Category Archives: News

Ping pong tables and funky furniture

Why high performing teams want meaningful conversation, not ping pong tables

Ping pong tables, funky furniture and advanced ways to share work and communicate, may be seen as indicators of an innovative workplace and a high-performance culture.  However, the ‘window dressing’ often doesn’t deliver the desired results.

Perks and environment don’t drive performance – they support it.  It is delivered through behaviours and relationships.  People who are crystal clear on what they need to deliver for their organisation and how they deliver it to their customers.  People who understand how to continuously improve – together.

Business leaders often focus upon structure, process, environment, sexy marketing.  New systems are implemented, processes redefined. A ‘ra ra’ launch for the new product or branding to get people excited – and they are – in that moment.

When the shiny newness wears off people fall back into the status quo – where it feels comfortable and familiar.  Back into their ‘to do’ lists and work silos – particularly if there is a heavy workload.  There isn’t time to consider the bigger picture, to worry about whether their outputs are aligned with those of their colleagues.  With the best of intentions, they believe that as long as they do a good job, the customer will be happy.

Business leaders become frustrated, because despite their investment, the front-line people who can make a difference are not delivering their highest performance levels.  Continuous improvement is seen as a project, not a day to day norm.

The counter-intuitive solution to continually engaging people with the organisational strategy, with continually finding ways to be better, to look outside of the ‘to do’ list and day to day tasks is to STOP!

  • To facilitate conversations which create openness, constructive review, understanding of others challenges
  • To build and endorse collaborative behaviours
  • To create solutions together, which everyone buys into
  • To remind of the bigger picture the silo of their work hangs upon
  • To make the links between their list of tasks and the purpose of why they are doing it.

This is not internal comms, an update, or a team build.

It’s about considering simple, key questions on a regular basis, which will facilitate the above, such as:

  • What’s going well, what’s not going so well and what could we be doing differently?
  • Are we keeping our promises to our customers?
  • Where are we dropping the ball and why?
  • Do our ‘sales pitch’ promises match what we deliver further into the relationship?
  • What projects, what specific tasks, would require collaboration to deliver the best results?  (Carlos Valdes-Dapena used this question when improving collaborative working at Mars)

Culture is something that needs to become part of the material of a team – the invisible ingredients that everyone consumes without realising, but getting there and keeping it alive needs focus, attention, time and space.  Time to STOP!

The Big House Co. have the ideal settings for putting the brakes on the ‘to do’ list. With big comfortable spaces, plenty of equipment and spacious dining areas, The Big House will take care of the practicalities, so you can concentrate on spending time together.

An experienced facilitator can be extremely beneficial in enabling constructive conversations, honest dialogue and the building of trust and collaboration.

Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. She helps teams to have better conversations, which lead to better decisions and better results.

Her facilitated Customer Journey Review is a powerful way of exploring whether promises to your customers are being kept further down the line. Website:  www.evolveyou.co.uk  or contact Lyn on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk .

Alternatively, get in touch with us at the Big House Co. about your away day and we’ll organise for Lyn to be part of your experience.

What’s great about large holiday homes

big holiday house to rent

A big group needs a large house to rent

It might be stating the obvious, but one of the best ways of having a summer holiday with all your family is to be under one roof. Unless you’ve struck lucky, most of us don’t have a relative with a big pad in a convenient location for a summer holiday with the whole family. Or even if you do, perhaps they might not want to host!

A great choice of big houses to rent

These days many big houses aren’t lived in by their owners. We know – we found the heating bills way too high! So, the upside is that there are a fantastic number of properties around the country where you can have a memorable big house experience. Manor houses and castles, barn conversions and farm houses – take your pick. Locations can often be memorable too, but sometimes convenience is the main factor when your group are coming from far flung locations.

Large houses to rent for parties

If you are planning a special celebration, a big holiday house can be the perfect location to base yourselves. With that as your starting point you can plan your guest list, organise your activities and fine tune the itinerary. Having helped many groups with their house parties over the past 22 years we would suggest, it’s never too early to start. Pick our brains, we love it….ask us about local top notch chefs, unusual activities, the best pubs, where to take the dog for a walk – or what kitchen equipment you’ll need to bring – in our houses, the answer to that is usually none. They are very well equipped.

Big house rentals

A large holiday home can be an ideal alternative to hotels or cramming all your guests into your own home; more relaxed, in charge of your own timetable, plenty of space to be together and apart! Often these big group holidays can turn into an annual event that’s looked forward to by all generations with great anticipation.

