When a Natural Retreat …. is natural but not a retreat.

One of my cousins recently asked me what I would do if I tried something for the blog and did not like it. The simple answer is I will review good and bad…. even if it takes me some time to get the words out.  I have been lucky enough to try/use some great products for Fifi Friendly and if there is something I genuinely don’t enjoy or am disappointed about I have no issue in being upfront about it. For those of you who read my blog on Natural Retreats at Trewhiddle you will know how much I loved that place. It was pretty much perfect. I can’t wait to go back! This unfortunately was not the case when I stayed at the Natural Retreats Yorkshire Dales site.

We all look forward to holidays regardless if it a mini break or a long haul trip of lifetime…I am 100% sure that I am not the only one.  From the last minute cheapo holiday to Ibiza that we booked the day before departure ….. to the awesome road trip to the Mosel region of Germany, great simple fun was had on every holiday I had growing up. I happily blame my mother for my excitement to get away on every school holiday for some adventure. So when I get the opportunity to get away I jump at the chance to get away from the stress of everyday life.

I was super excited to get to the Natural Retreats in the Yorkshire Dales. Primarily because I had not been to the area before and I was ready for a few days away. Secondly, I had stayed at different Natural Retreats before and could not wait to try out another one. Where better than the Natural Retreats that started them all in the Yorkshire Dales. A couple of miles off the A1, It was surprisingly easy to get to.

We were helpfully called prior to arrival by the Natural Retreats Concierge Team to see if there was anything we required ahead of our visit. This is a great service that Natural Retreats has and they can organise pretty much anything from organic beauty treatments in your lodge to food hampers and even luxury items for your dog if they are travelling with you. The Concierge Team are very friendly and are a credit to the company. We were called the day before our arrival to say that our lodge would be ready at 2pm and not 4pm… and then on the day of arrival to advise that we had been upgraded to a premium lodge…bonus all round.

From what I can see, the main difference of these is that the Premium Lodges are more secluded and hold a higher position in the resort. This also meant a steeper drive to get to our lodge.  We had been told that we could access our lodge a couple of hours earlier than advertised, which we were delighted with as it meant we could get unpacked and head into the neighbouring village of Richmond.

When we got to the top the view was fantastic. Inside the lodge the open plan layout of the kitchen/dining/living room was surrounded by panoramic views across the valley.  Even with the rain and mist outside it was wonderfully relaxing.  The decor was quite European looking. The sofa which looked hard was actually really comfortable. The bedrooms were lovely. Beds looked comfortable and the pillows (one feather and one synthetic) passed the pillow test. Not lumpy, supportive and not as small as a thin pizza.

Our welcome hamper included some nice pieces although some packets were damaged. I started to unpack some of the fridge items we had brought with us, you know all the important things like goats cheese, wine and cider. I noticed that the fridge was not only off but it also had 3 inches of water in the bottom drawer of it. This had come from the freezer compartment, which along with a culmination of not being turned on and also having a door that was shut with an unsticky piece of sellotape had lead to the freezer defrosting and dripping down the fridge all over our welcome hamper butter and cheese and into the drawers at the bottom. We did turn it back on again but 3.5 hours later it was not wanting to cool sufficiently for food to be left safely. 

When we came to make dinner we realised the oven hood’s fan was not working either.  We decided to call the on duty retreat manager who promptly came down. There were two ladies managing the retreat and the assistant manager we met was new to this role, although  you would not have guessed this and she was very helpful. We were offered to move from our lodge to one down the stairs.

Given that we had now noticed a dirty kitchen sink, teas stains on the sugar pots, dirty dinning table, stains on the dinning table bench and a dirty chopping board, stains/white dog hair over the sofa and holes in the wall where a blind used to be….. I was happy to move.  Not the best start to our getaway.

The assistant manager was really friendly, efficient and quickly offered to help us move our lodge to and our new lodge ( no.17) was right beside where our car was parked.  Whilst the steps up to no. 16 were tricky to negotiate upwards in daylight, at night time with no lights to guide the way, bushes coming onto wooden parts of the stairs which were now wet, slippy and fairly invisible, made this trip a little tricky. Further dismay was felt when we realised that not all the property lights outside our new lodge worked. My patience only started to wear thin when Mr Fifi Friendly slipped on aforementioned outdoor stairs and heard his leg pop. This was where the assistant manager came into her own again as she was very quick to offer to take him to a nearby Accident & Emergency.

