Heading up the marketing and PR across the three hotels (Forest Side, Grasmere; Hipping Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale and The Ryebeck, Windermere) within Wildsmith Hotels, Greg Stephenson has a busy job. Add to his in-tray the recent Michelin Star accolade for Forest Side, I’m appreciative that he can fit in a glass of the proverbial with yours truly here in Grasmere.
So, Greg it’s been quite a year for you at Wildsmith. How has the recent award affected your role here?
Well, it’s fabulous of course for Forest Side and for Cumbria. My job is pretty much the same as it was leading up to the award but obviously with more photo shoots, press releases and press trips etc. It’s certainly been a whirlwind. It’s great to see such a positive response to the Michelin Star by both the press and of course our guests new and old.
What brought you to Forest Side? Tell me a bit about your background.
I came here from Cumbria Tourism where I was Head of PR and ended up working closely with Wildsmith Hotels. It was a natural progression to make the move across to client-side. Prior to Cumbria Tourism, I worked in PR and Communications for Carlisle City Council and Cumbria Police.
What do you enjoy most about your position here at Forest Side?
I’m out and about organising anything from food festivals and demos to recipe books and photo shoots. I would say that a key part of the job I enjoy is brand relations. It’s my job to build relationships with like-minded businesses who fit in with our ethos. So for example, we have just worked with Chapman, a luxury maker of leather goods and shooting apparel. Our Head Chef Kevin Tickle has just finished a photo shoot modelling their ‘foraging’ bag which of course connects entirely with his style of cooking and the hotel’s kitchen garden.
How much effort goes into the marketing and PR of the other two hotels in the Wildsmith group?
All three hotels are equal in stature, it just that with the Michelin Star here, we have been busier than normal working with product placement arrangements such as the Chapman relationship. Each hotel is treated distinctly so that individually they have a sense of place within their geographical location. We ensure that we source local produce for each of the hotels so for example we work with the likes of Kitridding Farm near Kirkby Lonsdale and The Courtyard Dairy in Settle for Hipping Hall. We’re planning a re-vamp of Hipping in the New Year and have just contracted a local ceramics studio Miles Moore to create the new crockery range. Miles Moore are based in Lupton and everything they create in their studio is made from local materials, be it sand from the River Lune or slate from the heart of the Lake District.
Sounds exciting! What sort of work are you doing at Hipping Hall?
A complete re-decoration of the rooms as well as replacement soft furnishings and decor. It has to be complete by the end of January as I have the official photo shoot booked for then!
And on to Cumbria. What do you love about living and working here?
It’s got to be the warmth of the people… and the untold stories. Cumbria has an amazing number of brilliant people just doing great things.
On your time off, where do you head to?
If it’s a nice day, I’ll take the dog and head over to the beach at Silecroft. When the tide is out you can walk for miles along clean, untouched sands. It’s breathtaking and a prime example of the geographical diversity of Cumbria.
Pint in the pub?
Going out for a bite to eat, casual-dining style?
If I’m up Carlisle-way, I’ll go to Belted. It’s a family-run, high-end burger restaurant. The burgers are really good and the restaurant is so-called as their beef is from the Belted Galloway Cow.
Finally, any plans for the future in conjunction with Wildsmith Hotels?
Well, we’ll be on TV in the New Year which is pretty major! The hotel group is taking part in Channel 4’s ‘Park Life’ produced by True North TV and will feature businesses in and around the expansion of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. And of course we’ve got the re-decoration of Hipping Hall so yes, big plans for 2017. It’s set to be an exciting year.
Wildsmith Hotels include:
The Forest Side, Keswick Road, Grasmere, Ambleside, LA22 9RN T 015394 35250
The Ryebeck, Lyth Valley, Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3JP T 015394 88195
Hipping Hall, Cowan Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale, LA6 2JJ T 015242 71187