March 2020 , well that didn’t go quite to plan, did it?  As everyone is in the same boat there is little point in bemoaning the state we are in as we are all in a predicament of some sort or other. 

Let’s start with the positives we were able to host a couple of events in March which was brilliant. We had 3 outdoor classroom events with Kilkeel Primary School and a Tea Party for Children’s Fund for Cancer. The outdoor classrooms give us the opportunity for children to learn about their local natural environment and to look out for signs of Spring.

A really useful skill for them at the present time with all the homeschooling that is taking place.   The Tea Party gave us the chance to host a local charity which is dear to one of our friends, Joanne.  The event raised over £3450 which was a huge amount and it also gave us the opportunity to introduce a few more people to the accommodation we have available.

In mid  March  things changed in a dramatic fashion for everyone! For the last 2 years my mantra has been “ Come and Visit”, or “Book a Stay” that very quickly has changed to “Stay at Home” and “ We are closed!” The priority must be to protect lives and our vital public services so instead of encouraging guests to visit we had to encourage people to stay away.  Postponing events, rescheduling bookings and replanning wedding dates has taken up some of our time. Some of our guests are based in parts of the world where Covid -19 is at a different stage  which makes planning for future dates tricky. For the most part we have had reschedules rather than cancellations which is hugely reassuring. Being practical as opposed to hysterical is a trait that Mark has mastered slightly better than me.  For him the “job list” suddenly got longer and he has more time to get more of the groundwork underway.  This gives our guests more activities to avail of on site when they come to visit. The path is being lengthened which will allow guests to have longer wander through the woodland and  meadow.

Over the past 2 months I have had business support through a local FE college and local Council. Both mentors have given me plenty of advice and guidance and now I have no excuse to get on with looking at marketing strategies for the future.  Marketing and IT are a bit like foreign languages to me and nothing is automatic.

I find it hard not to get frustrated at my lack of progress at times but  I have to look at this time as opportunity to work on those things which I have been putting on my “I’ll get round to it sometime” pile. 

There have been on line meetings to attend  which actually are great and hopefully something that continues in the future.

Locally its been hugely impressive how some businesses in our community have adapted to change,  supported the health and social care service and used their talents to make or transport goods and services where they are needed.  People are connecting with each other in ways that they have never done before, and looking out for one and another which is heartening to see.   Tourism in the area has taken a blow, there was much excitement about the new “Embrace a Giant Spirit” brand and many accommodation venues, activity providers and food producers have had many of their plans shelved temporarily.   The basis for  the new brand was the spirit of the people of this land. As we continue to face the uncertainty I know we will all delve deep into the” Giant Spirit “ that is within  us. It will hold on the days when we are unsure and steer us as we  map our future path.

With love to you all

Mark and Jenny