Advent village - a show of its own
The village represents an investment of over £1m by Advent’s parent company, the well known building concern Shepherd Group, and has taken about 18 months in total to plan and construct. Twelve luxury lodges, most of Advent’s current lodge range are displayed in a spacious 1.5-acre landscaped area around a central piazza – all built to full park home residential standards and shown fully dressed and furnished, complemented by state-of-the-art customer facilities. The showground was formerly a garden centre and was purchased specifically for the purpose of building the Leisure Lodge Village.
Shepherd Group and Advent
I met Patrick Shepherd, Group Deputy Chairman, who told me his great grand-father, a joiner called Frederick Shepherd, founded the business in 1890 in York, and its head offices remain in the city. Since then, the companies that now form Shepherd Group have grown to employ around 3,500 people and have an annual turn-over exceeding £700m. It is one of the top 500 family-owned private businesses in the UK.
The Group’s operations in national and inter-national markets include substantial companies in construction and engin-eering, manufacturing and property development. But it was a significant development in 2004 when it established Advent Leisure Homes in response to the demand for factory-finished leisure homes for the second homes market.
Advent is part of the Park and Leisure Homes division of Shepherd Group, as is its sister company Homeseeker Homes, one of the UK’s leading largest producers of park homes.
Patrick told me the showground open-ing was an exciting time for Advent, which he considers the dominant manu-facturer in its particular marketplace.
He added that the company is in a very strong and financially stable position, which he thinks is important for its clients given the current perceived economic climate. There is no doubt the company has more plans for the future, and I asked him if that included perhaps buying parks. “No plans at the present” was his diplomatic answer.
The Leisure Lodge Show Village is best accessed from a road that runs alongside the Shepherd Group factory, called Jockey Lane, and there is a car park for visitors with easy access to the office facility even for the wheel-chair bound or those pushing a buggy.
The reception and office is an Advent lodge designed especially for the village and the Advent sales and technical team are now based there. Portakabin – another part of the group (or should I say ‘family’) – supplied the marketing suite and store facilities.
There is a great view of the village from reception, with the lodges dis-played in a U shape layout in front of you. As well as being open to drop-in visitors, park staff can meet prospective owners there and discuss their needs. Bill Clarke, Managing Director of Advent, reckons clients should think in terms of their visit lasting two to four hours. “We design ‘WOW’ and we sell dreams,” he added.
Prior to the public days at its launch, the village was open to trade visitors and they were quick to praise it and the swanky new brochure.
John Mills and Julie Lench, the sales team from Heron Lakes Holiday Lodge Park at Beverley in East Yorkshire said, “This place is absolutely superb. It’s marvellous and the new brochure beats the hell out of looking up on the internet. The descriptions are so clear.” Their favourite lodge is the Valerian Omni 50x22. “We love the fabrics and colour ways,” Julie added.
Steve and Denise Fairburn are just about to begin to develop their holiday park, Croft Park at Little Weighton, also in East Yorkshire, and Steve said, “It’s a top notch showground. Advent has done a wonderful job and the layout is panoramic. We’ll be using this facility with our clients, and the brochure is brilliant with the pull-out sections. It’s beautifully photographed and presented.” Steve’s favourite lodge is the Tarragon Opus, but Denise is keen on the Saffron. “I like the use of space.” she said, “It’s difficult to believe it’s a single unit.”
The official weekend attendance figure was 1,370. Advent provided food and drink and asked for donations for the local charity, York Against Cancer, whose volunteers manned the refreshment stall for four days. The target was to raise £2000 but the final figure was £2,341.47.
Visitors were entertained by the Shepherd Group Brass Band, originally founded over 100 years ago as the Rowntree brass band, but it has been sponsored by Shepherd Group since 2004,. There are a even few Shepherd Group employees who are members.
The showground will be open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. It is close to York’s main ring road, the A64, and just three miles from the railway station.
Even the Lord Mayor was impressed – it was the first time she had seen a lodge. “I’m amazed,” she said. “What a great use of space in the design – you never know what’s round the corner.”
The Sheriff revealed that he and his wife have booked a holiday in a lodge later in the year. “I hope they are as good as these. The accommodation is excellent and the quality exceptional.” He thought the village was exceptional, too, and “a good use of the site.”
Colour and harmony
I met Melanie Kemp, Advent Sales and Interior Design Consultant and spoke with her about the colour schemes in the lodges. “There are five standard colour schemes, four Opus colour schemes and one Omni scheme on display in the various lodges,” she said. “There is a colour scheme for each model range which is included in the basic price, but you mix and match if you want to within certain limitations. You can upgrade the furnishing package and colour scheme too, but that is likely to incur a cost which we can discuss when we meet the client.”
She added that the current colourways will be available for at least a year, subject to availability, and swatch samples will be available for clients to take away.
I asked Melanie if clients can use their own furniture in an Advent lodge. “Sure, we can make some financial allowance for those that wish to do that,” she replied. “But we do have favourable rates with our suppliers. Nevertheless, people do sometimes have a favourite piece of furniture that they want to use.”
Melanie then told me of the bespoke service and says it can take quite a long time for the client and herself to co-ordinate the furnishings, fabrics, furniture, kitchen units, wall colours, light fittings, carpets and so forth. “I like doing it though,” she said, “though it can be difficult when clients don’t have any idea of what they want, but just want something different to the ranges that Advent offers.”
Melanie suggests that if you want a bespoke lodge, do think in advance about what you want to do – such as whether to co-ordinate with your dinner service or a favourite painting or harmonise with the external landscape.
I had to ask her what was the most unusual bespoke colour scheme she has worked on and aftera moment she said, “I have helped a client design an interior colour scheme of all shades of orange that the client was very happy with!”
The extensive customer facilities at the village include:
• Refreshments, kitchen and bathroom amenities.
• A purpose-built and dedicated marketing suite, a luxurious, glass-fronted meeting and lounge area overlooking the village.
• A private office available for parks’ staff and customers.
• Advent’s proprietary interactive, computer-based Park Selector service with powerful search functions enabling customers to find a park anywhere in the UK that meets their individual criteria.
• A display of all Advent’s show homes for sale in UK, organised by geographic area.
• Information from participating parks, set in a consistent format, and professionally marketed from the suite.
Residential or leisure
Though lodges are often thought of as holiday homes, it should be remembered that Advent – like some other manufacturers – builds all its lodges to the residential standard BS3632. They can therefore be used as residential homes.
There are an increasing number of residential parks exclusively using timber-clad or timber-style lodge homes, and also a growing number of existing residential parks willing to site them. If you would prefer a lodge-style home and have found a vacant plot to move on to, don’t be afraid to ask the park if you can have one of these rather than a traditional stucco-finished model.
Advent Leisure Homes, Jockey Lane, Huntington, York YO32 9NE. Tel: 01904 626611; email: [email protected]; website: www.adventhomes.co.uk.
This feature was published in the June 2008 issue of Park & Holiday Homes magazine. To order our latest issue please click here.