If we can help at all, with your selection of a large house to rent as the starting point for your big house experience, do get in touch and make the most of our friendly impartial advice.

Why a Christmas and New Year break is a great idea

New Year House Hire

It’s one of the best times of year to organise your loved ones to be together and with December fast approaching we’re getting excited about Christmas holiday ideas and the possibilities for lots of festive fun.

So take a look at all the brilliant reasons why you should rent a large house for Christmas.

You’ll all be under one roof

These days we generally all live in smaller houses, so getting everyone together can be a squash or just impossible. Especially if you have to provide overnight accommodation for guests travelling a distance to spend Christmas with you. The beauty of hiring a large house for Christmas is that none of this is an issue. You’ll have space in spades.

Everyone can help out

A big family Christmas in a large house is a good opportunity to spread the workload. Divide the jobs well in advance and everyone knows what’s expected of them, that way tensions are avoided. Perhaps each family unit takes a turn at cooking one of the meals, why not have a bake-off competition too? Creativity, with plenty to eat afterwards – happy days.

Or perhaps you prefer that everyone has a set job during the Christmas break – put Grandad in charge of party games and the younger ones can lay the table. Why not get them making the Christmas crackers in the days preceding.

So much fun to be had

A family that plays together, stays together and the bonds really strengthen when you spend time in a big house, enjoying each other’s company. A large house to rent for Christmas such as Widcombe Grange gives you the possibilities of some excellent fun – hide and seek, murder mystery evenings, table tennis competitions, football in the garden, and hopefully even a snowball fight.

Spaces to be together & apart!

Stay with a large group for New Year’s or Christmas provides the opportunity for a multi-generational break that your family may not often have the chance to experience. It provides you with the opportunity to enjoy a superb Christmas lunch all together around the same table, plenty of space for chilling out on the sofas, or for fun and laughter in the games room. Sometimes too, let’s face it, we might need a bit of “me” time and a big house has those places for some down time – small snugs, little libraries, cosy corners – before it’s time to get back into the heart of the party.

Great memories

It’s pretty certain that none of your group will ever forget the big house, luxury Christmas holidays, and those memories will be special ones to treasure. The laughs you had, the games you played, the fun you enjoyed.

So now that summer is officially over, it’s worth spending time thinking about what you’re going to be doing this Christmas and New Year break and if you are interested in seeing our availability please click here.

Having fun at a boot camp in Somerset

Weight loss retreats in Somerset

Enjoy a boot camp holiday in Somerset

We run a fitness and weight loss boot camp for women called Who Dares Slims. We combine Special Forces training and survival techniques with fun games and activities to deliver truly effective weight loss which can be maintained when our customers go back to their normal lives.

This May we launched our business with our first boot camp at Widcombe Grange. It was the perfect venue for it.  Not only was the Boot Camp in Somerset, which has access to areas of outstanding natural beauty, but the house had superb grounds, 22 acres of woodland and lawns, for us to run circuit based training as well as trail runs. Perfect for a weight loss holiday. We used the outdoor heated pool for pool games and aquacise classes – which everyone adored. And to make it even better we had perfect weather for the occasion, meaning during downtime the ladies not only enjoyed the pool, but hot tub was a firm favourite.

Our chef, who designs our healthy and nutritionally balanced meals for the boot camp, loved the kitchen. It was perfectly equipped for catering for big groups.

A weight loss holiday is fast becoming a favourite amongst people who want to get out and do something new and make new friends – but getting fit while they do it. Why not book yourself in and have a go?

The key to innovation – Team appraisals and collaboration

Corporate Venues Somerset

‘Cognitive intimacy’ leads to collaboration, according to Lyssa Adkins in ‘Coaching Agile Teams’.  Team communication is so in flow, it’s almost Vulcan mind meld quality.   There is trust, the willingness to be vulnerable and put forward stupid ideas, which can be built upon to become great ideas.  Risks are taken, feedback is given, people say it, how it is and mutual accommodation and respect is encouraged.

In his fabulous podcast ‘WorkLife’ Adam Grant talks about how the Newsnight team and Trevor Noah are so relaxed in the company of each other that they engender ‘burstiness’. When generating ideas for new jokes and story lines they laugh and accept seemingly stupid ideas, along with those which appear clever and inspiring.  They are willing to be vulnerable, knowing that sometimes it’s the silliest idea that inspires the best thoughts.

