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Battlesteads pub, hotel and restaurant: Eco-friendly hotel and hospitality

By Email author - Thu, 25 Aug 2011 09:30:00 GMT
Battlesteads hotel and restaurant: Eco-friendly hospitality

At three years in to our five year 'greening' plan, Battlesteads pub, hotel and restaurant is already leading the way for many eco-friendly hotels and hospitality establishments. Even now this comes as a bit of shock to us. It's been quite a journey so far but every step has been somewhat of a logical progression.

When my wife Dee and I bought Battlesteads in October 2005, we were looking for a retirement project. The place was in need of some TLC and its reputation was not all that great but we'd been in the trade for 20 years so we knew that with a strategic approach, quality food and drink and great customer service, we could turn it around.

Battlesteads walled garden

Image Credit: Battlesteads walled garden © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

What we really hadn't anticipated was that we'd experience energy supply problems once the business started to grow. And when I say energy supply problems, I mean if more than four guests staying in any of our 17 en-suite rooms tried to have a shower at the same time, we'd lose power everywhere else in the hotel, which in turn meant us cooking breakfast in total darkness except for gas light.

Clearly, this was not a good basis on which to grow the business further so we had to do something to address the problem - and quickly.

Battlesteads electric charging point

Image Credit: Battlesteads electric charging point © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

Renewable Energy Sources

This started us on a path of discovery and investigation into renewable energy sources and, ultimately, business-wide sustainable practices. We started with the basics like low energy lighting, switching off unused appliances, conserving water and recycling but we soon looked into how we could actually reduce our own electricity consumption and replace electric appliances with alternatives.

At the end of April 2008 we installed a carbon-neutral biomass boiler, which runs on wood chip from a sustainable forest just one mile from the hotel, and a few months later we added solar thermal panels to the boiler house to top up our energy supplies even further.

Chipchase Room 15 superior 1

Image Credit: Chipchase Room 15 superior 1 © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

A year later, we purchased one acre of land behind the hotel and set about creating a green walled garden. This involved planting traditional mixed hedgerow and then working on the land to turn it from pasture / arable to land suitable for horticulture. We took on an in-house team of gardeners and installed two polytunnels.

By the end of 2010, the gardens and the polytunnels were producing all the veg, salads and herbs used in the restaurant for the summer season. Rainwater is harvested in a giant butt then used to water all the planters and hanging baskets.

Battlesteads polytunnel

Image Credit: Battlesteads polytunnel © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

Gradually, we have continued to make all our business operations as green as possible and have invested in some of the latest products and technology on the market. No chemicals are used anywhere in the running of the business - even sanitising products are environmentally-friendly but achieve top quality results.

We got an interest free loan from the Carbon Trust in 2010 to install eco ovens and induction hobs and we reduced our gas consumption by 36%, yet increased our meal output by 15%!

Battlesteads Best Green Pub & Best Pub 2010 with Lenny

Image Credit: Best Green Pub & Best Pub 2010 with Lenny © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

Green Champion

We're lucky to have a first-class team of staff and, without exception, they have travelled the green journey with us with enthusiasm. We have a green champion among the staff who acts as the lynch-pin for all things sustainable within the hotel and filters information through to all departments. We're also really proactive about involving our customers with information boards around the hotel and details of our responsibility charter in each guest room. Plus, I run daily informative tours of the gardens and green installations for guests who show an interest.

The net outcome of this is that, to date, we've increased turnover from 100k to 800k and yet we've only increased our energy consumption by 56%.

mixed bag vegetables

Image Credit: Mixed bag of vegetables © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

With all the work we've done in the last few years in planting the right kinds of flowers and shrubs plus avoiding using chemical pesticides on our veg gardens, we've improved our biodiversity no end. The garden and new-build areas are designed to provide a safe environment for birds, bats, red squirrels, badgers and other local wildlife. These areas are looked after by trained staff who have volunteered to take on the responsibility.

When expert ornithologist and former chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee Colin Bradshaw visited, he counted at least 28 species of birds, including a crossbill, bullfinches, willow warbler, common redstart, sedge warbler, reed bunting, yellow wagtail and long-tailed tits and some large groups of house and tree sparrows.

Battlesteads dessert

Image Credit: Battlesteads dessert © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

And when Northumberland National Park ranger Shaun Hackett came to visit in June on his judging rounds for the Bumblebee Awards, he spotted eight species of bumblebee, including red-tail, early, garden and buff-tail.

Biodiversity

So, what next? I said that we're three years into a five year plan. Just now, we're excavating the area above our car park to create a pond and a meadow. The pond will be 25m long by 10m wide and will be fed by a natural spring that we uncovered during our digging. It will be populated with frogs, newts and other insect eaters and will attract more birds. By adding the pond, we'll improve our biodiversity even further.

Buff-tail bumblebee

Image Credit: Buff-tail bumblebee © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

Walkways around the Eastern edge (closest to the hotel) will allow for guests and visitors to enjoy the pond and its wildlife, while we are using the surplus soil to create a boundary wall along the Western edge, which will be planted with hedgerows, shrubs and trees.

Alongside the pond will be a meadow and, through a contact we made recently, we're sourcing seeds of indigenous Northumberland wild flowers and grasses.

growing vegetables

Image Credit: Growing Vegetables © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

With all of this said, we don't believe in preaching to our guests about our 'green-ness'. Yes, we've won some fantastic regional and national awards for our sustainable practices over the last couple of years and we promote these at every opportunity in order to raise our profile and tell our story but it's perfectly possible to visit Battlesteads and not feel like you have to get involved.

Customers enjoy the enriched flavours from locally-sourced food and veg and salad grown on site and they appreciate having a clear head the morning after drinking the local real ales we have on the bar and organic / biodynamic wines on our wine list but we don't impose our views on them. I always say that we aim to educate by osmosis!

Battlesteads veg garden produce

Image Credit: Battlesteads veg garden produce © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

Of course, you don't need to take my word for all of this. The best way to see what we're all about is to come and visit for yourself. And, don't forget, we are situated among truly stunning countryside in Hadrian's Wall country so there is plenty to see and do right on our doorstep.

For further information or to contact us, please visit the Battlesteads website. You can also find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter @Battlesteads.

Contact Details:

Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

Wark on Tyne

nr Hexham

Northumberland

NE48 3LS

TEL: +44 (0)1434 230 209

FAX: +44 (0)1434 230 039

Email: info@battlesteads.com

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author

Top Image Credit: © Copyright Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant

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Topics: Sustainability / Eco-Friendly