‘A day in the life’ Estates Manager

Reckless Gardener talks to Justin Turner, Head of Estates Management at hotel group De Vere, about his work on a typical working day.

It is easy to forget that some of our most delightful and even iconic gardens frequently surround hotels. As Humphrey Repton, the last great English landscape designer of the 18th century said: “The quality of a man’s land is in its borders” and that is certainly true of the country estate hotels that make up the De Vere portfolio.

Currently, De Vere are nearing the end of a £50 million refurbishment of their portfolio and Justin’s role has been to redefine what a country estate hotel experience should be: “In part by improving and reinvigorating the arrival experience and curtilage of the properties – ranging from the 18th century De Vere Wokefield Estate near Reading, to the contemporary De Vere Cotswold Water Park – and in doing so, surprising and delighting our guests, creating a memorable experience that, ultimately, encourages repeat visits,” Justine (pictured left) explains.

Extending the hotel experience into the outdoors, creating alternative places for visitors and guests to enjoy, whether they are participating in team building activities, dining al fresco, or working in the sunshine, is a major part of his role.

Today, my day has started at 7am on this glorious sunny morning, and I am checking the recently completed ornate metal estate fencing with a pen torch between my teeth at De Vere Beaumont Estate, in Old Windsor. When the borders of our mansion house hotels are in such spectacular order, it serves to highlight the real grandeur that our portfolio has to offer,” says Justin. “Then it’’ off to a meeting with the landscaping team, to discuss the next steps for the estate’s 44 acres. What can we create to make every moment memorable for our guests and delegates? How can we encourage native wildlife? Can we expand our outdoor breakout spaces to further inspire and benefit meetings and events? Already our properties feature jogging trails and walking routes, so that delegates can experience the great outdoors as part of our Smart Space meetings concept, and we’re continually looking at ways to enhance these areas and initiatives.”

After a mid-day break at the hotel’s original mansion house the clouds are finally starting to clear and he receives a call from head gardener at De Vere Latimer Estate in Buckinghamshire, to discuss rose varieties for a new pergola. They agree that Rosa ‘Silver Lining’ seems too good to pass up, alongside ‘The Wedgwood Rose’ and ‘James Galway’.

(above: De Vere Tortworth Court)

Then a call takes Justin to the De Vere Tortworth Court in Gloucestershire, where decisions have to be made on how best to recycle the remains of a 20m high Himalayan Cedar: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to repurpose natural materials as part of the properties’ outdoor environments,” he says. “As with all projects, the activity sparks some exciting ideas for the area where the tree once stood: what shall we plant nearby? Shall we use the timber for seating, a wildlife habitat or sculptures – perhaps a new home for our signature De Vere hares, specially commissioned from artist Emma Stothard?”

Justin’s base is at the De Vere Cotswold Water Park and he heads back there early evening and stay over rather than travel home. There is only one room left but it overlooks the spectacular lake so he is more than happy with that, who wouldn’t be.

Justin admits that his days are rarely the same and tomorrow might bring a new challenge and fresh ideas. For him the job is to ensure that De Vere properties are as spectacular on the outside as they are in.

Photo credits: All images ©De Vere Hotels. Pictured banner above: De Vere Beaumont Estate.