Achieving burstiness and cognitive intimacy: 

  • Are your team objectives driving the behaviours of collaboration, which are essential to innovation?
  • How do you encourage the sharing of ideas and learning within your team?

It’s important to ensure that individual objectives don’t sabotage team success.  For example, objectives which encourage an individual to ‘take something and make it your own with evidence of you driving results’, will encourage work grabbing, limelight hogging and credit taking, rather than giving away ideas which enable team improvement or acknowledging the skill of others so the best result can be delivered.

Reviewing and appraising performance together will enable open discussion and the sharing of ideas and challenges.  It will build trust and understanding and make sure that individual and team objectives are aligned.

Spending time away from the pressures of the everyday can give this way of working a tremendous boost.  A yearly team review and appraisal brings together and acknowledges the contribution and learning of everyone.   You can explore questions like these:

  • What value have we delivered this year?
  • How do we know we have made a difference?
  • Where could we have made more impact?
  • We know we have grown because?

Review the past years activities together as a team – milestones, challenges, failures, learning, achievements. This begins to build a shared understanding – a perspective where the sum of its parts come together, so everyone can see the bigger picture.

The opportunity to explore ‘do differently’s is opened up – identifying improvements and team objectives for the year ahead.  Affirming the growth of the team as a whole, encouraging support as everyone works toward the same aligned purpose.  Mis-alignments in objectives are highlighted, where if one person ‘wins’ this could be at the expense of another.

The Big House Co. have the ideal settings for a corporate away day where you can take time out for a team review and appraisal. With big comfortable spaces, plenty of equipment and spacious dining areas, The Big House will take care of the practicalities, so you can concentrate on spending time together.

Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take some time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace. Every large house has onsite fun, ranging from games rooms, cinema rooms, to hot-tubs & pools, we can even put you in touch with excellent local chefs if you want a helping hand with some cooking!

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is very important to productive conversations.  Lyn Bayley-Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. If you have a specific objective for your corporate away day she will design a bespoke day with you, facilitate a specific meeting, or use her proven process for a ‘Team Pause’ day, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision.

Here is her Linked-in profile or contact her on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk .  Alternatively, get in touch with us at the Big House Co about your corporate away day and we’ll organise for Lyn to be part of your experience.

 

Brilliant things to do in North Devon

Hire a large party house in Devon and enjoy the beach life

The temperature keeps rising and we’re thinking what could be better than beautiful Devon with it’s wonderful coastline and vast beaches to cool your hot toes!

We are very pleased to have the stunning Berry House in North Devon as a wonderful party house to rent for family gatherings, holidays and corporate events. But why should you stay in North Devon?

The Hartland Coastline

This coastline is brimming with wild scenery and dramatic cliffs. It is world recognised as an area of outstanding natural beauty, providing a paradise for walkers and those wishing to explore the coastlines and open moors. Hartland Abbey is perfect for those who wish for a tranquil day out in this pretty valley. Explore its beautiful gardens and the Abbey with it’s fine collection of art and memorabilia (open Sunday to Thursday).

Hartland Village

Unspoilt and charming are the best words to describe this rural village that has been a key part of social and community life for over a thousand years. As with any traditional village you will find local shops, friendly pubs, cafes, restaurants but most of all history and lots of heritage!<

Water Sports

The North Devon coastline is a mecca for superb sandy beaches and rugged coastlines that are fantastic for water sport activities. We can arrange these activities for you during your stay at our country house, if you wish. There are many great fun sports to try in Devon, even at beginner level such as surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, coasteering and more.<

North Devon Family Attractions

Whatever the weather in North Devon there are plenty of activities to entertain the whole family. Explore under the sea at Ilfracombe Aquarium, see the animals and dinosaurs at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park or get adventurous at The Milky Way Adventure Park in Clovelly. Depending on how long you are staying we’d also recommend Quince Honey Farm, The Big Sheep, Watermouth Castle and lots more besides.<

Clovelly fishing village

Hanging on a 400ft cliff, the cobbled streets of this world famous fishing village were once seen with donkeys transporting people and goods up the steep hill. Dating back to the 14th century, the quay has an abundance of history surrounding it, with tales of smuggling and pirates. The charming village is still traffic free, with boats bobbing in the harbour, stunning views and a fantastic maritime atmosphere.<

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park is a remarkable area to explore with breath taking scenery. Discover streams, rivers, woodland, farmland and steep cliffs on your journey through this beautiful part of North Devon. It’s wonderful for horse riding, mountain biking, hiking or for a gentle picnic.<

Whatever you decide to do, Devon won’t disappoint you and the upside is, you’ll miss all the airport queues. So if this sounds like your sort of holiday, take a look at our large house for rent, Berry House, in North Devon.

