Kent & Surrey: Garden counties

There are venues to suit all requirements in Kent and Surrey.

Kent & Surrey: Garden counties
Kent & Surrey: Garden counties

BOARDROOM BRAINSTORM

Kent Oxon Hoath Estate

Well established on the residential conference market - and with a client roster including Reuters, WH Smith and Mazda to show for it - Oxon Hoath Estate is situated in 73 acres of private grounds. The 28-room venue is well suited to smaller, more exclusive groups, with four meeting spaces ranging from a wood-panelled library to a high-ceilinged conference room. The most spacious of these can accommodate up to 72. Much of the venue's business comes from companies looking to engage in team-building activities in the grounds. Oxon Hoath is located on the outskirts of Tonbridge, some 20 minutes from the M25. www.oxonhoath.co.uk

SURREY - MARRIOTT

Open since mid-May and granting mile-wide views over the racecourse, the 116-room Lingfield Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club is the hotel chain's newest UK addition. There are four function spaces on site, the largest of which can accommodate 100 delegates (the racecourse itself also has a suite for up to 450 theatre-style). Once flipboards have been packed away for the day, delegates can turn their attention to the 18-hole golf course or, if that sounds too much like hard work, the Breathe Health Spa. The Cyprium Bar & Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. www.marriott.co.uk

SPA RETREAT

Kent - Eastwell Manor

An ivy-clad manor house straight from the pages of an Evelyn Waugh novel, Eastwell Manor combines the stately, log-fired feel of the past with the modern trappings that today's C&I industry requires. Together with its adjacent cottage apartments, the venue offers a total of 62 bedrooms, while its seven conference rooms can handle groups of up to 120 - and free wi-fi is available in all. The on-site spa has 15 treatment rooms and a 20m heated pool, and further leisure options come in the form of tennis, petanque, croquet and woodland walks. Past clients include Pfizer, Coty and Saga. www.eastwellmanor.com

Surrey - Lythe Hill

There are just 41 rooms at Lythe Hill, but it remains one of Surrey's prime corporate venues. It has eight conference and banqueting suites - the biggest can host 128 delegates - and can lay on themed events, although the main draw is the expansive pastoral setting and the chance to shake off an office environment. Its Amarna Spa offers everything from full-body massages to detox therapy, while an a la carte restaurant founds its reputation on the use of predominantly local produce. Past clients include the Food Standards Agency and the Association of Investment Management Sales Executives. www.lythehill.co.uk

UNUSUAL

- Kent

Organising an event in a brewery can come with a certain stigma attached, but when you're dealing with a 15th century function room and the home of Shepherd Neame, Britain's oldest brewer, the appeal goes beyond mere merry-making. The wooden-beamed main space can seat up to 70 (and features a beer-bottle chandelier, naturally), while a smaller meeting room is available for up to 10. Presentation and AV equipment is available and a full catering service is laid on. To give an event an extra splash of flavour, tours of the brewery itself can be arranged, as can tutored tastings. www.shepherd-neame.co.uk

- Surrey

Looking for somewhere fitting to raise a toast to a job well done? Denbies Wine Estate is England's biggest vineyard, and a picturesque event venue to boot. The winery itself is surrounded by 265 acres of vines, and offers a number of meeting spaces - the purpose-built Denbies Suite can take 175 theatre-style, while using the conservatory atrium can bring that number up to 400 in a banquet setting. Previous corporate clients include the BBC. The homemade tipple is well worth a tasting session too - the Good Housekeeping Food Awards recently named it the country's best sparkling wine. www.denbiesvineyard.co.uk

DIRECTORY
Kent Conference Bureau
Contact: Dawn Bowen
Tel: 01622 602485
email: DawnBowen@maidstone.gov.uk
Web: www.conferencekent.co.uk

DIRECTORY
Visit Surrey
Contact: Diana Roberts
Tel: 01483 444396
email: diana.roberts@guildford.gov.uk
Web: www.visitsurrey.com

UNUSUAL

Kent - Shepherd Neame

Organising an event in a brewery can come with a certain stigma attached, but when you're dealing with a 15th-century function room and the home of Shepherd Neame, Britain's oldest brewer, the appeal goes beyond mere merry-making.

The wooden-beamed main space can seat up to 70 and features a beer-bottle chandelier, while a smaller meeting room is available for up to ten. Presentation and AV equipment is available, and a full catering service is laid on. To give an event an extra splash of flavour, tours of the brewery itself can be arranged, as can tutored tastings.

www.shepherd-neame.co.uk

Surrey - Denbies English Vineyard

Looking for somewhere fitting to raise a toast to a job well done? Denbies Wine Estate is England's biggest vineyard and a picturesque event venue to boot. The winery is surrounded by 265 acres of vines and offers a number of meeting spaces - the purpose-built Denbies Suite can take 175 theatre-style, while using the conservatory atrium can bring that number up to 400 in a banquet setting. Previous corporate clients include the BBC. The homemade tipple is well worth a tasting session, too - the Good Housekeeping Food Awards recently named it the country's best sparkling wine.

www.denbiesvineyard.co.uk

CASE STUDY - SEA FRANCE MEETS IN KENT

Pre-event planning: Cross-channel operator Sea France was looking for a venue with character that was located close to its UK base in Dover and able to host an extraordinary general meeting for 75 delegates with just a week's notice.

The meeting was held for the company's chairman, who travelled from France to give a talk to the staff in Dover about the current situation of the company.

Challenges: As the venue that Sea France had previously booked had gone into liquidation, contact with The Pines Calyx was made just one week prior to the event, meaning site inspections and set-up had to be handled swiftly.

"We've become quite used to dealing with meetings at short notice, but this was certainly a little more testing than usual," explains Nick Speller, events coordinator at eco-friendly venue The Pines Calyx, which aims for a zero-carbon approach to its operations.

"Part of our ethos is that we serve locally sourced, home made food - nothing is pre-delivered - so it was important we had time to get that right, too."

The venue is located just a ten-minute drive from Dover, making access for delegates relatively easy, although coordinating arrival times for those travelling by car was a further aspect to oversee.

"It was essentially a very short event," continues Speller, "so it meant that timings had to be just right."

Solution: Delegates arrived for coffee before a noon start, when they passed through to the domed Lower Roundel, one of the venue's two main spaces and characterised by rammed chalk walls and panoramic hill views.

"I think the sustainability side of The Pines Calyx was a bonus rather than essential for the tone of the event," says Speller. "But they were looking for somewhere different because they do not get together too often."

Lunch offered further chance for informal networking before the event concluded, not long after 2pm. "We were delighted to be able to accommodate the client at such short notice - the fact that we were heading towards the end of the budget year meant we could offer good availability," adds Speller.

Post-event analysis: "I chose The Pines Calyx for a few reasons," explains Valerie Leary, Sea France PA to the directors, who was responsible for booking the event. "It's local, it's eco-friendly and it offers a beautiful environment. The staff helped the event go very smoothly." The company has since returned to the venue for further events.

FACTFILE
Client: Sea France
Event: Extraordinary general meeting
Group size: 75
Agency: In-house
Date: 2 February 2010
Venue: The Pines Calyx
Budget: Undisclosed

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