David Parkin on a grand ambition, a shirty response and being lost for words

David Parkin on a grand ambition, a shirty response and being lost for words

IF there is a better approach to a hotel in Yorkshire than the way you arrive at Grantley Hall, then I’d like to see it.

But then when the aim is to be not just the best hotel in the county, or even the North of England, but one of the best luxury properties in Britain, then I suppose it is no surprise.

To describe Yorkshire’s newest hotel, Grantley Hall, as an ambitious project is a bit of an understatement.

Five years in the making and with £70m invested, the hotel is certainly the result of the grandest of grand visions of businesswoman Valeria Sykes and her son Richard,.

I visited Grantley Hall last week for the opening of its ELITE gym and spa by athletics legend Lord Coe.

As Sebastian Coe he won two Olympic gold medals and set countless world records.

I remember his old friend, former Tory Party leader William Hague, saying he was never surprised that Seb Coe turned into a great athlete.

“When you are called Sebastian and you grow up in Sheffield, you have to learn to run fast,” he used to quip.

As he opened the new gym Lord Coe was full of praise for the ambition of those behind Grantley Hall.

“It really is fantastic,” he told guests, “I used the gym this morning and did an hour on the running machine – don’t worry I wiped it down after!”

The hotel has just 47 rooms but boasts 220 staff.

You get a taste of that when you pull in at the gatehouse and a man in a tweed suit with a clipboard appears to greet you and guide you up the long drive beside the River Skell where Canada Geese glide easily along.

Lit up in early evening, the 17th century hall resembles an ornate Burgundian chateau. 

As we pulled up in front of the hotel, three staff, also in tan and pale blue tweed suiting, appeared with umbrellas to protect us from a summer rain shower.

You don’t need telling that you have arrived at a luxury five-star hotel, you just know. 

From the warm welcome by the staff, to the plush furnishings and beautiful paintings that adorn the walls, no expense has been spared to make Grantley Hall best in class.

The line-up of top-end motors outside tells its own story.

With valet parking de rigueur at such a place, I didn’t feel too overshadowed thanks to the Mercedes I was driving provided by Paul Parkinson and his team at the top rated Synergy Automotive in Harrogate.

Grantley Hall has three bars and three restaurants – including one with acclaimed chef Shaun Rankin – so guests can enjoy a variety of eating experiences during their stay.

Set over two floors the ELITE gym boasts two big workout areas as well as a plethora of equipment to both measure and improve the performance of top athletes and the rest of us, including altitude training facilities, underwater treadmill and 3D body scanners, taking thousands of individual measurements to help assess body shape composition and health metrics.

The cryotherapy chamber has a temperature of minus 85 degrees which means most people can only endure a maximum of three minutes in there.

But that amount of time is enough for the icy temperatures to do wonders for the skin and the body and can burn up to 800 calories.

As one visitor commented: “Can I spend the night in there?”

The Three Graces Spa is a real haven where you automatically relax.

The pool area has the feel of a luxurious Roman baths with steam room, sauna, hydrotherapy pool and even a snow room which you can brave after emerging from the steam.

My invitation to Grantley Hall was thanks to managing director Richard Sykes and Duncan Roy, the director of the ELITE spa and gym.

Former serviceman Duncan is one of the Row4Victory team who completed the 3,000 mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge last winter.

Supported in their efforts by Welcome to Yorkshire, the Row4Victory boys met Richard Sykes at one of the tourism organisation’s events and Grantley Hall didn’t just become a major sponsor of their charity ocean row, but also offered Duncan a job.

Now that’s what I call successful networking.

Back at the champagne reception (where else would I be?) on the terrace after Lord Coe’s official opening of ELITE, I took in the magnificently restored Grantley Hall and its mature but beautifully manicured grounds while chatting to Richard Sykes about a project that has dominated his life for the last five years.

He explained that it was as much the areas that guests don’t see as those they do, that had taken the most time and been the most challenging.