 

 

Reflection – Why slowing down will help you to go faster

Corporate venue Somerset

Organisational life often feels as though we are on an incessantly running hamster wheel.  Deliver to this months targets, get the reports out, have team meetings, react to a problem, fire fight and then – it all starts again.  You don’t have time to stop – right?

Well – not necessarily.  Because when we’re stuck in the constant ‘do,do,do’, it means we neglect our ability to reflect and review.  When we do this there’s a risk that we will just keep on doing what we’ve always done, which may eventually lead to poor results.

Reflection develops our understanding – of what’s working, what’s not and what we could do differently.  It builds our resources to innovate, create, collaborate and improve.

The actions we then take are more considered, focussed, specific – we speed up.  Less firefighting – more problem solving.

In a competitive world it’s essential that organisational teams are agile in the face of change.  This stems from their ability to learn.  Learning happens in both the doing and the understanding.  To understand, you must reflect. John Dewey (psychologist) said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Reflection isn’t just about understanding what went wrong and how you could do better, it’s about understanding what went well, so you can do more of what works.  It’s honestly and non-judgmentally examining our contributions.

When we’re contained within our work environment and the pressures it presents we’re not always in the right frame of mind to pause, step back and examine with an open mind.

The work environment demands (sometimes covertly) that we demonstrate our competence, our ability to be in control and deliver.  This is what is recognised and rewarded, however, this doesn’t facilitate openness.

The most effective reflection happens in a safe environment.  One where judgement and criticism are suspended and it’s possible to examine a situation openly and honestly.  James Zull (author, the Art of Changing the Brain) said, “Even if we experience something that has happened to us before, it is hard to make meaning of it unless it engages our emotions.”  He also points out that reflection is a search for connections and suggests that we have to seriously consider the role of emotion if we want to foster deep learning.

The Big House Co. have the ideal settings for a corporate away day where you step away from the hamster wheel and take a productive pause. With big comfortable spaces, plenty of equipment and spacious dining areas, The Big House will take care of the practicalities, so you can concentrate on spending time together.

Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take some time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace. Every large house has onsite fun, ranging from games rooms, cinema rooms, to hot-tubs & pools, we can even put you in touch with excellent local chefs if you want a helping hand with some cooking!

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is very important to productive conversations.  Lyn Bayley-Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. If you have a specific objective for your corporate away day she will design a bespoke day with you, facilitate a specific meeting, or use her proven process for a ‘Team Pause’ day, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision.

Here is her Linked-in profile or contact her on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk .  Alternatively, get in touch with us at the Big House Co about your corporate away day and we’ll organise for Lyn to be part of your experience.

 

Our new party house in Somerset

Super hen party houses

A year ago, we had a phone call from a prospective homeowner with an interesting local property. That lead to us to be chosen as exclusive agent for Tatham House in Somerset.

Between then and now the house had a complete renovation and is welcoming its first guests in a few weeks time.

Party House for rent

This will be a great property for anyone looking for a large house for hire in Somerset, with lots of facilities to make your stay very enjoyable. There is a large choice of party houses to rent these days, but we feel this one is outstanding. For starters, it has 10 beautiful bedrooms all with excellent quality en-suite facilities – no bathroom queues here! The entertaining spaces, on the ground floor, flow well for a big group and the kitchen is stylish and kitted out with all the mod cons. The indoor pool, hot tub and tennis court are certainly going to provide your group with a lot of entertainment too.

Downstairs, the cellar is a place for fun! The cinema room provides a cosy, relaxing space; imagine – large screen, comfy seating, popcorn, big match or movie, some beers? Through the rest of the arched cellar is the pool table, bar billiards and table tennis.

