Now, that’s what I call a low tide!

Great walk along the sea front today and the tide was as low – no, correction – lower than I have seen it in the three years that we have lived in Clevedon.

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I’ve not seen the supports for the struts of the pier before, nor seen the sandbank sticking up through the mud without a covering of water. We were recently told that the metal supports were originally narrow gauge rail tracks being recycled, which explains why they look so delicate. You can also see in one of the photos how the appartments at the old Rock Hotel are still being built. Work has been progressing for at least two full years, so maybe by Christmas…

Things have gone a little quicker on Hill Road, where the new mini-Sainsbury store has just opened. I’m not a great fan of supermarket chains, but it does add to the range of products you can buy on Hill Road. The One Stop store round the corner has just been refurbished too – presumably because of the competition of a new store. I hadn’t realised that One Stop is a subsidiary of Tesco, although the branding in the store is now much more like Tesco’s branding. Very interesting – I had assumed it was an independent store.

Back to the estuary… Lovely to see the marine geography so clearly exposed further down the coast.

A similar low tide yesterday caused some local excitement when some geocachers went out onto the mud and got stuck to some degree. I think it was more panic from observers than a real risk, but the emergency services were called in  to rescue them: we heard sirens steadily throughout the afternoon and wondered what was occurring.

Today’s walk was to show our current Airbnb guest, a student with the Bristol Groundschool, the local sights. It is so nice to meet people of different nationalities, and to hear their stories and how they have become pilots. So far we have hosted students from the UK, Italy, France, Denmark, Hungary, Norway and Poland, and we’ve only been in business for a few months. It’s so nice to hear from the European students that their experience of the UK is far superior to their expectations: the legend of football hooligans, hen and stag parties and nightclubbing holidays in the sun has sadly led to low opinions of the British (or to be fair, the English) abroad.

I do realise that this post is slightly random, but then so is life!

From Clevedon to Cheddar (and beyond) by bike

As a Clevedon resident and fan of green transport, keeping fit and healthy and of Somerset as a whole, I was excited and sorry in equal measure by a short piece in the North Somerset Times this week on problems facing the Strawberry Line Association in their efforts to extend the cycle way so that we could get on to it in Clevedon.

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Excited, because I hadn’t heard that there were serious plans to extend the path, and this would be a marvellous facility for those living in and between Clevedon and Yatton. Sorry, because apparently they can’t confirm funding without plannig permission, and they can’t get planning permission without confirmed funding. Not a unique story!

The Strawberry Line already runs along a disused railway line from Yatton to Cheddar, across countryside visible in my photo above, taken from the top of the Mendips. This provides a safe and pleasant cycle path, keeping cyclists ut of danger from traffic, and preventing drivers being frustrated by needing to share roads with cyclists. Individuals and familes can get out into the fresh air, enjoying the environment, getting fitter and not spending too much money in the process.

There is potential to extend the network so that more able cyclists can travel widely across North Somerset, from Wells to the coast. What a boon to local tourism that would be! Loads more people visiting pubs, cafes, shops and bed and breakfasts across the region, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery and enjoying local produce.

I would want to see the path stretch to Clevedon even if I wasn’t an Airbnb host. Honestly, is there one disadvantage to the scheme? If there isn’t, I can’t see it. So I sincerely hope that the authorities help to smotth out the problems that seem to be slowing the scheme down. Hopefully I’l be on my bike very soon!

And incidentally – how have I only just heard of this? Note to self – check local news and events much more regularly!

So here’s what we’ve learned about being Airbnb hosts…

We listed our spare bedroom on Airbnb at the very end of September 2014, to test how much interest there is in accommodation in Clevedon. We’ve lived here for over two years now, and know of two hotels in town and a few established bed and breakfast establishments. Was this enough to meet demand, or was there space for some amateurs?

1-IMG_7926  Us!

Really, having missed the summer season, we weren’t expecting many bookings at all in 2014, but as the room was ready we decided to go through the listing process anyway. It wouldn’t do any harm! Much to our surprise (and delight) we have had a steady stream of bookings ever since, and they are only slowing down now because the room is unavailable for December and early January: for the very good reason that we have family visiting for a few weeks. So as we end a busy week in which we have had three sets of guests, and with some warm reviews in, we feel we have learned quite a lot in a short time and are in a position to offer our personal story to help other people who are thinking of letting out a room.

Decide what you are offering. This is the whole idea behind Airbnb of course. What accommodation have you got that guests can use? Very easy to decide if you have a spare guest bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, but you also have to think about what you are prepared to share. Can guests cook in your kitchen or share your lounge? There are no right or wrong answers, but you must be happy with what you are offereing: then every visit will be relaxed and enjoyable. Another “of course” to note is that the more you offer you the more you can charge for the room. The simpler the offering – a sofa bed in the lounge with shared use of the family bathroom, for example, the less people will be willing to pay.

Get organised.  Yes, it’s obvious, but planning is king! We started from looking at our room from a guest’s point of view. It’s lovely and bright, and being on the top floor of new and ex-show house town house is nice and private. But it is at the top of quite a few stairs, so we provided a kettle, tea making facilties and a mini-fridge, so people didn’t have to come all the way down to the kitchen for a drink. We’re still not sure about the fridge. It’s good to hold some chilled water and milk and it’s almost silent, but some people find it a little noisy at night. We’ll see!

Then we thought about the bedding and towels we need. We decided to buy a couple of extra sets of everything, and to keep them just for guests. Then we get things laundered immediately after each guest and the bed made up, without any further decisions to make.

There are little extras that may help too. We use Twitter for promotion, and also had a business card printed so we can easily give people the room details.

Listen to feedback.  All our guests have liked the room, and our description is honest and clear, so no-one has had a nasty surprise (arriving and not being able to manage the stairs to the top floor, for example.) However, each guest has had a useful comment. Serena suggested adding some extra photos of the town, so people who don’t know the area in advance can see how nice it is. Rory reminded us that as our post-code is new, it can only be found on recently updated SatNavs. And Johnny said a phoot of the house from the outside would be useful to guests. Small tweaks, but we have acted on them immediately and amended/added to the information in our listing.  I also went through the guidebook section to add details of all the local points of interest and of amenties such as local pubs, cinema, shops and post office.

Think ahead. Block off the dates on your calendar when you don’t want guests as far in advance as you can, and remember to keep the calendar up to date. It’s far better for guests to see that a property is not available on the dates they want than to send an enquiry only to be told they can’t stay with you. You may also want to adjust your prices for very busy or very quiet times.

Keep an eye on your emails.  Airbnb guests quite often send an enquiry at quite short notice. It’s a shame to miss a booking (and let down a guest) because you haven’t checked your emails.

And that’s it, really. Once you have got everything set up, it’s just a question of having the room ready for guests, and making sure you have stocked up on the things people expect (toilet paper and shower gel in the bathroom, for example).

So far we have accommodated people who are:

  • on holiday
  • in the Clevedon area on business
  • breaking a long drive to Cornwall
  • in the area for social reasons – a wedding or other special occasion

We’re enjoying our Airbnb experience so much that we are going to expand our offer. There is a second, twin-bedded room on the top floor so we can accommodate up to four guests. We’ve decided to stick to groups of people travelling together – two couples, or a couple with a child (or children) or  other relation(s) – so that they are only sharing the bathroom with people they know well. This could mean a little less income for us on some occasions, as the twin bedded room will often be empty, but we know from feedback that people really like the private bathroom, so we do not think offering two separate rooms to strangers would work.

If you are thinking of letting out a room and making a little money, I hope our story has helped a little. Visit our listing page to find out more – or come and stay with us!!