Sometimes I think you have to be careful with thinking about what you wish for.

For quite some time, a few years in fact, I would say the family as a whole have thought and talked about taking River Valley in a different direction. The questions so often revolved around what this new direction looked like, how would we transition to that, and most of all, how could we retain the best of what we presently were doing while also ending up in a new space?

You see, while we worked hard, business was reasonably well guaranteed and sometimes it was a lot of fun. We had good staff, many of whom we loved to hang out with, while many of our customers appreciated the natural surroundings and were also good to have around. Transitioning to something else was continually put in the too hard basket or attempted in small incremental steps.

However, the sheer volume of low paying backpacker style guests put a great deal of strain on the infrastructure – we are isolated and have had to build or install all that infrastructure, no connecting to the mains out here – and on staff.

Well, the worldwide pandemic has undoubtedly removed the uncertainty and barriers to moving the business in a different direction!

In other blog posts, I have written at length about this new direction, but our Statement of Purpose best summarises it:

“Our purpose is to be a regenerative business that benefits the land, nature, family and staff, our local community, and our customers.”

How Have We Done?

The Pluses!

During the last few months, the clientele who have come through the door have loved their stays at River Valley and their experiences either on the river or on horseback. We know this from verbal feedback, plus the great reviews left on Trip Advisor, Google and other such sites.

Positive feedback on our food has taken off. This feedback is in part to do with the quality and freshness of what has come from the lodge gardens and partly to do with giving the chef, Miranda, a free hand to cook whatever she wants each day using this produce.

We have been able to bring working with nature closer to the centre of our operations.

We have hosted a wedding a month. Weddings are not an area we have ever prioritised before, but it is safe to say the venue and everything else associated with these events has been a hit.

Finally, we have had so many interesting people stay. I especially, and undoubtedly the rest of the team, have enjoyed getting to know these people and the many conversations held.

The Minuses

Before starting the season, in September 2020, we drew up a budget of just what our sales would need to be to operate profitably over the next few months. We did not meet these (somewhat hopeful) forecasts; however, neither were the results all doom and gloom. We will be staying open for next season.

The main minus has been the continual work strain. With a dramatically smaller team, we find ourselves working every day, but often for only a handful of guests. We do need to be busier so we can build a bigger team and share this workload. Finding new staff and building a larger team will be a significant challenge in the months ahead. If you think your employment future may be at River Valley, please contact us.

So, in brief, over the last few months, that is how River Valley fared. Mostly positive, one or two negatives, but personally, I am feeling excited about this change of direction.

Is there light at the end of the Covid tunnel? Yes, I would say, with fingers crossed, though hoping it is not an oncoming train!

Brian Megaw

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