Pen y Cymoedd Investments

AFAN LODGE

Background and Initial Rescue Package

In 2019, Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund CIC (PyC CIC) was approached and worked with the owners and others to ensure Afan Lodge’s continued contribution to the prosperity of the Afan valley and wider communities.

The PyC Board agreed that the hotel was a great asset in a location that had huge potential. The business had been shown to operate profitably in the past and could do so again in the future, with the right level of proactive business and financial management. The fund undertook a detailed financial review and analysis of the last five years’ accounts and identified several potential options for PyC Board to consider. A decision was made to offer immediate support of £89,241.73 to the business, to prevent closure whilst PYC undertook a detailed option analysis.

Following appropriate due diligence, PyC successfully agreed, with the owners and their bankers to purchase the business directly to maintain the facility as a key business in the valley. The decision was taken to enable Afan Lodge to realise its strategic potential, preserving local employment and allowing for future broader developments, for the benefit of all stakeholders. It is now a wholly-owned subsidiary business of PyC CIC which is managed and run on PYC CIC’s behalf by local staff – unleashing its potential to expand its offering in a variety of ways. PyC CIC has done this as part of its remit and mission to help stimulate and regenerate economic activity throughout the Fund’s area of benefit.

This investment reflects the value PyC CIC places upon the need to secure quality visitor accommodation in the Afan Valley as a cornerstone of further economic development in the area.

What has happened since then?

After an exciting period of getting the Lodge ready for its re-launch with a light refurbishment and under new management, the Lodge opened on March 13th, 2020 only to be forced to close a week later by the Covid pandemic.

The Lodge has remained closed for much of the time since we invested due to the pandemic. However, the appointed Afan Lodge Directors have worked tirelessly to ensure the business survived the effects of a pandemic that had such a devastating impact on the hospitality industry

The Lodge submitted an application to the fund for a COVID grant of £66,999 and the proposal was considered by PyC Board members independent of the Lodge Board and supported. During the COVID period, Pen y Cymoedd offered a total of £570,000 of COVID funding to 53 organisations and businesses across the fund area to support them during the lockdown. To read more about how PyC supported the community during the pandemic, see here: Reflections on the Fund’s impact during flooding and pandemic of 2020. – Pen Y Cymoedd Community Fund (penycymoeddcic.cymru)

August 2020 saw the Lodge open again but with fewer visitors than usual due to further limitations and understandably, increased public caution. Winter of 2020 was due to be the busiest period, but further lockdowns and restrictions hampered this again. The decision was taken to close the lodge, temporarily, to safeguard it for the future amidst the likelihood of still further Covid restrictions. Unlike many other businesses within the industry, we not only survived but also, with the help of government schemes, retained our staff and continued to support them throughout the pandemic so that we would be able to reopen stronger and better.

Since acquiring the Lodge, Pen y Cymoedd has made some inter-company loans to inject working capital into the business. Pen y Cymoedd offers a variety of funding including loans, grants and direct investment to community and private business’s having an impact within the fund area.

What’s next?

The location of the Lodge in the spectacular Afan valley makes it the ideal escape to walk, ride or even run the local waymarked trails and sample other hospitality in the area, or simply to relax and use as a base for visits to family or business trips. Further afield the beaches of Aberavon or Swansea are each within half hours’ drive and the newly open Zip World at Hirwaun is 45 mins drive through wonderful mountain scenery.

We now have a full kitchen team in place with a head chef who is highly experienced and regarded for his excellent standard of preparation/ presentation and cooking. Because of this team we have been able to start offering Sunday lunch, which is proving very popular, and booking is advisable. The lunchtime menu now also includes homemade speciality soups and other meals, the faggots are already renowned.

Because the kitchen is now functioning well it has allowed the general manager, Lloyd, to offer specials such as valentines and Mother’s Day meal deals which are also proving very popular. The hotel side is not as buoyant as we would like but we believe that is in part due to a reluctance for people to book to far in advance due to pandemic and economic uncertainty, still bookings are growing steadily. The Lodge now offers conference room facilities as well as the patio area; dog friendly bar; restaurant and 13 en-suite bedrooms and 2 family rooms with en-suites and small food preparation areas to each.

As well as the new kitchen and food preparation staff two new board members have been recruited to add hospitality experience and strengthen the business knowledge of the board. These fresh eyes will help drive the lodge forward to ensure it continues to offer local employment and training opportunities on a greater and greater scale. Currently the team comprises of 18 mainly full time staff which will be further increased through the season, as restrictions ease and trade increases. As well as the direct employees and training/ kick start placements there is also the indirect effect of employing, wherever possible, local tradespeople to carry out repairs and refurbishment to the premises and grounds. Even when unable to source from the immediate vicinity, there is normally no need to go further than the Neath area.

The Board and staff team are feeling positive for 2022, as this will be the first full year of trading since the purchase of the lodge by PyC. They are excited to demonstrate the real potential for a positive impact that the lodge can bring to the local community, both socially and economically.

Meet the Team

Directors: PyC appointed 3 Directors, Dave Henderson, Victoria Bond and Mair Gwynant. It was always the intention to recruit additional, external Board members to Afan Lodge to bring in expertise and local knowledge to support the mainly local staff. However, the timing of this investment and the subsequent global pandemic means that it would have been very difficult to appoint new Directors during the lockdown period, when the hotel was closed and concentrating on survival, due to government restrictions. Mair Gwynant has now stepped down from the Lodge as her term of office with Pen y Cymoedd has come to an end. The Lodge will now be actively recruiting for Board members over next two/three months.

If you are interested in becoming a Director, please get in touch. We are looking for people with a passion for the Afan valley or skills and experience in the hospitality / tourism sector. No previous board experience is necessary and so if you think you could contribute, please contact us for an informal chat: 07458 300 123 / Directors@afanlodge.wales

Lloyd, General Manager at Afan Lodge

Lloyd joined the staff team in August 2020. Previously he was working at the Conrah Country House Hotel in Aberystwyth helping manage the 17-bedroom establishment. Set in 18 acres the hotel had an on-site bar, restaurant and function venue, very popular for weddings.

“After a hard year for the hospitality industry I felt safe working for a community funded enterprise, I also truly support the ethos of PyC and was excited to join the team at an exciting time for the fund’s investment at Afan Lodge. As the news has shown it has been a very hard 12 months for the industry in general, luckily, we have managed to maintain all our staff during the furlough period with a few exceptions, those of which decided to leave the industry or moved on in their career. I think I speak for all the staff when I say we are so happy the Lodge is back open again, welcoming many a familiar face and many new visitors to the Afan valley. As with every hospitality establishment the future is uncertain and needs to adapt and move with new challenges and opportunities. Here at the Lodge, we are excited for the continued development of the business enabling myself and the team to provide the local community with a relaxed and comfortable space to enjoy as well as welcoming back the many tourists who have visited the Lodge over the years. No doubt there will be challenges ahead but we are excited to get back to doing what we do well and have lots planned to improve this asset for the community and the area, watch this space.”- Lloyd

Have your say

To make this community asset the vibrant success we all want it to be, we need support, ideas and engagement from you all in the local community. We did start our conversations with you in the community via a questionnaire which we want to build upon, as restrictions and operations at The Lodge settle down and allow us time.

We invite you to help us along with the next phase of our journey by sharing your views and visiting the Lodge for Sunday lunch, evening meals or coffee and cake sometime soon, please like our Facebook page so you can keep up with developments, offers and opening times for service.

stay@afanlodge.wales / 01639 852500 / Afan Lodge, Afan Road, Duffryn Rhondda, SA13 3ES