Worse

Whilst history is preserved wherever possible and every plant, shrub and tree receives the tender 'John treatment', not everything is as it seems. The Valerian hedge, which forms geometric shapes in the sunken Parterre Garden, is commonly mistaken for a Box hedge. This unruly herb prefers to run a little wild and can't be closely pruned like Box, so takes much more effort to keep 'in trim'. Valerian was used in past times as a herbal supplement and even as a perfume extract and so reflects the history of the house and bygone times - so despite John's protests - it has to stay!

When we asked John to tell us his favourite plant in the garden, his answer was swift  - the traditional geraniums. The Johnson's Blue variety simply loves the conditions created by John in the borders - and he's not their only fan. The geraniums have attracted bees searching for nectar and they seem to find it in abundance here.  Along with the bees come the birds; stand for a moment in the pretty Courtyard with your eyes closed and you'll be treated to a chorus from a variety of species.

Many of the plants you can see in our gardens began life as seedlings or cuttings from John's own garden, sharing what he can to add new colour and shape to this ever transforming landscape.

New for Old

Some fascinating varieties are introduced by John when he feels they add particular interest to the Holdsworth House story. We were pleased to hear that the Bronte Garden by Welcome to Yorkshire, which won a gold award at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, incorporated the Heartsease Pansy. This dainty wild flower was captured by Charlotte Bronte in her diaries and paintings and would have been found growing freely in the countryside near Holdsworth House in the early 1800s when the Brontes lived. So now John's on the hunt in local nurseries for this delicate flower to add to our gardens too.

We're lucky that to have a dedicated team that know the house and gardens so intricately. We urge all our guests to take time out of busy schedules to enjoy what Mother Nature and 'Our John' have created.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Between the Sheets

Guest reviews are something we look forward to reading, whether it's on Tripadvisor, or from a card delivered in the post.

But whilst we work our fingers to the bone delivering top notch service, toil tirelessly in the kitchens to create the best Yorkshire food or stay up past midnight typing out bride's menus and table plans.... in fact it's our humble beds that are repeatedly mentioned in our reviews for giving the 'best night's sleep ever'. 

It shouldn't really be surprising to see our beds mentioned frequently - after all we have over 50 of them. And we all know that slipping twix the clean, crisp sheets is so often what many guests look forward to at the end of the day.

As you cast aside the cushions and throws, and slide between the naked white sheets and cloud-like duvet, there's only one thing on your mind - sleep.

And sleep you will, thank goodness for our alarm clocks. How many hours of lost work, late brides and 'duvet days' have we caused because you can't bear to leave your peaceful cocoons?

So what's the secret? It's a bit Princess and the Pea-like. You start with an exceptionally good coil sprung mattress - purchased locally from an excellent (national) manufacturer, these things aren't cheap. 

Next comes the mattress topper, a cotton-based topper that adds an extra layer of warmth, cushioning and hygiene.

Crisp loose sheets are neatly laid over the topper. Our housekeeping staff could do the Guinness World Record challenge for hospital corners, which snugly hug the bed - unlike fitted sheets that have a tendency to 'ping off' when least expected.

All beds are made up using lovely soft duvets. Gone are the days when you had to fight your way in and out of sheets straight-jacketed so tightly you can't slide a cigarette paper between them.

There's a very definite pecking order to our pillows. Foam pillows must be positioned behind the goose feather ones, so the soft down can plump out proudly, inviting the guest to sink in and sleep. For anyone sensitive to our feathered friends we have anti-allergy pillows and duvets that will ensure your night remains tickle and sneeze-free.

If you prefer a blanket or feel the chill, extra blankets are available, though they're a rare sighting.

As is the fashion at home, we have throws and cushions to help create a luxurious feel and here you definitely get what you pay for; quality is exceptionally important.

We now invite you to test the beds out and see if your feedback is anything like these reviews from Tripadvisor:

"We had champagne and fluffy robes in our room which was so cosy and the bed was very comfy..."
"The beds were comfy and the place has a great atmosphere..."

"lovely hotel , superb food , very comfy beds . Brilliant !"


Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wonderful Weddings

Holdsworth House ran another successful wedding open day last Sunday 8th July. Despite Andy Murray and the British Grand Prix giving us a run for our money in capturing the attention of the region's brides, we were thrilled to see so many of our registered guests turn out. Even the damp weather couldn't put you off coming to see our little gem of a hotel - thank you.

In fact we had over 140 guests through the doors and a Blossom of Brides - yes Calderdale's brides to be floated in like a flurry of confetti and we were excited to meet each one.  We were pleased to see new faces as well as familiar ones so we could natter about wedding day plans with those who had already booked, and find available dates for those who hadn't.

Everyone who had pre-registered to attend our open day was entered into our free prize draw to win afternoon tea on the day, but regretfully the lucky lady who was chosen at random to win - and whose name was in print on the registration desk - didn't make it. As Jim Bowen used to say - "here's what you could have won".

Thanks to two local florists - Stems and Willow Garden - for providing such beeeeautiful arrangements, which everyone thought were simply stunning.  Who'd have thought that a vase filled with strawberries would make such a wonderful centrepiece?

We're already looking forward to our more traditional wedding fayre - planned for November 4th 2012 with a selection of Yorkshire's top wedding suppliers. So bag yourself a free ticket now and we'll look forward to meeting up.