Hotel makes shortlist for national awards

The Gibbon Bridge Hotel.
The Gibbon Bridge Hotel.

Bowland businesswoman Janet Simpson, who converted her family farm into a four-star hotel and restaurant, has been short-listed for two national awards.

Bowland businesswoman Janet Simpson, who converted her family farm into a four-star hotel and restaurant, has been short-listed for two national awards.

Both Janet personally, and her Gibbon Bridge Hotel and Restaurant, have made the short-lists for Entrepreneur of the Year and Outstanding Diversification Project in the Rural Business Awards.

After being short-listed out of more than 900 other rural businesses across the country, the grand finale will be held at the Belfry Hotel and Resort.

From humble beginnings Janet’s four-star hotel and restaurant started life as a barn on the Simpson family’s 23-acre pig and cattle farm.

Following the death of her father Alf, Janet and her late mum, Maggie, made the bold business move with the help of a small bank loan and grant back in 1982.

From five employees, a small kitchen and restaurant with six bedrooms, the independently-owned business steadily grew.

It now employs 40 people, has five dining areas holding up to 200 guests, 30 bedrooms and suites, a helipad and tennis courts all set in 23-acres of award-winning grounds.

Gemma Clifford, founder of the Rural Business Awards, which are held in conjunction with the Country Land and Business Association, said: “The awards are about celebrating rural businesses, how they are rooted in their communities, have grown in success, and how that success feeds back into the rural way of life in the UK.”

“We are not looking at big chains and our judging process is unique and very fair because it has a points system. Not even the judges know who the winner is until the end of the process.”

Rural Britain employs 3.4million people within over 600,000 businesses and is one of the fastest growing sectors.

The competition draws together businesses from across these three broad areas to acknowledge the breadth and depth of opportunity presented by the Great British countryside, as well as to celebrate the achievements of rural businesses, from engineering through to artisan food producers and professional services organisations.

The 13 award categories will be decided by an independent panel of judges drawn from the rural business sector, official agencies and rural charitable organisations.

Janet said: “As a 14-year-old leaving school to help my parents on the farm, you could say Gibbon Bridge has been an education in the ‘University of Life’.

“Yet, all I wanted to do was have a six bedroom guest house and a small restaurant – and look what happened.

“I have a lot to thank my mother for, and colleagues, suppliers, friends and the loyal guests who come back to us year after year.

“It is wonderful to have reached the finals in such a big competition. Anything else will be an added bonus.”