Corporate Party Venues

We imagine that corporate away days in Somerset would be a big hit here. Particularly as all 10 bedrooms have exquisite en-suite facilities and flat screen TVs, for enjoying a little down time between meetings. The gardens would also be a superb location for corporate events in Somerset, with large terraces and delightful views towards the Quantocks. We can put you in contact with local chefs, who can provide delicious catering to make your event go with a swing.  This region also has plenty to offer if you are looking for a location for unusual team building days in Somerset.

Hen party in Somerset

Hen party houses are a fabulous way to spend that special last weekend away with your girlfriends. Tatham House would be a brilliant memory to have, one to talk about for years to come. We can add to the pampering by organising all sorts of special treats (massage, manicure, cocktail bar – to name but a few), but with so much at the house to enjoy, maybe you’d better stay for longer!

For the stags too

If you are thinking of a Stag Do in Somerset, this house could provide you with an action-packed weekend. Kick off your stay at the house with 5 a-side football, basketball or tennis and then if you want to explore the nearby Quantock hills, the mountain biking is excellent – stop off at a few of the charming local pubs too. A celebration dinner can be a focal point of your evening and maybe, beforehand you’ll have time for a few lengths of the pool or a relaxing chill out in the hot tub.

A dream party house to rent

We think Tatham House is going to be fantastic for groups, families, friends, or anyone just wanting to have a great time together with lovely accommodation and lots of on site entertainment. It really is a house that has got the lot!

We would thoroughly recommend you book up now and be one of the first to stay at this new Big House in Somerset. Contact us, if you would like to know more.

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How to have a wonderful hen party weekend

Hen Party

Are you in charge of organising the hen party weekend? It’s a privilege to be asked and you’re sure to have fun looking at all the options of great things to do.

The world is literally your oyster…it’s a responsibility too and we hope some of our ideas may guide you through the task.

Hen party houses to rent

We certainly would suggest that you hire your own BIG house. Yes, we are biased, but, hear us out, there are plenty of great reasons for it. Flexibility to do whatever you want, whenever you want to, is a big plus point, no hotel schedule to stick to. The cost can be much less than a couple of nights in a hotel for a group. Hen party houses can range from the truly glamorous to the authentic country house experience and can reflect the personality of your bride to a tee. It’s also wonderful to have the privacy of your own hen do house for an unforgettable weekend and sets the stage in the run up to the big day.

If that sounds your sort of weekend, there are hen party venues for hire in different areas around the country. With friends scattered far and wide these days, a central location might be the best idea. Or, perhaps, there is a location that has particularly special significance for the bride that could make it an especially memorable event for her.

Hen party activities

Maybe location isn’t so important to your hens, but you have definite ideas about what you want to do during the weekend. Are you adventurous hens wanting plenty of activities and excitement arranged for you? Is it more of a pampering break that fits the bill. Are you looking for a house with cosy sofas, for snuggling on, chatting and drinking coffee after a long leisurely breakfast? Walks in the country? Or is it a hen party venue with hot tub for a relaxing afternoon with glasses of champagne and plenty of laughter. Chances are, it’s a mixture, particularly with a large group, some who may be meeting each other for the first time.

If you looking for hen party houses to rent we’d recommend you consider the bedroom configuration too, before making a final choice. Does it work for your group, who do you envisage sharing with who? Are there enough bathrooms? Perhaps you’ve decided to go for a luxury hen party house and really push the boat out to make it a weekend you’ll never want to end.

Hen party food

A hen party is a special occasion and we think some grand catering is appropriate. Hopefully someone in your group is a budding Masterchef contestant and can guide the preparation of a sumptuous feast one evening. It’s always a good idea to get the shopping delivered in advance and to have a good idea of who will do what in the kitchen over the weekend. But perhaps you’d rather someone else take the strain? A local chef could be a great idea and leaves you more time for fun, for dancing or more champagne maybe? 

If this sounds like the sort of hen party weekend you have in mind, we have big houses around the country and we can give you our unbiased opinion of which we think will suit you best.

Take a look at our BIG hen party houses or get in touch about booking your hen do here.

 

Corporate away days

Corporate parties

Come on team, we need to get out of the office!

 

If that’s the shout that’s going out where you work, you might like to read our ideas…..

Get away from the day to day

When you’re stuck in the everyday, hectic world of your job it’s very hard to get time with your team for anything other than routine meetings and normal workload. Corporate away days are a popular way of breaking out of the daily “noise” to focus on yourselves – be it for corporate parties, as a reward or celebration, or a structured event to manage change.

