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!!

Good reasons to visit Clevedon

I have written often about the little things that make Clevedon such a nice place to visit:

the pier, the Curzon cinema, the windswept tree and the bandstand, the views, the walking, the nice people, the opportunities to spot places featured as locations in Broadchurch, the places to have a pint …

pier and clouds august 13

but I haven’t talked about how well situated the town is for a visit en route from almost anywhere to the West Country or Wales, and now I really should, because we have just listed our house on Airbnb and we are hoping for bookings! Why have we listed? Well, we have a beautiful house, with rooms that we don’t use unless we have guests, and so which are usually empty. Some lettings income will help to supplement our other earnings (freelance writing, art sales, pension) and offering some Bed and Breakfast facilities may also help visitors to Clevedon, as there are not that many places to stay in the town.

Clevedon is well worth a visit in its own right, partly because the seafront is so unchanged from Victorian times, and partly because geography makes the place – the sunsets and the views across and down the Bristol Channel – just so picturesque. It’s also really handy for a day trip to Bristol, being just 15 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bus to Bristol city centre, and the glories of harbourside and the SS Great Britain, Clifton suspension bridge, the old city with the markets and lanes, and roughly a trillion great places to eat and drink.

If you fancy a road trip of Somerset, include Clevedon in a series of bed and breakfast stops, and take in the Cheddar Gorge, the Mendips, Glastonbury, Wells, Bath, Bradford on Avon, the Somerset Levels, Brean Down and many more places and attractions besides.

We are also perfectly placed if you are travelling to Cornwall from London or the midlands. It’s a long drive to Penzance, but from Clevedon it’s only about 2 and a half hours, so you arrive fresh and happy rather than tense and wrung out. The same thing applies for those travelling across to Tenby and the lovely Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

There! Regional and personal promotion over. Maybe we’ll get to meet in person one day?