Wyboston Lakes Resort, Cambridgeshire

JULY 2019

Wyboston Woodlands 17

Location

One hour from London by train and just a short journey from St Ives Station courtesy of the Wyboston in-house shuttle or local taxi service.  The A1 is close by for great motorway connections. Cambridge and Milton Keynes nearby. 

What's on offer

An extensive resort which offers dedicated meeting, training and event space run by experienced professionals.  A plethora of rooms available from interview assessment to large scale conference, meeting and exhibition space.  Leisure facilities include spa and fitness centre. Onsite Ride Leisure provides aqua and land-based teambuilding opportunities.  For those looking for a golf course to hold a society or corporate golf day that’s there as well. 

Why Book?

Wyboston’s staff are a key reason why this venue should be at the top of your wish list.  Each team member at this family owned business make every effort to exceed client expectations. The induction and training they each go through is impressive, with real focus on understanding client needs BEFORE each event #serviceisthesecretRecently refurbished to a high specification, the Woodlands Event Centre has a comprehensive selection of carefully thought through event space, an impressive array of eating options and the latest AV technology/IT infrastructure.  Willows, meanwhile, a dedicated Training Centre, creates exactly the right learning environment.  Both centres offer great value for money pricing options tailored to each event.   

STARTER FOR 10:

You could initially be forgiven for thinking you’d lost your way and entered a business park in the middle of Cambridgeshire.  But no, if you follow the signs, you’ll quickly realise you have indeed arrived at Wyboston Lakes Resort, the UK’s largest privately-owned single site conference and leisure venue.  Located on 380 acres of a former gravel pit and close to the Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, Wyboston on the exterior surface is perhaps not the most glamorous of Resorts, with a range of different office and building designs. But once inside the four-star hotel, or either of the conference/training centres, you’ll immediately be hit with a very warm welcome and a sense of real “family” care.  Plus, you can’t fail to be impressed with the modern contemporary environments which are set to get even better with further refurbishment programmes planned.    

It’s over 35 years since Peter Hutchinson started the business which was originally a timber framed housing company that achieved immediate success through the design and quick installation of the original Travelodge’s back in the 1980s.  It was Peter’s drive and vison, now continued by his son Steve that has created one of the UK’s top conference and event resorts, along with other property lead businesses.   

Wyboston is an impressive operation, which consistently delivers high service levels for a variety of different clients in the four star hotel & spa, the Woodlands Conference Centre and the dedicated Willows Training Venue.  Each part of the business knows exactly what its unique purpose is and important financial re-investment ensures Wyboston remains at the forefront of the events market.  Nowhere is the sense of moving forward more visible than in the Woodlands where client feedback has been the driver in the creation of a series of impressive conference, meeting and event spaces.  

Food is a real focus in each of the three resort areas.  The Waterfront Brasserie, part of the 4 star hotel, offers excellent AA Rosette standard cuisine in a beautiful setting overlooking the Lake.  The simple and wholesome dishes at the Willows Training Centre prove ever popular with residential training groups.  Meanwhile the Woodlands Conference Centre has seen some major food changes.  Paddy and Scott’s Fuelling Stations offer high street deli experiences whilst the Food Market creates a real sense of interactive theatre in a bright, informal environment.  

If relaxation, pampering and fitness is high on your list then look no further than the luxury Wyboston Lakes Y Spa with over 10 Treatment Rooms and the nearby 1Life Health & Fitness Club, packed with modern gym equipment.  The 18 hole golf course is an ideal location for charity and Society Golf Days. And don’t forget Ride Leisure, a large Team Building Activity Centre where an inflatable Aqua Park stretches out across the Lake right next to a land based area featuring exciting forms of transport from off road Land Rovers to mini hovercrafts. 

There’s a lot to see and a lot to do.  But ultimately all of these impressive facilities only work because of the staff, who are professional, courteous and demonstrate real attention to detail.  Impressive. #serviceisthesecret 

WHY SO SPECIAL?

EXPERT, CARING STAFF WHO DELIVER  

Royston a receptionist, Isabelle a cleaner and Irene a waitress – just three members of the team of 300+ who couldn’t have been more friendly, helpful and caring during our visit.  Wyboston’s very much a family business with real pride and family values.  Former winners of the Sunday Times Top 100 places to work, it seems to breed a group of people with similar customer focussed DNA and willingness to go that extra mileIt gives any conference and event organiser the confidence that customer care is right at the top of the Wyboston training schedule. 

