Retirement project breathes life into historical arboretum

Business Finance adds glamping among rare plants

When Claire Price bought Reuthe’s in Seal Chart near Sevenoaks, she was on a mission to return the 130-year-old arboretum to its former glory.

Previously it had won 28 gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for its rhododendrons and acid-loving shrubs and trees.

However, it became neglected and derelict and there was a danger that some, if not all, of the prize-winning plants could be lost.

Bidding against a company wanting to turn it into a car breakers yard, Claire bought it in 2016.

She then worked closely with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rhododendron and Camelia group, breathing new life into the 11-acre site, and rescuing the valuable plants, some of which are the only examples left in the world.

Claire has not only saved but transformed Reuthe’s, calling it ‘The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks’. She has made it accessible to all by opening the woodlands for the first time in its history and, to create further interest, has created a 12-month programme of tourist activities.

Visitors can now enjoy a wide variety of events including alpaca treks, festivals, mindfulness courses, farmers and craft markets, and a woodland bistro. It can even be used as a wedding venue, as well as offering spa retreats.

In fact, Claire has created a vibrant start up business, which is a trailblazer in the world of agritourism, with community and charity, among the founding principles of her business activities.

She has created more than 20 jobs from event coordinators, gardeners, and café staff. There’s even an alpaca whisperer!

Recognising how a growing number of people, due to the pandemic, have come to appreciate the healing power of nature and horticulture, Claire wanted to offer glamping accommodation, as a natural addition to her current offering.

For them to be ready by Spring 2022 she needed to act fast.

Requiring £300k, she was introduced to Reward and our Business Development Director, Steph Brown, was soon on site.

Steph was impressed with what Claire had achieved in five years, recognising she was an enormously ambitious and driven individual. Plans for glamping accommodation made perfect sense, and the fact Reuthe’s met perfectly with our ESG policy, the Reward team had no hesitation in quickly providing the Business Finance to make it happen in time for the holiday season.

Claire was very impressed, saying,

“Steph Brown and Reward are a breath of fresh air for SMEs trying to navigate the ‘turbulent sea’ of business funding. They do what they say, and they achieve completion dates effortlessly. By recognising the benefits of adding glamping to our offering, they have enabled me to create even more sustainable rural jobs in the hard-hit hospitality sector.”