What makes a Wolsey Lodges B&B?

Uplands House Evening Meals

Defining what makes a Wolsey Lodge is famously difficult. They vary in size from rambling estates to modest, albeit stylish, converted dairies or stables. Your hosts might be farmers or former lawyers: they come from a range of backgrounds as varied as their B&Bs themselves.

What they share is a genuine love for receiving guests. Visitors breathe life into rambling ancient buildings, and justify the care that goes into keeping them well-maintained and warm. It’s the appreciation of guests that justifies the hours spent gardening, tending – often enormous – grounds and mowing endless lawns.

The best way to illustrate what makes a Wolsey Lodge B&B is through an example. This is one Wolsey Lodge B&B and the story of how it won a major award. Hopefully it shows something of what makes our association special.

Uplands House B&B, near Banbury

Uplands House Gardens
Uplands House B&B near Banbury

Uplands House between Banbury and Stratford-on-Avon is a classic example. It’s a largeish period property with good size rooms, set in extensive grounds including a croquet lawn and a kitchen garden, but that’s true of many Wolsey Lodges. As the owner Poppy Cooksey says “In many ways it is nothing special”. So why does it get so many awards? The best award is VisitEngland’s Rose Award, which stands for Recognition of Service Excellence. You can’t apply for this but it is the highest honour for any B&B in England, is awarded anually and, when it came, was a complete surprise. Poppy tells the tale of how she came to win.

“It was just one of those evenings when everything comes together. It was a warm, balmy July evening. Graham was  out for the evening  fencing, [both Graham and Poppy are former Olympic fencers] and I was alone with my 7-year-old grand-daughter. She was in a summer outfit with clouds of  long red hair, looking just like one of those Rossetti Pre-Raphaelite beauties, and really added to the atmosphere. Usually I know when B&B inspectors are coming – it’s always a solo booking on a weekday night, with after 20 years I know quite a few of the inspectors by now anyway – but this time I had no idea: I might have been busy but for whatever reason on this occasion I just didn’t spot it.  Thus she really experienced what we do day in, day out, with no extra care taken.

Uplands House Four Poster Bedroom
Uplands House

“So the three of us dined on the terrace beside the rose garden, with my granddaughter dancing around the lavender and roses being amusing and sharing secrets about I don’t remember what – perhaps polar bears? – and it was just magical. We had an excellent meal – starter, roast duck, and desert  and cheese – and it was just a very relaxing lovely summer evening.  Towards the end my guest exclaimed  “I’ve never experienced anything  like this before” but I still didn’t realise she was any sort of inspector. Suddenly it twigged  – bong! – “Are you the inspector?” I asked anxiously, cross with myself for not paying attention – single person one night mid week stay …And she was!  In the morning our guest had breakfast, and left, and I didn’t think any more about it. Until a  little while later I received an email telling me I had won their B&B Rose Award, and would I like to attend a lavish tea party at the Luton Hoo  Hotel, and receive my certificate, along with the other winners – pubs, hotels etc, where we could stay the night at half price, so we did! I thought I might learn a few new tricks.”

As Poppy says “it’s nice to get the recognition, and to know you’re doing something right. Graham’s mantra is always “give them what they want”, which is right – though first you have to find out what that is! I do care very much about my guests though and put a lot of effort into finding out what will please them so I can make sure every stay is perfect. That’s just what proper generous, warm and welcoming hospitality really is. We want them to feel like they are part of a house party while they are at Uplands House, more like staying in a home from home rather than as paying guests.”

Uplands House bed and breakfast exterior
Uplands House B&B

There are Wolsey Lodges in towns and cities, with others in idyllic villages or surrounded by fields. Whichever you choose you’re likely to be greeted with home-make cakes or – if it’s that sort of time, a drink. Throughout your stay you can expect to be looked after considerately, with care.

The concept of ‘timeless hospitality’ isn’t easy to define. But it’s so much a part of Wolsey Lodges its even been trademarked as such. It’s no longer so easy to find that in this day and age. With Wolsey Lodges you can.

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