The proactive sales office and event teams are specialists in their field and have delivered hundreds of events, understanding exactly what does and doesn’t work.  Staff readily give advice to clients with a can do attitude and make helpful suggestions to do with content, speakers, format, timings and other services, always appearing to be one step ahead of the organisers next question.  In addition, the team understand and recognise the particular requirements of onsite trainers and facilitators from specific room set up preferences to individual dietary requirements, right down to how they like their coffee in the morning!   

But perhaps what is most impressive is the rigorous attention to detail the Wyboston team display from the initial sales proposal and then through the contracting and pre-planning phase, recognising that each client event is differentA detailed form is comprehensively completed which covers every event eventuality and seeks to understand exactly what the client is looking to achieve so there are no surprises when delegates and guests arrive on site.   

Much credit must go down to the management team who over many years have developed a clear vision of what customer service is.  A no blame culture ensures staff have the freedom to make decisions in the interests of clients at all times.  And when things occasionally do go wrong as in any business, the focus is about being honest and sorting the problem out often resulting in a client for life because staff “want to do the right thing. 

CLIENT FEEDBACK PROVIDES BLUEPRINT FOR NEW WOODLANDS EVENT CENTRE 

The Wyboston management team have listened carefully to their clients and it’s paid off.  Research and business analysis has combined with creative design to seamlessly produce the impressively refurbished Woodlands Event Centre.  The look and feel of the venue sets the tone as soon as you arrive at reception with blue and grey hue’s creating a relaxed yet professional atmosphere.   

The refurbishment programme has created fewer, larger rooms with increased informal break out space.  Forty cabaret style is the magical number in terms of the most popular room size and configuration and there’s plenty of them.  The Yew Tech theatre is an inspired new introduction.  Forty-five seats form a mini raked auditorium ideal for keynote presentations – or doubling as a cinema for evening down time.  

Throughout the centre, quick change room layouts are a speciality with the ability to move chairs from portrait to landscape format easily possible during a short break.  The “8 hour chairs” guarantee delegate comfort even during the longest of days and simple, yet effective touches such as adding a half moon table at the end of rectangular desks creates a much more collaborative working space.  

All meeting rooms benefit from natural light and the large Rosewood Suite which is ideal for product and car launches is enhanced by sophisticated and fully controllable multi-colour lighting washes, which change to create the right environment to reflect the mood and content of each session.  The smaller break out conference rooms are all brightly colour coordinated with matching chairs, walls and magnetic writing boards which bring each space to life. 

The flow of delegates around the Events Centre is easy and the numerous networking and multi-functional break out areas fill the current event delegate need to have space and freedom to meet, network or quietly catch up on pressing emails. Delegates can’t fail to be impressed that Wyboston has really taken onboard the way people learn, engage with one another and socialise.  The outside courtyard is deserving of special mention.  What was a not particularly attractive area between the meeting rooms and onsite bedrooms has been transformed into a vibrant informal place to gather.  Alfresco dining options, together with golf and table tennis are networking hits, with 16 deckchairs surrounding a fire pit providing a perfect chance to chat during the day or well into the small hours.  Clever.  

Woodlands also hasn’t forgotten the importance placed on robust in-house AV and IT systems.  No technology is future proof, but Wyboston’s interestingly named Robotics and IT Committee have spent considerable time thinking what client demands will be in five years’ time.  They’ve invested time and money in getting the technical infrastructure right including:   

  • The latest laser projectors 
  • Digital scan smart boards 
  • Downloadable flipcharts which provide immersive experiences  
  • Plug and play is standard 
  • Sector leading 2Gb of Wi-Fi believed to be the most powerful available in any specialist conference venue in the UK 

It’s also reassuring to have inhouse specialist AV and IT staff readily available.  There’s really no need to bring in your own equipment or production teams unless you have a complex design and build show.  The Wyboston Tech’ Teams know how their equipment works and are adept at making client laptops and Macs seamlessly integrate. All this is included in the price, making what are already good value Day Delegate and 24-hour rates even better. 

WOODLANDS FABULOUS FOOD – PURE THEATRE – GRAB AND GO! 

