East Durham Business magazine

East Durham Business magazine: Seaham Hall Hotel spa review

Nearly two years after my last visit to the wonderful Seaham Hall Hotel – a real gem in the North East’s crown –  because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was with open arms and ready-to-be-pampered muscles that I returned for a much needed spa day.

This time around I was joined by my husband Paul, who was preparing to turn 40 three days after our visit (I’ll not say he was celebrating exactly, more reluctantly accepting of the milestone birthday)…

Anyone who knows me knows there are few things I enjoy more than a spa day.

I have been lucky enough to experience breaks in some beautiful locations, but right up there with my favourites is Seaham Hall Hotel – a mere 30 minutes’ drive from my home in Stainsby, Middlesbrough.

It’s a beautiful hotel and spa, located a stone’s throw from the Seaham coastline and is without doubt one of the region’s most luxurious facilities – with previous guests including Take That, Little Mix and a host of premier league footballers.

So whenever I am booked in for a visit, I know I am in for a real treat. A chance to drift away from the pressures of running a business and being mam to two kids (I’ll be getting wrong off my daughter Darcey right now for calling myself ‘mam’ rather than mum!) to indulge in a day of rest and relaxation, lovely food, a cheeky glass of wine and the highlight, an indulgent treatment.

For this latest visit my companion was my husband Paul, with the day being the start of a long weekend without the kids to mark his 40th birthday.

To say we were ready for it was an understatement – I think we can all agree it’s been a pretty torrid time since the coronavirus pandemic started in the early part of 2020 so a day of doing nothing except moving from lounger to pool to jacuzzi to restaurant was just what the doctor ordered.

The sun was shining too, which made the outdoor space that is a real added bonus at Seaham Hall even more appealing.

After having a nice swim in the indoor pool and a laze on one of the comfy beds, we headed to the external hot tubs for a chill in the warm July sunshine.

I cannot tell you how nice it felt – lying back with the sun on my face, my husband next to me, the bubbles massaging our weary bones. It was as if someone was telling us life was finally returning to normal and better times lay ahead.

When lunchtime came, we headed to the Ozone restaurant where we were treated to a two-course Asian fusion meal, with a bowl of prawn crackers as an introduction.

As we always do, Paul and I shared courses and our choices were, for starter, duck spring rolls and battered squid, both served with a light salad and a sweet chilli dipping sauce, while for mains we opted for king prawn red Thai curry with rice and sizzling beef with noodles. Drinks were a rioja for Paul and a sauvignon blanc for me.

Everything was cooked beautifully and tasted so fresh (you can actually see the chefs prepare the food which adds to the experience). Although it was a lot for lunchtime, being on a three-day ‘holiday’ meant we didn’t really care. It’s a tough life at times!

Afternoon saw us sample all of the spa’s facilities including the sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and even the freezing cold plunge pool – an interesting experience to say the least.

The final part of the day was, as it always is, the best: massage time. Included this time around was a 60-minute full body ishga massage. Ishga treatments combine the purest Scottish seaweed with natural spring water, which help create youthful, healthy and glowing skin – it was like they knew!

Sadly, the hour went much too quickly (time flies when you’re having fun as they say). I was in heaven and I didn’t want it to end. Every muscle seemed to drink in the oils that the masseuse used and I could feel the knots which I always have in my shoulders and back disappear.

My husband was equally complimentary about his experience – as someone who suffers with his back, he said the next few nights he slept the best he has for a long time, which he put down to the treatment.

It really was the perfect end to a fabulous day – and the perfect start to a long weekend which saw us heading across to Port Carlisle for a three-night break while our children were with their grandparents.

Now lockdown is over, I can rest safe in the knowledge that it won’t be 2023 when I’m next back to Seaham Hall for a spa break. In fact, I’m already planning my return with my usual spa companion, Danielle – we have both turned 40 this year after all so what better excuse than to treat ourselves to a day of doing nothing but relax and unwind!

East Durham Business magazine: Editor’s introduction

A VERY warm welcome to issue six of East Durham Business magazine – our first issue out of lockdown for almost two years!

To say the past 18 months have been tough would be an understatement, however we are gradually seeing life return to normal.

Offices are once again a flurry of activity, businesses are well on the road to recovery and face to face engagement is possible once more.

Hurray – how we missed the every day things we all took for granted before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Producing issue six of our flagship magazine has probably been the most enjoyable and we are so proud of the end result.

It’s probably our most diverse issue too, featuring businesses from a broad range of sectors and from around the region, not just East Durham, which we think is testament to just how much our magazine’s profile has grown since we launched it in the summer of 2019.

Cover stars are the team at Central Doorset Manufacturing, Peterlee’s newest resident.

The company relocated from Seaham to the former Dewhirst building earlier this year to facilitate ambitious growth plans – and in just six months the workforce has doubled in size.

We chat to directors Martyn Sandison and Scott McIlvaney to find out more about their move, their unique staff training and development programme and what the future holds.

Also featured in this issue are Delanoy Funeral Services, issue four’s cover stars, as we find out how the first 12 months in business have gone for owners John Delonoy and Julie Stout; and County Durham entrepreneur Keith Gill, one of the founders of the Phileas Fogg snack brand, who has penned the first chapter of his memoirs, Taking It Head On.

