After a six months hiatus, we were delighted to welcome our first post-lockdown guests last weekend. We are usually quieter with bookings over the Winter but come April, bookings come in a steady flow. This year, however, when we said goodbye to our guests at the end of January, we could not anticipate that we would not be hosting for another six months!
We were away on holiday ourselves in February and come March, the country came to a standstill with an imposed lockdown because of the Covid pandemic. For the first time in three years, the shepherd's hut stood empty in its meadow all this time and for many weeks, there was a lot of uncertainty about when glamping was going to be allowed again and when Wales would be ready to re-open its border, staying in lockdown for longer.
We used the time to carry out a few maintenance jobs at the hut: we treated the wood, made a cabinet to protect the gas bottle outside, removed some of the sheep fencing, did some landscaping, planted some herbs for guests to use in drinks or cooking and we have added a few more sets of solar lights.
Eventually, the news came that we were allowed to re-open and then came the challenging time of searching for and reading pages and pages of both UK and Welsh governments guidance relating to the conditions in which we could re-open. For a time, we had doubts whether we could strike the right balance between keeping guests and ourselves safe without compromising the atmosphere of the place or our green credentials. In the end, after a thorough risk assessment, we came up with the decision that we would re-open.
We have acquired the Industry Standard "Good to go" mark meaning that we have followed governments and industry Covid-19 guidelines, have a risk assessment in place as well as a process to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing.
We have made just a few changes. In order to comply with the guidelines, staying true to our green ethos, we are currently only taking bookings where we can allow 7 days between guests. Allowing 72 hours between preparation and guests' arrival and 72 hours after guests have departed to clean and prepare again significantly reduces the virus transmission risk whilst enabling us to continue to offer a comfortable yet simple and rustic glamping experience with a low environmental impact. Consequently, our availability is much reduced and we are now fully booked till mid-September.
We will only be offering breakfast baskets delivered to the hut with the option of a cooked breakfast at our house discontinued for the time being. We have also made our guest information library digital by using an ancient iPad, too slow and obsolete for any other use these days. Not only is this move a good way to give it a new lease of life, but also it is much easier to sanitise an iPad than the physical book with paper sheets inside plastic sleeves that we had up to now. We think it all looks very smart and well worth the investment of uncountable hours spent on updating and transferring the information.
We want to reassure guests who have a booking with us and potential ones too that we are taking the Covid-19 safety measures seriously and continue to educate and inform ourselves. We will regularly review the measures we have in place and make relevant changes as they become necessary or appropriate.
We are indeed "Good to go" and ready to be welcoming guests again this summer, with the same ethos and atmosphere as before. The sunsets are still amazing up there, the views just as beautiful and the birdsong as delightful as ever. Our little hut is the perfect hideaway to come and rest, recharge and recover. We know the last few months have been challenging for many and we want the shepherd's hut to be that safe sanctuary for guests to find a space in which they can relax and leave behind the stresses of the last few months and reconnect with themselves and what is important to them.
Whilst lockdown has eased now, the threat of Covid-19 is still around and will be for a long while. It will be vital for all of us to take care of our well-being so we can be resilient enough to cope with the challenges the new normal will bring.
We look forward to seeing some of you soon for a post-lockdown, safe getaway on a quiet Welsh hillside.