Creativity thrives

When you’re looking for corporate away day venues, optimising creativity can be very important in your choice. A retreat from the distractions of normal working life gives your team the opportunity to be imaginative in their thinking and problem solving skills, to build good working relationships and to appreciate each others talents.

You might want to consider hiring your own BIG house. These gorgeous properties are not hotels and give you the opportunity to focus inwards on your team and conduct your business in complete privacy for a night or so. They provide a creative atmosphere for working together – whether it’s your whole group working as one, or if you’re looking to break out into smaller teams.

Flexibility is key

While staying at your own corporate house rental you can have the best of both worlds. A relaxed environment that’s exclusively yours, but with the benefit of being able to have whatever you want, whenever you want it. A hotel type schedule can be an interruption to your flow, so bear this in mind when you deciding on your corporate away days.

At a BIG house you can also hire on a self catering basis. Everything about having a group staying together in a BIG house requires co-operation, so it can all be a team building exercise, if you want it to be, even making the tea!

Add some fun

We all know that all work and no play makes for an innovation dead-end. So during your corporate away days it’s a great idea to add in a fun element. This could be a team building game or an enjoyable activity arranged exclusively for your group.

Perhaps, something that no one has ever tried before and which will make the event unique and memorable – axe throwing, anyone?

Corporate events in Somerset

For corporate party venues in Somerset, we’d recommend Widcombe Grange, with its great scope for fun elements with the outdoor pool, hot tub, boating lake, games room and 17 acres.

Or, for totally luxurious corporate weekends away we have Tatham House, currently undergoing a high spec renovation, it will be a spacious and light filled 10 bedroom (all en-suite) property available from 1st June 2018. Facilities will include indoor pool, tennis court, cinema room and games room. Perfect for work and play.

Do get in touch for further information.

How to start planning your wedding day

Ideas for your wedding planning

Getting engaged is a wonderful time of life.  You’ve met the person of your dreams and you’ve made that commitment to spend the rest of your lives with each other. Congratulations, it’s definitely time to pop the champagne, celebrate and tell all your loved ones the great news.  Once the initial joy has settled, you’ll begin to turn your attention to making your plans for your wedding.  There are quite a few decisions to make, but if you take it step by step and have fun along the way, it will be part of the great memories you create.

Step 1  Style of wedding

Are you the intimate wedding type or the big is better type of person?  It’s such a personal choice and one that’s important to get right from the beginning.  Take some time discussing this with your partner before you do anything else.  Budget, of course, is a factor in what is affordable – but there are always ways to make your budget stretch a little bit more – call in favours from friends, for example and get them helping out.

Step 2  The Guest List

You’ve both lived a life separately and now you’re together – so your guest list needs to reflect this.  It can take a while to write your guest list, so we’d suggest working on it over a few weeks, until it feels right for you.  If you need some more tips, click here.

Step 3  Geographic Location

Did you once see a spectacular wedding venue in Norfolk, for example and ever since thought, that’s the place for me?  But maybe your family have always thought your wedding venue would be in Dorset, if that’s where you were born and brought up!  Add to the mix your partners wishes – perhaps their heart is set on a wedding in Sussex by the sea.  We know that many couples opt for a country house wedding venue in Devon because it gives a great west country weekend away feel to your wedding and perhaps can be the launch pad for your honeymoon – a week in trendy Polzeath, maybe?

As you can see there’s a lot to think about in terms of location.

The world is your oyster.  Tradition is no longer so strong in terms of being married near the family home and many couples now pay for the wedding themselves, so quite rightly, feel entitled to make the decision themselves and go for a region that feels right for them.

Step 4  Choosing your Venue

Once you’ve chosen the area you want to get married in, you can start to look at all the interesting and varied venues that are available.  There are so many possibilities, it’s really exciting.  We can’t advise you on all the alternatives, but we are experts in the country house wedding weekend and we have 2 venues for weddings in Somerset!  We think this is a great way to get married, if you are looking for a relaxed few days, centred around your wedding day, but with a day either side to enjoy the company of your family and friends.

At Widcombe Grange, a festival style wedding works particularly well.  It allows you to make the most of the 22 acres of grounds, lakes and woodlands, while providing your guests with a unique place to stay the night – yards from the party.

Or, at Tone Dale House you have the luxury hot-tub on the terrace, where you could enjoy some chill out time and a bbq the day after your wedding – so much more enjoyable than packing up and leaving the morning after your big day!