Beige buffets still have their place but are rarely seen at the Woodlands Events Centre.  Instead there’s a clear belief that the conference or event food offering be it a mid-morning snack, a tasty bite for lunch or a “round the world” dining experience, is of a standard that guests would be happy to pay for themselves in their local High Street.  

As part of the meet and greet service at the start of each event and each day, the Wyboston operational team talk through the various lunch options.  The newly introduced Paddy & Scott’s “Grab and Go” Refuelling Station is ideal for those short of time with freshly made sandwiches and tasty wraps are available to “Grab and Go”.  Food suggestions vary depending on the age of the delegates, the audience composition and the nature of the event itself.  From the most nutritional of dishes to good old steak and kidney pie, there’s a recognition that no one size of menu dish fits all. 

The Food Market offers a wide selection of light bites and other nourishing dishes.  Very much an interactive experience, The Market creates a real sense of theatre.  It’s again been introduced as a direct result of client comments highlighting the fact that delegates after a long day prefer to walk around, socialise and try different foods.  According to Executive Head Chef Glenn Corby there’s a real appetite to sample different styles of food, with smaller portions being offered so that people can try a much wider variety from around the World.  Mini Caesar salads, goujons and fries, posh “pot noodles” are all flavour of the month.  Flexitarian free from menu options are a given.  But if build your own burger is more your thing the outside courtyard provides a great alfresco backdrop for a range of different fun food options whilst those preferring more formal night time dining can enjoy the Mediterranean themed Olive Restaurant. 

DEDICATED RESIDENTIAL TRAINING CENTRE – WILLOWS DOES WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN 

If a purpose built, cost effective training centre is on your wish list of must find venues, then Wyboston’s Willow training facility is definitely worth further investigation.  Stream training programmes, contracted client facility options and even an outside area where you can create your own branded petrol forecourt are all possible!   

As the automatic doors of the Willows open, you’re immediately transported into a training environment which is completely different to the Woodlands Events Centre and Wyboston’s hotel.  Willows is dedicated to training.  Functional, well equipped training rooms (projector/flip chart/plug and play) offer real choice from small interview size through to plenary sessions for 160.  There’s a no nonsense feel.  People are there to train and learn and unlike some venues there’s no distractions from other leisure or spa guests. 

Willows is next on the list for a Wyboston refresh, but in truth there’s nothing wrong with what is there now. The centre offers 183 compact bedrooms (60 have been refurbished) which are fit for purpose in design and located at the rear of the training, restaurant and day time social areas.   

There’s never a complaint with the food from long stay residential delegates.  This is real testament to the team of chefs who serve a varied menu around a series of tried and trusted popular wholesome favourites including a legendary sausage plait.  Individual dietary requirements are of course accommodated and it’s impressive to see between 300-400 people move through the restaurant in very quick time helping to ensure that strict training schedules are adhered to.  Evening BBQs in the central courtyard is a Summer favourite, with Paddy & Scott’s premium coffee a big hit for those not in the bar and social area. 

Willows also has contracted long term options with adjacent buildings easily convertible into bespoke corporate or public sector training facilities which are designed to individual client specification right down to house style and brand.  If walls need knocking down to create the right sized rooms, it happens.  If there is a specific request for dedicated presentation technology, no problem.  There’s even plenty of outside land where some clients have even replicated a building site, petrol station or manufacturing hub to bring realism to their training experience.  Short, medium and long term solutions are all available and from initial conversation to training implementation can be as short as a matter of days. 

TEAM BUILDING – RIDE HAS IT ALL

There’s lots of exciting team building activity centres across the country.  But not many have land AND water based activities.  Fewer still have a range of 3 & 4 star standard bedrooms close by, or a golf course, Spa & Leisure Centre, plus a number of conference and meeting rooms all within a ten minutes’ walk. 

Let’s start with a video to set the scene:

Ride Leisure at Wyboston Lakes is an independent team building company, led by inspirational Director Malcom Scott, which has been running for 15 years.  Each water or land based activity has been created as part of a training programme designed to improve: Cohesion, conflict resolution, team interaction, problem solving, task completion, time constraints, working to deadlines, leadership and fellowship.  

