This year is likely to prove an extremely important one in the life of a north Northumberland firm whose grand expansion plans are transforming it from a holiday-cottage company into a large-scale leisure business.
And not only will the growth of the Stablewood Group provide new jobs and employment, but it is also a family firm with three brothers all under the age of 30 stepping up to the plate.
The Stablewood Group is run by the Johnson family, headed up by mum Tina, who started the company as a lifestyle business with five holiday cottages at Budle Bay in 2011.
By the start of this year, that had grown to 23 – 10 at Budle Bay and 13 in Lucker – and by the end of the year, it may have changed out of all recognition, becoming a leisure company.
Peter Ball, a business consultant working with the group, having previously worked for Tina’s husband Kevin at Rolls-Royce, said that the idea was to try to provide clients staying in the accommodation with a more all-round experience.
Currently, Lucker doesn’t even have a pub despite being a thriving tourist area with the Stablewood properties, a caravan park and plans by The Holiday Property Bond (HPB) to build 44 holiday lets.
But that is all about to change at the start of next month as Stablewood Eateries opens two venues across the road from each other in the hamlet.
What was The Apple Inn will be reopening as a traditional pub named The Apple Inn at Lucker, while the old nursery building opposite has been converted into The Apple Core at Lucker, which will be a pizzeria and creperie, selling galettes or savoury crepes.
The venture is creating 12 full and part-time jobs for people in Lucker and the surrounding area and Peter was keen to point out that local contractors and tradesmen have been used for all the refurbishment work.
It will be headed up by the youngest of the Johnson clan, Johny, 24, while middle brother, Danny, 27, is the development director and has been project-managing the schemes.
Martin, the oldest at 29, is in charge of Stablewood Equestrian, which runs Alnwick Ford Equestrian at Longframlington, where what is thought to be one of the largest indoor arenas in the North East, if not the country, at 90metres by 30metres, has been constructed.
It is up and running on the training side and a competition permit is in the offing. A recent training event attracted more than 100 entries.
If that wasn’t enough, the group has recently received planning permission for a leisure facility in the complex of Lucker Hall Steadings, which will include a swimming pool and gym for the use of guests as well as a hairdressers’ and beauty salon, which will be open for use by anyone.
Plus, they have taken on a run-down, Grade II-listed, Georgian house, which is on the English Heritage At-Risk register, in Alnwick’s Narrowgate, with the aim of converting it into holiday apartments and a patisserie in the basement.
As Peter said: “It’s quite significant growth in quite a short space of time.”
The groups plans at a glance
Holiday cottages: 23 – 10 in Budle Bay and 13 in Lucker
Eateries: The Apple Inn at Lucker, a traditional pub, opens on Thursday, April 2. The Apple Core at Lucker, a pizzeria and creperie, opens on Friday, April 3, for evenings. In the future, it will also open afternoons as a tearoom.
Leisure facilities: Planning permission granted for swimming pool and gym for guests and a public hairdresser’s and beauty salon at Lucker.
Equestrian: Large indoor arena has recently been completed at Alnwick Ford Equestrian in Longframlington.
In the pipeline: Plans to convert Georgian house in Alnwick into holiday apartments and patisserie.