We eventually settled for the night in our new lodge.  Sadly our disappointment in this retreat was to continue.  We realised this fairly quickly when the shower flooded over into the bedroom and underneath the beds. Apparently we were not the first to have this problem as the wooden bathroom door had some clear water damage on it. The floor boards were also risen in places. 
We decided to decant into the other en suite bathroom only to find the glass shelf sitting on the sink. I felt that there did seem to be a general and consistent theme of basic upkeep being overlook. The hooks on the walls were falling off. The clock had run out of batteries. One of bedrooms appeared to have a bedside light missing.  I always try to mention issues at the time in order to give establishments an opportunity to rectify. We found ourselves speaking to the management again to put out our concerns and were advised that both lodges had issues due to lack of staff, not enough time to turn them around and that the cleaning staff were not feeding back information. Regardless of quick turnaround, we were phoned to say that our property was ready 2 hours early when clearly it is not. The Retreat Manager said that maintenance is hard because it is busiest retreat. Surely best to close off a lodge even for a day to get work done on it. It is not often I would find myself wanting to go home on day one…. but I did.

That first full day we had a great trip around the local area. I was beginning to find this family holiday a little more stressful that I had hoped for. Richmond however was a lovely town, with great walks and some fab food shops. I would definitely visit it again.  The views, the people, the everything about this part of Yorkshire was really stunning. On the way back to our lodge we decided to take a trip up to the main building, called the Sanctuary, to get some hints on what to do on our last day. While we were there I remembered reading about the Kids Play Room and took my son thought as it was now raining heavily outside, maybe we could decant for a play.

I was a little taken a at the state of the Kids Play Room. Yes there were plenty of kids toys but also several large bin bags, a hoover and a real life drill sitting out on one of the kids seats.  I made the decision that we probably should not hang around in this room for too long …. perhaps for obvious safety reasons.

This review didn’t turn out at all how I expected it to.  I could not fault North Yorkshire, stunning. Sadly, I personally did not enjoy Natural Retreats in the Yorkshire Dales as much I loved Natural Retreats Trewhiddle. Yes they are two very different properties, however I did not find them to come from the same stable. The eco-friendly side of Trewhiddle stood out, whereas it was other aspects of the Yorkshire site that we remembered. Natural Retreats Yorkshire Dales was mostly in great nick however we were meant to be in premium lodges and sadly they felt a bit neglected. This could be sorted so easily as they did not appear to be structural problems!! From looking online to Trip Advisor I can see that some people who have stayed at the properties found parking an issue. We took the advise of one of the staff as to where to park to be closest to our lodge. Whilst some lodges appear to have parking right outside, others involve a walk and even the navigation of some stairs. Lodge 16 was one that came under the later category. We parked beside the neighbouring lodge and took or belongs for a short walk and then climbed the stairs to the lodge. I would recommend that if easy access is required your request this at time of booking.

Yorkshire Dales is the flagship property for Natural Retreats so I decided to contact them on my return to politely (hopefully) give them the heads up of my thought. I actually got a lovely email back from their CEO, Matt Spence, and a call from one of his senior management team who pointed out that they were aware of some issues and that there was due to be a renovation of the properties to iron out some design issues that had come up.  I visited the Yorkshire Dales site at the end of last year and I hope since then they have managed to make these changes. On the whole they do have some great eco-credentials but these were overshadowed by the issues we encountered.

Would this stop me going back to Natural Retreats? I would return to Trewhiddle in a second.

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2 Comments

  1. June 3, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    Hi Fifi,

    I'm looking to get away for a long-weekend soon, so I was quite interested to hear your thoughts on Natural Retreats, but it sounds like I'll be avoiding their Yorkshire Dales branch from what you've said. Sadly it sounds like they're not balancing upkeep with demand and that's something crucial for a relaxing holiday! Hope you had a nice time overall, perhaps you'll need to go back to the other one to get over the stress of the Yorkshire establishment though!

    Besma (Curiously Conscious)

  2. June 3, 2015 / 1:49 pm

    Besma, I am hoping there have been the renovations at this point. That part of Yorkshire is very beautiful and is a great area to visit. The Trewhiddle site is quite simply amazing. Very chilled. Luxurious and then there is the local area. I properly fell in love with Cornwall. Best of luck on the search. Let us know if you find any good places.

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