A typical half day session will last 3-4 hours and is made up of at least 4 activities from Raft Building and Crevasse Crossing to Blind Fold Tent erection and navigating Spiders Webs.  Groups can also combine a Team Building session with an Adventure packages to make a full day of adrenalin fuelled excitement featuring amongst other things 4 x 4 off roading and jet skiing.  

In terms of numbers, Ride Leisure can cater for up to 300 people at one time and health and safety colleagues will be reassured to know that all staff are fully trained with activities designed to keep participants as safe as possible without dampening the fun.  For organisers looking to create a tailored package of activities together with meeting rooms and overnight accommodation, the Wyboston Lakes Sales and Events office can provide a one stop shop booking service, reducing the hassle of coordinating different event elements. 

SUSTAINABILITY AS STANDARD 

Some venues claim to be on a sustainability journey, others actually are, Wyboston certainly is. Their stated policy is to work in such a manner that their day to day operations have the lowest possible impact on the environment, whilst ensuring the business remains commercially successful.”  The facts and numbers are impressive: 

  • 5,000 trees have been planted on the estate 
  • 88 solar panels generate over 40,000 kWh of electricity 
  • Recycling of glass and plastic bottles, cardboard, paper, newspapers, waste cooking oil, printer cartridges, gardening and golf course trimmings and clippings – with all other waste going to pre-sorting – thereby ZERO to LANDFILL. 
  • Energy saving monitor switches in smaller rooms and detailed smart meter monitoring 
  • Tight control of air conditioning systems to ensure rooms not in use are not treated 
  • Funding of cycle paths in the local area to encourage employees to make their journey to work carbon neutral 
  • Installing in-house laundry for towels and robes thereby reducing road miles 
  • Installing electric charging points in car park for use by customers with electric cars. 

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The sophisticated colour/lighting wash in the Rosewood Suite sets exactly the right environment at a touch of a buttonChoose the colour to match the mood of your event.  Yellow to stimulate, green shades for calm reflection 
  • All delegates can access free of charge 1Life The Health and Fitness Club 
  • Stuck for ideas and content for your event?  The onsite team are happy to share all sorts of suggestions from their extensive experience 
  • Travelling by electric vehicle?  No problem as there are plenty of charging points 
  • Budget tight or money no object.  Three standards of bedroom across the portfolio provide helpful options 
  • A very handy mini-bus shuttle service can be used for transfers from the local rail station. Josh is always on time and a mine of useful information 
  • You don’t have to be a nature or bird fan to enjoy a visit to Paxton Pits Nature Reserve – https://www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/leisure/parks-nature-reserves-and-green-spaces/paxton-pits-nature-reserve/ 

BEAR IN MIND

  • Wyboston on first sight looks more like a thriving business park close to the A1 rather than a country house estate set in acres of beautiful parkland.  Look beyond and inside to discover the real beauty and charm 
  • It’s a big estate well sign posted, but do allow time to get from the hotel to Woodlands or over to Ride Leisure’s team building site 
  • Bedrooms in the Waterfront Hotel require a short walk outside from reception, whilst those in the Willow training centre are compact – ideal for a single residential training delegate 

ANYTHING ELSE?

  • Why not mix business with pleasure at Wyboston? They’ve seen a surge in “Bleisure Breaks” in recent months as its becoming increasingly popular for delegates to extend their business visit to include a few leisure nights at the beginning or end of an eventGreat for work-life balance, there’s no shortage of things to do with the golf course, spa, leisure centre and outdoor water sports park 
  • Wyboston also has serviced offices available to hire/lease from just a few weeks to a few months or even years.

SERVICE IS THE SECRET

This is one of meetingsclub’s “longer” editor’s destination.  There’s been a lot to say, a lot to include and much to admire, praise and highlight.  The thing that keeps Wyboston Lakes Resort moving forward serenely like the many swans on the lake are the staff.  Sure, they have a great event, conference and training product to sell, but their personal pride, passion and enthusiasm goes way beyond their monthly pay check.  Much credit to the management team is due, but really every member of staff should take a bow having recognised that #serviceisthesecret 

To find out more about Wyboston Lakes Resort, don’t forget to check out the link below. PLUS Spend Time With Wyboston’s Steve Jones and Dave Little. And if you’re planning a Christmas party, our top tips will guarantee a fantastic time!