Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to Maria Walker, our Reservations Manager, who, on 23rd March, celebrated thirty-five years working for English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues.
Maria is our longest serving member of staff and leads a highly motivated and skilled team that handle all the bookings across our five hotels. Her knowledge of the company has a very broad base as Maria worked in several different departments and, over the years, has worn many different ‘hats’ including Waitress, Bar Supervisor, Bistro Manager, Head Receptionist, and Hotel Manager, before taking up the role of Reservations Manager.
Thirty-five years, 1986 to 2021, I cannot believe it! This makes me feel really old! The years have flown by and I think that is because I’ve had variety in my job roles over the years and because the company has been good to work for. The last 12 months have tested all of us mentally and emotionally and English Lakes have shown support at such a testing time.
The last twelve months will certainly be remembered by Maria as one of the most challenging in her career. With most of her team furloughed, Maria had to navigate the thousands of calls from concerned guests who needed to cancel or re-arrange their bookings during lockdown. The great news is that with the roadmap to restrictions easing, consumer confidence is beginning to grow once again and Staycations are very much the order of the day. One thing is sure, Maria and her team will continue to answer the ‘phones and ensure that our guests have a holiday to remember for all the right reasons.
At the age of 17, I started a 6-week work placement at. Low Wood Bay. Prior to that I had never been further north than Blackpool, and I relished the adventure of being away from home. Living in staff accommodation in the 80’s was certainly a new experience for me, but I loved the hard work, camaraderie and culture.
After College I returned to the Lake District to work at Low Wood Bay full-time. I packed up all my worldly possessions and jumped on a National Express coach that took five and a half hours to get from Birmingham to Windermere! I’ve never looked back.
Fresh faced with wild 1980s hair! I was trained and worked in both restaurants at Low Wood Bay. I was a dab hand at silver service – a dying art now-a-days! I also worked in the cocktail bar.
A significant part of my English Lakes story was spent managing The Royal Hotel which was situated right in the heart of Bowness-on-Windermere. It had two very busy bars on either side. I have many fond memories of working there. As the General Manager and Licensee for 11 years I could tell many a story, but simply do not have space here!
After the Royal closed I was asked if I would set up CRS (Central Reservations Department). Starting from scratch, in a porta cabin on site, I led a team of four taking reservations for the whole group. Prior to that, the hotel receptionists took the reservations for the individual hotel.
My role is to run the office, deal with the revenue/rates and a hundred other things! Technology has transformed my role, but it is still very much customer focussed and we pride ourselves in going the extra mile for our guests. Thankfully, the porta cabin has also moved along and we now have lovely offices overlooking the lake.
Low Wood Bay Resort, where the CRS offices are situated
I’ve asked myself many times what it is that made me stay in English Lakes over the course of my whole career. When I first started working for the company, it was small enough that many of the staff, including directors, came for lunch each day to the bistro where I was serving. As a result I got to know the Berry family, and soon became very much a part of the English Lakes Family.
Maria celebrating her 30 year anniversary with Simon Berry, Chairman and Managing Director, and Jean Berry, the late Michael Berry's wife
Michael Berry, Simon and Tim Berry’s father, was a great man who had a vision and a passion for the company that has been embraced by the whole Berry Family. Obviously, the company culture has had to develop over the years – for example, nowadays with the significant growth of the team, it would be impossible for us all to eat lunch in the bistro! However, it continues to be a family run business with Simon Berry as Managing Director. As such, there’s always been a clear vision with traditional values underpinned by good ethics and staff benefits. I am now the longest working member of staff, but not by much. There are quite a few other colleagues who have worked for the company 20+ years, so if my job-for-life choice is just a little unusual these days, I’m in good company!
Take a look at some of the English Lakes Hotels, Resorts & Venues job opportunities we have available today. Who knows where it could lead …