The Olde Rectory on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border won a prestigious English tourism award in 2005. Linda Pyke has been finding out what makes it a winner
Twelve years ago Gilly and Cliff Poultney were looking for a change of scene and lifestyle. They found it when they came across an unloved and dilapidated old vicarage for sale in the secluded village of Whitbourne, on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border.
Fast-forward several years, and they’re in the British Museum attending the English Tourism ‘Oscars’ – the Enjoy England Excellence Awards – and being presented with the Gold Award for the best Self-Catering Holiday of the Year.
Along the way they exchanged the notorious Birmingham commute for the empty roads of Herefordshire, left their jobs – interior design and running a transport company – renovated The Rectory, converted the outbuildings into five luxury holiday homes and had two children.
I arrived looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation in the couple’s newly-renovated Fodder Store. My first impression was that this is no impersonal operation – all guests are met by Gilly or Cliff, ushered into their kitchen, and welcomed by their children, Toby and Georgie, with tea and home-made biscuits.
It bears as much resemblance to the old-style ‘You’ll find the key under the flowerpot’ as a sleek boutique hotel does to a seaside B&B.
The original idea was just to renovate The Rectory for the two of them to live in but an idea took hold to transform the 16th century outbuildings into well-designed holiday homes, with luxury in mind.
With the help of an architect, Cliff restored and re-designed the buildings, taking care to retain original features – oak beams and stonework, flagged floors and the cider press – while Gilly decorated and hand finished each property. “I wanted the furnishings to be sympathetic to the buildings’ original use, but not old-styled – more fitted with style.”