Step 5  Wedding day food

Choosing your wedding food is as individual as the rest of your plans.  We think the number one priority is to feel relaxed and confident in who you choose, so that on the day, you are enjoying yourself, not worrying about the food or service, our past couples tell us they prize this highly.  We can recommend chefs who we know, trust and work closely with, but we also spent some time sharing some more tips about choosing your wedding caterer on this blog too.

Wherever you choose to have your wedding day, have a wonderful time.  Enjoy the planning of it and make sure you do it your way!

Stag weekend ideas

stag party uk

So, you’ve had the great news that your best mate’s getting married.

Maybe you’re the best man and now have the responsibility for organising the stag do.

Don’t panic – although it’s a big responsibility there are steps you can take to make life easy for yourself and give yourself more time for writing your best man speech!!

#1  Set a date

No matter how far ahead you are planning – with the busy lives everyone leads today, the sooner you get a date in the diary with your fellow stags, the better!

#2  What’s your strategy?

Is the stag do a surprise for the groom?  Is the itinerary going to be decided by consensus?  We’d suggest not – why make life more difficult than is has to be?  With a single person or a few of the stags organising the schedule it can be done quicker, more effectively and with less frustration.

#3  Time scale

If you really want to push the boat out for a stag party, then make a weekend of it and give yourselves so much more time to have a great few days, to incorporate activities, delicious meals, and a bit of down-time too.

#4  A stag weekend uk based?

A luxury weekend away will be a big hit with your group.  Often these days the stag party can be multi-generational and a weekend away fits the bill for different age groups.  Younger members of the group can party on, have a shed load of activities organised and the older stags can cheer from the sidelines – Tatham House (fully refurbished from end May 2018) with indoor pool, tennis court and cinema room could work brilliantly, it’s got 10 en-suite bedrooms too!

#5  Stag do accommodation

This is where renting your own manor house for the weekend scores big time, particularly if you are wanting something special and luxurious.  Price wise, it will work out a lot cheaper than a luxury hotel and you have the flexibility of having your own big house for the entire weekend.  With big group accommodation there is plenty of room for the whole group to stay together with no other guests using the facilities.  You can even decide whether you want to share bedrooms or not – just book yourself a big enough house if that’s the case!

Each guest’s particular needs can be taken into account too – maybe the father of the groom and any older stags might want bedrooms away from the late night party – or maybe not!  A house with a separate cottage perhaps?  We’d suggest Widcombe Grange.

#6  Activities

The stag weekend itinerary, if you choose to have one, can be built around your particular group – what does your group love to do when you are all together.  There is such a range of fun things to do now – some can take place at your big house, such as laser clays at Tone Dale House – others we can recommend from local suppliers who we know and trust.  Alternatively, tell us your ideas.  Maybe you’re looking for a fly fishing stag weekend in Devon?  If it’s something we currently don’t offer, we will do our best to provide it.

#7  Stag party food

It’s a stag party, so we know there’ll be a few beers and a few more.  We ask you to respect these grand manor houses while you’re having fun and we find that’s exactly what happens. Bring your own booze and you will save yourselves a bundle.  Pre-arrange delivery directly to the house and you won’t even have to make space in the car.

If your budget allows, we think it’s a great idea to have some catering.  It adds to the sense of occasion to have a splendid dinner cooked by a professional chef and cleared away afterwards.  It also gives you more time for the important things like being with your friends, having a laugh, getting competitive over table tennis or relaxing in the hot-tub.  It’s a real treat too, waking up to breakfast being cooked for your group, coffee brewing, orange juice freshly squeezed and just sitting down to eat it!  No prep, no shopping, no washing up!

So if you are tasked with organising the stag weekend, have a think about the stag  party houses option – you’ll leave with a whole bunch of great memories, having had brilliant fun. Get in touch and we will happily put our 20 years of house party planning to good use for you.

Have fun.

Great places to visit in Sussex

 

It’s great to visit Camber Sands during a stay in Sussex

Sussex offers plenty of great things to do, whether you are having a holiday with your family or a short break with friends  –  something for everyone.  A plus point in our view is how fabulously easy it is to get to from London, train travel just takes the strain – plus maybe, a little something from the buffet for the journey?  Gaze out the window and watch the countryside come into view.  Even by car, you’re really not going to have much of a journey at all.