They have excavated under the hotel to create a huge underground network of rooms for food preparation, laundry and storage.

There are so many employees that the staff restaurant has to do two sittings for meals.

I wanted to have a photograph with both Richard and Lord Coe but given I’m quite shy and retiring, my partner Harriet volunteered to ask the good Lord.

Approaching him and his wife, she politely asked if he would mind posing for a photo with Richard and a business blogger (that’s me).

He replied: “Who’s this then Caravan Weekly?”

Harriet loyally responded by saying: “It’s not as glamorous as that.”

Speak for yourself love, you were lucky to be there as my guest.

:::

IF you support a Premier League team then the long summer wait for the return of football ends this weekend.

If, like many of us you support a team in the Football League or lower, then everything kicked off last weekend.

I had to wait for Monday evening to seem my team in action.

Fortunately I got a front row seat in the directors’ box at Huddersfield Town to watch Derby County’s first match thanks to my friend Jason Taylor.

Jason is the commercial director of the newly rebranded Core Facility Services which has just announced the sponsorship of the main stand at the John Smith’s Stadium – home to both Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield Giants.

The facilities management and compliance business has also sponsored a suite in the Core Stand called the Ray Wilson Suite, named after the town’s late World Cup winner.

It was good to catch up with Sean Jarvis, commercial director of Huddersfield Town.

For people like Sean pre-season can often be a relatively calm period, with sponsorship deals in place and season tickets sold.

However given he was masterminding the controversial kit sponsorship deal with betting firm Paddy Power, nothing could be further from the truth.

I think Sean had had the equivalent of transfer deadline day every day for a week after the unveiling of the new shirts with a huge Paddy Power logo splashed across the front.

Likened to a sash worn by Miss World contestants, the new kit was worn by Huddersfield’s players during a pre-season friendly at Rochdale and was quick to draw the ire of fans and the attention of Football Association bigwigs who said it breached their rules.

Some at the time thought it might be a spoof, particularly as Paddy Power, no strangers to controversy, were involved.

Sean and his team remained tight-lipped for several days until Huddersfield Town revealed their new kit – without a sponsor logo on it.

The stunt was part of a campaign by betting company Paddy Power for more unbranded football kits.

While the story trended on social media and made headlines around the world, Sean admitted to me that it had been a pretty pressurised few days until the real kit was revealed.

While the whole episode was an undoubted commercial and media success, what Sean is most proud of is that the original fake shirts, with their sponsorship sash, have been auctioned for charity.

The shirts were auctioned off on online auction site eBay which offered to waive its fees helping raise almost £30,000 for local charities.

Half the money was donated to the Town Foundation, the club’s official charity in the local community, while the other half went to the Huddersfield Street Kitchen, which provides food and essentials to the homeless, and Andy’s Man Club, a registered charity based in West Yorkshire that supports men who need mental health help. 

Andy’s Man Club has a group in Huddersfield, which meets every Monday and Sean told me that those involved in the charity had said hat the the money donated would allow them to operate for the next two years.

We hear so many negatives about football and gambling, but here you have one massive positive.

:::

I RECENTLY wrote about Jonny Hick’s ‘Moon Party’ and was approached at the event by the widow and daughter of Ross Pullan, the ebullient Yorkshire businessman who died suddenly last year.

Joanne Pullan and her daughter Grace thanked me for the tribute I wrote about Ross in this blog.

I said it had been both a pleasure and an honour and I had been deeply touched by them including my final line on the front of the order of service at Ross’ funeral at his beloved Selby Abbey where Jonny Hick had given a very funny and moving eulogy.

I wrote: “A proud Yorkshireman of whom Yorkshire can be proud.”

“Oh we didn’t only use your words there, they are also on his gravestone,” Joanne told me.

I was stunned, emotional and for once, at a loss for words.

:::

I’m out of the country next week so this blog will return in two weeks.

You might ask if there will be another guest blogger but unfortunately the last one blew the budget.

Have a great weekend.

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