Cottage letting agency gives away 26 free holidays to NHS heroes

Image: Emergency Medicine Consultant, Cara Jennings

Twenty-six frontline healthcare workers from across the UK have been chosen to win free stays at holiday homes managed by St Brides Bay Cottages in South West Wales. The Pembrokeshire-based business was the first holiday rental company to team up with its property owners and Operation Recuperation to donate holidays to NHS staff. St Brides Bay Cottages joined the initiative to say thank you to the healthcare heroes who have been risking their lives to keep the UK safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The family-run cottage letting agency was delighted when 23 of the owners of self-catering holiday homes managed by the company came forward to give away 26 stays in picturesque St Davids, Solva and Porthgain. The recipients of the holidays include healthcare workers from London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Derby, Oxford and Pembrokeshire.

And now Operation Recuperation – the UK-wide campaign launched to gift stays in beautiful places to frontline healthcare providers – has contacted the winners of the holidays. The NHS workers – who were nominated and then entered into a draw – can now look forward to a relaxing and rejuvenating break on the scenic South West Wales coast in 2021.

Garth Cottage, St Brides Bay Cottages

Sam Sibbald, manager of St Brides Bay Cottages, in Solva, said: “It’s been amazing to talk to the winners of our free cottage stays and to help them arrange their much-deserved breaks. The past eight months have been immensely challenging for them and we can’t wait to welcome them. And we’re incredibly grateful to our generous cottage owners for stepping forward to donate stays in their holiday homes, so we can help the NHS staff recover from the fight against coronavirus.”

One of the cottage owners who is donating a stay is Angela Samuel, whose niece was part of the team that nursed Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he was in intensive care with COVID-19 in April. Angela, aged 68, is giving one of the chosen health workers a free one-week break at Garth Cottage, the cosy holiday home she owns in St Davids.

Angela, who lives in St Davids, said: “At the time when I heard about Operation Recuperation, Boris Johnson was in St Thomas’s Hospital, London, being treated for coronavirus. My niece, Rachael, was part of the team that nursed him. Nursing at the peak of the first wave of the outbreak must have been horrendous. Rachael was working 14-hour shifts in the intensive care unit. Also, my daughter-in-law, Lisa, is a cleaner in the ITU at the Princess of Wales Hospital, in Bridgend, and I feel proud of them both. Operation Recuperation is a wonderful idea, and donating a stay to someone in the NHS is a way I can help.”

Another of the kind-hearted cottage owners is Bethan Goodson, of St Davids, who was inspired to donate a stay to a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London because Bethan trained to be a nurse at the same hospital.

Bethan, aged 50, who is now a health visitor in Haverfordwest, is giving away a one-week holiday at Treswny, a beautifully renovated period house in St Davids. Bethan said: “I trained as a nurse at St Barts in 1988, so I thought I’d offer a week of accommodation for a nurse from there to recuperate and relax. I was aware of what it could be like to work at the hospital when the coronavirus was at its height.”

Among the NHS workers who is being gifted a stay with St Brides Bay Cottages is Neil Lockyer, for whom a one-week holiday in coastal Pembrokeshire will be welcome relief after a challenging and stressful year. Neil – who is based at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, where he works for the Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation Service – is being treated to a break at Melin Llanrhian, an idyllic converted watermill, near Porthgain.

Neil, aged 36, who lives in Bushey, Hertfordshire, with his wife Kerry, 35, and their baby daughter, Orla, said: “During the COVID-19 emergency, we had to juggle selling our flat, having a house sale fall through, and then moving in with my wife’s parents while Kerry was heavily pregnant. Then in May, we had a very traumatic emergency birth, and I couldn’t attend the birth or visit during my wife and daughter’s lengthy hospital stay. And all the time I was working and trying to keep up morale, and being redeployed into different areas at work because of the pandemic. The news of the cottage stay came completely out of the blue and it’s extremely appreciated. We last had a holiday almost two years ago, and the trip to Pembrokeshire will be our first holiday with Orla, so I’m sure we’ll remember it forever.”

Emergency medicine consultant Cara Jennings will be bringing two other NHS workers with her when she travels to Pembrokeshire next year for a four-night stay at Ty Nain, a spacious holiday bungalow in St Davids.

Cara, aged 40, who lives in South London and works at King’s College Hospital in London, said: “I’ve been working throughout the COVID-19 crisis and have had to put in lots of extra hours, so it’s wonderful to have received this generous gift. I stayed in one of St Brides Bay Cottages’ holiday homes a couple of years ago and had a fabulous time. St Davids is a beautiful part of the world and I’m excited to be returning. In the spirit of recuperation of NHS staff, I’ve asked two friends who work at a different hospital to join me, rather than my husband and children.”

Cara will be joined on her holiday by Rachel Turner, an alcohol and drugs specialist nurse, and Sharon Hall, an emergency medicine consultant. Cara added: “We look forward to enjoying the beaches and walks.”

Rachel Sherwood, who launched Operation Recuperation, said: “We can’t thank St Brides Bay Cottages and their cottage owners enough for being the first holiday rental company to partner with Operation Recuperation back in early April. They paved the way for so many other property owners to donate stays. It’s been a joy to contact the winners and to let them know about their free stays. We’re immensely grateful to the NHS workers for everything they’re doing to keep us safe through the pandemic.”

To find out more about St Brides Bay Cottages and Operation Recuperation, visit: https://www.stbridesbaycottages.com/