The Clerembeax Palace Hotel and Spa – International Forest Day
The beautiful Downshire village of Clerembeax St Giles was situated to the west of Abbeyvale located between Grace Hill and Bushy Down and on the outskirts was the Clerembeax Palace Hotel and Spa.
It was once the home The Clerembeax’s, who arrived in Downshire following the Norman conquests and stayed for a thousand years before the name died out following the death of the reclusive Marcus Clerembeax at the age of 96.
The current owner was Yvonne Labuschagne, who decided to open it as a Hotel and Spa.
The Spa was a good attraction, but it was crucial for them to maintain a high occupancy rate, however things were tough in the Hotel trade with the success of Travelodge, Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express and so places like the Palace needed to offer something extra to attract the guests, apart from the Spa.
So, they put on novelty weekends, such as “Murder Mysteries” and in addition, they had a sizable Ballroom which was used for special occasions, high days and holidays, which boosted occupancy and Spa numbers at the same time.
But it was necessary to offer guests as wide a range of activities as possible during their stay, to attract them in the first place, and hopefully to come back, which was why they bought and stabled horses up at Stevens Farm, in order to offer riding.
The Stevens farm bordered the Clerembeax Estate, so it was a natural choice and they it was a large farm which had at its center a large farmhouse, parts of which dated back six centuries, which had been added to over the years to accommodate the changing needs of the family.
There were also a significant number of out buildings, including a stable block.
The farm was run by Russ Stevens and his three sisters, Mary, Rose and Muriel.
However, they had plenty of farm work to keep them busy, so they had little or nothing to do with the horses, so Hotel Manager Hannah Morgan employed the Storey Brothers, Adam and Craig to do the job.
But having the stables so close to the Hotel was a definite bonus but that was only half the battle, because they also needed somewhere interesting to ride, somewhere secluded and peaceful which was not initially available to them.
About 30 percent of the land on the farm was unsuitable for farming, primarily because of a rocky uneven terrain but also because of the sparse unmanage woodland that covered it.
Tackling the latter in order to provide a riding trail through it was beneficial for the Hotel and the farm, because the Hotel were prepared to fund the work, to ultimately please their guests, whereas the was money to be made from the cut timber would go to the Stevens and the farm could always use extra money.
The Stevens girls were all good looking, with red hair and striking Celtic green eyes, twenty-one-year-old Rosie and her older sister Mary, although three years apart, could easily have passed for twins.
They were smaller than their other siblings, leaner and wiry.
Where they differed however was that Rosie was a girlie girl and
Mary had always been a tomboy, and when they were younger Rosie always had painted nails and Mary always had grazed knees.
Because Rosie didn’t like getting her hands dirty, she had always focussed on her strengths, which were her organizational skills.
So, she was the obvious choice in the family to address the woodland problem.
So, the first thing Rosie did before the work could commence was to persuade a local tree surgeon called Phil Tucker to work with her.
She hadn’t worked with him before, but she knew him from agricultural college she knew that he had all the necessary skills to get the job done no matter what problems might arise, and besides that she fancied the pants off him.
He was a couple of years older than her, six-foot-tall with dark curly hair and crystal blue eyes and with her undoubted organizational skills she might manage to organize him into her arms.
Phil and Rosie worked well as a team, she was a great planner and time manager and Phil knew how to get the best out of people.
When she approached him about the job he said he was off to Shallowfield for a few months to work in the Dancingdean Forest.
This was the worst news she could have imagined, she feared that once he got settled in Shallowfield he would never come back.
“It’s three months guaranteed work and its good money too,” he said
“Well I know I can’t match the money, but I can guarantee a year’s work at least” Rosie said
“Only if the Hotel keep funding it” Phil said
“They will,” she said resolutely
The truth was he didn’t want to go to Shallowfield any more than she did, but he had to know that she wanted him to stay, he really liked her, but he’d been hurt before and he wasn’t keen for it to happen again.
He looked at her and the earnest expression on her face and said
“Ok, I’ll give you a year and we’ll see how it goes”
And when her expression instantly changed he had his answer.
Over the following months they tackled each problem as it presented itself with their combined wits and they solved them one by one.
But the one problem neither of them could solve was how to make the transition from work mates to lovers.
Everyone else in the family and crew knew the disposition of their hearts, and knew they were a couple in waiting.
Phil had tried to ask her out countless times but always bottled out at the last minute.
There was always that niggling doubt in the back of his mind that if he asked her out and she said no then it would, at best, create an awkwardness between them, and at worse, force him to leave.
The same thought had crossed her mind as well, but she had decided it was worth the risk but every time she was about to broach the subject they were interrupted either by one of her siblings or a labourer or the phone.
Things were getting desperate, it was obvious to her that he was never going to ask her, and it seemed that fate was conspiring to prevent her from asking him.
But it all came to a head at a progress meeting up at Blackdog Wood in March, all the Stevens family were present as was Phil Tucker, his Foreman and Hotel Manager Hannah Morgan.
At the end of it, Hannah gave a short address praising everyone’s efforts, especially Rosie and Phil.
There were mutterings of approval and then Hannah added
“So, in recognition of your efforts there is a table booked at the Palace restaurant for you two to celebrate together”
“And when she says “together” she mean’s as a couple” Mary added “Understood?”
“Yes” he replied
“Good” Rosie said “You are now going on a date”
“Ok” he said
“Hooray” Muriel said as Phil smiled at Rosie who returned his smile and blushed
“Result” Russel said