Better than I ever expected!

I well into the Summer season now and planning for my future guests and bookings. A quick tally for these summer months show I am almost fully booked in June and July after a really busy April too. There are still some gaps in August but I think these will soon fill up. You never really know when you start up a little business like this whether it will work. It can be so subjective meeting the needs and desires of guests. I'm so pleased that my guests have taken the time to leave reviews and feedback. Not only is it a confidence boost, it helps me identify what is really working and what changes I can make to be even better. 

This month has been a big step forward for No61 as I have now set up an online system for direct bookings. I am now able to take all major credit and debit cards and guests can book online through my website easily and quickly. I was so excited when I had my first direct online booking. When I started out I didn't think I would ever get to the stage that I could become independent from the booking agents, but it just might be a reality. Steps forward like these also mean I am thinking about my future too. Life is short and we should all spend it doing things that we enjoy, with people that we love..... I've met so many lovely people who have stayed at No61, not only do they allow me to do something I enjoy, the cottage means they get to spend special time with loved ones. It's a win, win all round.

What's happened to May?

My little business has been going from strength to strength! I'm just getting busier and busier and as the sun starts to push through the clouds and the clocks jump forward an hour, I am starting to feel the excitement of the summer months. When you own a 'holiday cottage' it seems to really come in to its own in the summer. I've been dealing with bookings for a jam packed April and a healthy June but nothing in May? So, what's wrong with May? I would have thought May would be a busy month, the full flush of Spring, the need to get into the great outdoors and an excuse to blow away the winter cobwebs and get away for a refreshing weekend away, but I seem to be mistaken? I guess these are things I will learn as I go along. I'll start to understand that bookings are as undulating as the hills around Winchcombe but it still comes as a surprise to me!

Maybe May will be filled with last minute bookers? People who wake one the morning, look at the glorious May weather and think "Where are my walking boots, its time to get away?" 

New Year, New Opportunities.

I had my first booking recently for a family who are attending the Prescott Hill Climb. This is a local event that, until now, I had not had much knowledge about. It is literally just around the corner from No61. It never ceases to amaze me just how much goes on around sleepy Winchcombe. On one hand it is a lovely, quaint and unspoilt Cotswold town,  then on the other, there are lots of exciting events going on within just a few miles. This new booking had me making contact with Prescott Hill Climb to see if they would promote No61 on their website. They were delighted to help. It had dawned on me that the people who are visiting to race their old classic cars up a hill, would also want somewhere safe to park them once they had finished their dare devil antics. No61 has that most unusual bonus of a free private off road parking space.

I've been working on promotions recently. trying to 'drum-up' bookings in the dreary early winter months of 2017. I've created some great offers and slowly people are coming to stay. It's such a hard time of year to get excited about, yet the Cotswolds has so much to offer in these months. I don't think I can think of anything much better that a lovely long walk in the bracing countryside, followed by a snuggle up around a cosy fire, with a glass of wine (or mug of tea of course), and a few toasted crumpets.  I believe the key to getting through this time of year is to accept its never going to be the best, yet grabbing those great opportunities that are sometimes literally just around the corner.

Preparing for Christmas

So its less than a month away, the Christmas songs are slowly making their way on to my playlist, and I'm starting to work out what Christmas guests might want from No61. I am thrilled to say I am booked out over the Christmas period, in fact my very first online booking was for the New Year break. Christmas always makes me reflect over the previous 12 months. This time last year I was struggling to manage a demanding job, with a desire to look after myself a bit and tap into a more creative and balanced lifestyle. The previous year had bought some serious challenges and as a result I was 'wobbling'. It was with the support of friends and family that I took that leap and ended up buying No61, and boy am I glad I did!

When I look now at what I have achieved and how those friendships and relationships have been cemented by this dramatic move, I realise how lucky I am. It was a joy last weekend to host one of those supportive friends, he stayed with his family at No61. He was primed to give me that gritty feedback that only a true friend will give....and he did, thing is it was all hugely positive. He and his family loved the place.

He gave me my first Tripadvisor review and I'm sure he won't mind me sharing a bit of it here...this sums up what I have tried to achieve for you all.

"We walked from the house to Belas Knap (a circular walk of 5.5 miles) through stunning Cotswold landscape. Views for miles and miles around. Once back we lit a log fire and battened down the hatches for a snug family evening of home cooked food and wine. This place is a must visit to escape the hustle and bustle. Its beautifully cosy and homely. The host is awesome. The village is quaint and welcoming. Book now for a Cotswold escape you won't forget."

Just the beginning

I was delighted to welcome my first paying guests at No61 yesterday. I think what really struck me was how nice it was to meet someone I would not have met but for the existence of the cottage. I was also pretty chuffed with their reaction. How lovely it was to receive a text a few hours after I had left to say how "lovely" the cottage is, and that I had "thought of everything". It is those words in particular that struck a chord, because I have spent many a sleepless night worrying about tea towels, colanders and information packs! I look forward to hearing how they have got on, what they liked and what they think I could do differently in future. No61 will be an amalgamation of my likes and the likes of those people who are drawn to its pictures, to the feel and to the ethos of the place. At the moment, it is naturally heavily weighted towards what I like. I am hoping that all these wonderful strangers I will meet along the way will help me to mould No61 into something really special; something that leaves a happy memory for those that visit.

On a different note, I have spent the last few weeks increasing my social media presence. Now that is a sentence I never thought I would say! It has shown me just how much Winchcombe has to offer and opened my eyes to the community feel and cohesion in this small but beautifully-formed town. Christmas is coming and there are wonderful events lined up. I am especially looking forward to the Christmas Festival on Tuesday 6th December, as well as Sudeley Castle's Spectacle of Light between 1st and 23rd December. If those aren't good reasons to stay here and stay local I don't know what is.

Open for business

After 4 months of hard work No61, my dream, has now become a reality. The cottage is finished, the photo shoot has been completed and I'm listed on-line. I never thought I would get to this point, there have been some tough times and some laughs along the way and I could not have done it without the help of my Mum and her partner Steve. They have been there every step of the way and for that I am eternally grateful. My lasting memory will be of them both standing in front of a pile of old pallets, looking at me as if I had lost my mind.  I am sure those pallets made them wonder what they had got involved in, but those pallets are now the most beautiful feature wall in the cottage kitchen. A success of reclaimed timber with a story to tell....I often wonder where those pallets have been, and what they have carried, before they arrived on a Cotswold cottage wall.

So, I am thrilled to say I have my first guests arriving on 18th November. Every booking is an excitement for me, an assurance that I have done the right thing. A little pat on the back.

Until next time....

Alexandra