So, once there.  The beach is always a firm favourite, stunning Camber Sands, stretching mile after mile, well worth walking along to blow the cobwebs away, smell the salty air and maybe dip your toes in the water for a paddle.  If Fido is with you, he will approve of this outing.

One of the few beaches in Sussex to be sandy, it doesn’t even get too crowded in the summer which is a bonus.  There’s windsurfing and kite-surfing here and the sporty among you can book in for lessons – not surprisingly a windbreak might be handy if you’re planning on spending the day at the beach!

Around Rye, it’s definitely 1066 country, you can bring your suit of armour with you, but the locals are pretty friendly now. You get the benefits without the war games!  Rye is especially attractive, and we’d recommend you visit.  It’s a charming mediaeval town with cobbled streets, (is this where the infamous Hovis advert was filmed we ask ourselves), delightful buildings full of character.  This is no bland high street, its full of independent shops contained within historic buildings – quaint tea shops just must be visited!  Regular markets take place and these are especially attractive in the run up to Christmas.

Rye has an enchanting harbour, with an active fishing fleet, which might be an ideal place to stock up on delicious freshly landed fish for a tasty supper for your group. Alternatively, Rye has quite a yachting fraternity, so you might want to get on your sailing shoes or even hire the equipment for some windsurfing lessons at Rye Watersports.  For the nature lovers among you, the area around the harbour is of special interest and is one of the most important conservation areas in Britain.  The walks through the nature reserve are wonderful and you will see some amazing wildlife too.

Great Dixter House & Garden near Rye is a horticultural gem and a wonderful place to visit if you love colour, design and style.  The garden was the life-long creation of the late Christopher Lloyd (famous gardener & writer) and will surely inspire any gardener, even if it’s just the window boxes outside your flat!  The gardens were laid out Lutyens style, but the planting is unique in its style and is rigorously adhered to by the charitable trust that now runs it.  It has a world-wide reputation for excellence and to be in Sussex and not drop by would seem a pity.

If this sounds a place you’d be packing your bags and heading towards, you might want to grab your friends and hire our house in Sussex, spend a few days exploring and enjoy each others company.

 

New Years Eve – only a few party houses left!

If you’re still undecided about your plans for New Years Eve, we might suggest you think about a house party!  Chances are good that your friends haven’t made any plans either and you could all have the most marvelous break in the countryside at a large manor or country house.

One of the best things about this New Years Eve is that it’s over a weekend, so if you aren’t keen to use up your holiday allowance there is no need.  However, why not make it a really indulgent long weekend and add a couple of days – it’s a great way to recharge the batteries ready for the start of 2018 and a whole host of other celebrations and parties you’ve probably got lined up.

Berry House

On the wild and windswept North Devon coast, it’s a time of year to fully embrace the idea of walks along the coastal path, lung fulls of fresh air and the prospect of a roaring log fire on your return to the house, perhaps followed by a gorgeous dinner.  Berry House is a super party house with a games barn for indoor fun if you don’t fancy venturing out – with a pool table, table football and TV room there is plenty to amuse you and your friends.  New Year price £5245.

 

Berry House, perfect for a New Years Eve party

Sussex Manor

This is one of our new big houses and we think it will be popular when you’re looking for a “smaller” big house.  Sussex Manor is available from 30th December and it’s a very glamorous party pad, traditional on the outside, but all high tech and sleek lines inside.  Gorgeous, colourful squashy sofas, a long dining table – perfect for a candlelit dinner party, a cinema room for movie time and all discreetly tucked inside a 17 acre estate that is completely private.  New Year price £5500.

Majestic Sussex Manor, a lovely house for 16

Devon Farmhouse

Set in the heart of rolling countryside Devon Farmhouse will give you a great venue for a party to remember.  The stylish design will be certain to delight your group and all the bedrooms are en-suite too.  The main house sleeps 16 and if your group size grows there are separate individual barns to hire that can accommodate extra guests.  The house is located in the South Hams so you might want to explore the delightful harbour town of Dartmouth, with it’s excellent pubs and restaurants.  New Year price £4500.

Devon Farmhouse, sleeping 16+

Wherever you will be for New Years Eve, we hope you have a wonderful time!

 

 

 

 

Cream of the Crop. A house with all the toys, fully refurbed, from Easter 2018

 

A taster of Tatham House

It’s always a pleasure to be invited to look around a new large house and this one was a particularly exciting prospect for the team at Big House.

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