Other businesses and organisations that we shine the spotlight on are East Durham Business Service, The Wills Guys and the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing programme.

One of the many benefits of being out of lockdown is that venues like Seaham Hall Hotel are back open for business – and I had no hesitation in taking up the chance to review the facilities on a spa day with my husband Paul which coincided nicely with his 40th birthday. Check out the At Your Leisure spread to see what we thought of our experience!

You’ll also see that from the packed news pages within the magazine that there is plenty of positivity out there, with many businesses reporting that not only is their covid recovery back on track but they are also now looking towards growth and expansion.

How welcome that is after months during the pandemic where many business owners questioned whether they would be able to survive.

As always, we welcome your feedback on our magazine so if you have any suggestions that could improve it, or want to get involved in issue seven, get in touch with me!

East Durham Business feature: Central Doorset Manufacturing

Earlier this year Central Doorset Manufacturing relocated its fast-growing business into the former Dewhirst building on the North West Industrial Estate in Peterlee.

Just seven months on, the company now employs 25 people and has smashed initial targets, putting it on track to achieve £4m turnover in 2022.

Editor Leanne Fawcett dropped in to find out more…

The former Dewhirst building in Peterlee has been an iconic facility in the town since the days when clothing manufacturing was the area’s bedrock industry, employing thousands of people.

However, in 2019 when then occupier Impressions Retail moved out, it became vacant and thus it remained until, with the help of Business Durham, Central Doorstep Manufacturing moved in.

The company was previously based at Seaham Grange Industrial Estate, however thanks to several national contract wins and growth which far exceeded expectations, founding directors Martyn Sandison and Scott McIlvaney decided to look at alternative premises.

The duo looked all over the region and at one point were considering a move out of County Durham to premises in Washington, however rates for property in the area were too high.

But when they stumbled upon the 25,000 sq ft building on Mill Hill, they knew it ticked all the boxes.

Director Martyn Sandison said: “Our move to Peterlee was driven purely and simply by growth.

“When we launched in 2018, Scott and I set what we though were realistic projections. However, by the end of year one we were manufacturing four times as many doorsets as we expected and we realised that at the rate we were growing, our existing premises at Seaham Grange Industrial Estate would quickly reach capacity.

“We started looking at alternative facilities and found the former Dewhirst building, which was standing empty. The space was perfect and a subsequent conversation with Business Durham identified that our move could be supported by a grant from the County Durham Growth Fund.

“We were lucky enough to secure £70,000 which was a massive help and in February we moved in.”

The building required a significant amount of work to fit it out ready for the Central Doorset Manufacturing team to move in, however because of circumstances including several members of staff testing positive for Covid-19, the move was fast-tracked and in February they moved in.

Since then, Martyn, Scott and the supporting management team including Billy Qualie, James Smith and Stuart White have worked around the clock, installing LED lighting throughout the building, knocking down offices and rebuilding them, creating a new boardroom and building desks with the wood left over from the doorsets. They also have plans to create a customer showroom in the coming months.

So, despite the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, which included a three-month lockdown at the start of 2021, how are things going for the team?

Martyn added: “Things couldn’t be better really.

“We have a full order book for the rest of the year and that’s in large part down to word of mouth.

“Since the Grenfell disaster, there is a high demand for fully certified doorsets. Thanks to our strong supply chain, we are securing big contracts with construction companies that are leading on rebuilding and redesign, and in this new facility, we can actively target the larger contracts which previously would have been unrealistic.

“I think it’s also fair to say that we have benefited from the fact that some businesses haven’t been able to survive the coronavirus pandemic, so their customers have come to us.

“This has resulted in our workforce doubling from 12 to 25 since February with further recruitment ongoing through the rest of 2021.

“As things stand, we have the capacity to produce around 450 doorsets per week and we are currently operating at around 60 per cent of that, so there’s definitely scope to grow.”

Central Doorset Manufacturing makes timber fire rated doorsets, internal doorsets and security doorsets for the health and education sectors, the MOD and HMP, as well as care homes, residential properties, and hospitals.

Scott McIlvaney, who manages Central Doorset Manufacturing’s sale team, which is based in Scotland, said: “Our customer portfolio is growing rapidly but we know we still have the capacity to bring in more work.

“Our sales team are looking for opportunities up and down the country and we are confident that over the coming months we’ll be successful in securing more contracts.

“That means that if we’re to achieve our ambitions of taking growth from £2.3m this year to £4m next year, we’ll also have to recruit the right sort of people. That in itself is a challenge as we want to bring in those people who share our vision for the future – the reward is those people will be given the opportunity to progress through the business and really forge a successful career for themselves.”

Central Doorset Manufacturing’s commitment to its staff means that every member of the team is going through an apprenticeship, with the level depending on their experience and role within the business.

It’s a policy that has proved effective for Martyn and Scott, giving them the opportunity to determine where best each employee sits, and also for the individual to play to their own strengths and passions.

Martyn added: “Unlike many other employers who recruit for the apprenticeship, we do things the other way round. We recruit the person first, then put them through six months of internal training before identifying where they fit best in the business and therefore which apprenticeship is best for them.

“It means we’re not wasting time putting people through apprenticeships that won’t be completed or aren’t right, and for the individual this process gives them the chance to train in an area that they genuinely enjoy.

“It’s such an exciting time for the business and we are all relishing our development and growth here in Peterlee.”