Making Holkham the UK’s most pioneering and sustainable rural estate. With Lucy Downing and Sue Penlington

In today’s Skip the Queue podcast episode, I’m joined by two guests, Lucy Downing, Head of Marketing, and Sue Penlington, Sustainability Manager at Holkham Estates.

We discuss the wonder of Holkham, their exciting sustainability plans, and how they translate to the visitor experience.

“We have a vision for Holkham, which is to be the UK’s most pioneering and sustainable rural estate.”

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • The wonder of Holkham
  • Their exciting sustainability plans
  • How they translate to the visitor experience
  • How to measure the effectiveness of a sustainability plan
  • Lucy and Sue’s advice for attractions starting to look at sustainability

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.

The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guests, Lucy Downing and Sue Penlington

Kelly Molson: Lucy, Sue, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. It’s such a pleasure to have you on. I’m really excited about what we’re going to talk about today.

Lucy Downing: Thank you for inviting us.

Kelly Molson: Very welcome. But as you know, because I know that you’ve listened to the podcast, we always start off with our icebreaker round. So, Lucy, I’m going to start with you first. Can you tell me what your favorite movie quote is?

Lucy Downing: Oh, that’s really hard. I think, most probably, this is a really trashy movie, but I love it. It would be from It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep, and it is, “It’s too complicated. It’s complicated, isn’t it?” It’s that whole, it’s complicated. And just that whole thing about life, and it’s a bit of a giggle. Yeah, it’s complicated but with a smile on your face.

Kelly Molson: All right, Lucy, I think that kind of sums up 2020, right?

Lucy Downing: It’s complicated.

Kelly Molson: Complicated.

Lucy Downing: Definitely.

Kelly Molson: That’s how we will look back on this. Sue, I’ve got one for you. If you could travel back in time, what period would you go to, and why?

Sue Penlington: Wow. Gosh, you don’t half-post them. Do you know, I’d say it’s really quite soppy, I’d love to go… I lost my dad when I was 15, and I would love to rewind and actually talk to him about what he did as a job. And he spent most time traveling. He took early retirement in the Thatcher era, really. And he did loads of traveling around South America. At the time, I was a flippant teenager who didn’t really care, but I would love to know what he did as a job and then more about all of his travels around the world.

Kelly Molson: Oh, Sue, that is such a lovely answer. What a wonderful thing to be able to do. That would be perfect, wouldn’t it? It’s funny, isn’t it? When you’re at that age, you just don’t fully appreciate or ask the right questions, do you? Because you don’t know.

Sue Penlington: No, that’s right.

Kelly Molson: You’re in that zone.

Sue Penlington: And then the other one would be the 1730s, to see Holkham Hall being built. That’d be pretty cool.

Kelly Molson: That would be super cool. And that’s a super good answer for this podcast as well. I feel like Sue prepared that one. Okay. Sue, back to you again, have you ever met any of your idols?

Sue Penlington: I don’t think so. Maybe. In 2012, I was lucky enough to go to London to the Olympics, and my sister was working for CNN. And so we got to go behind the scenes for one of the interviews, and I met the two rowers, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, who had won gold that day. But that was pretty cool, I think. And now, Heather’s married to Steve Irwin, who my son is a big fan of, and incidentally, they’re both coming to Sportsfest at Holkham next year.

Kelly Molson: Oh, so this could happen next year?

Sue Penlington: Yeah. Amazing. But yeah, I met Heather in 2012 and touched her gold medal.

Kelly Molson: Wow. That’s really impressive. I’ve never even seen a gold medal up close. Great answer, Sue.

Sue Penlington: Yeah, they’re pretty big. They’re pretty weighty, as well. Yeah.

Kelly Molson: I would imagine them to be quite heavy. You don’t see people just wandering around with them, do you?

Sue Penlington: No, and at the time, they had no idea the significance of the impact, and they were just in an absolute bubble. It was a special time.

Kelly Molson: Oh, that’s great. Thank you for sharing that. Lucy, back to you. I want to know, I’ve been a bit mean here, sorry. What’s something that you’re not very good at? Mine’s ironing, terrible.

Lucy Downing: Yeah. That could be that, as well. Oh, digging. Terrible answer.

Kelly Molson: Okay.

Lucy Downing: Not great at digging, as my husband tells me.

Kelly Molson: Does this have to happen quite a lot in your life?

Lucy Downing: Yeah, no. Yeah, no. I’ve got a vegetable garden. Yeah. Complete lockdown. Veg garden. Yes. So, we’ve been digging, and apparently, I’m not that great at it. I haven’t got the right action. Chopping, there’s this theme here. So, chopping wood, not very good at it. So I think I’m better at cooking, cooking anything that comes out of the veg garden. I can light a fire, so I can do things… Yeah. But general hardy maintenance outside, not great.

Kelly Molson: Which, interestingly, fits in probably quite well with what the topic of what we’re going to talk about today, tales of sustainability. Lucy, take Lucy out of this equation. All right. Thank you both for sharing those. But a question that I always ask our guests is about their unpopular opinion. And I have stolen this from Greg James. He would never listen to this podcast, I don’t think. And if he does, he might fully appreciate that I’ve ripped it off from him. Who knows? But I’d like to know, Lucy, starting with you, what is something that you believe to be true, but nobody else believes you on? your unpopular opinion?

Lucy Downing: I think, again, this is quite personal, I have had many debates with friends who are moms about being completely open and honest with your kids, all the way through. Whether you’re going out, tell them you’re going out. Even if they cry, tell them the truth. And I’ve been like that all the way through. I’ve now got a 15-year-old and 12-year-old. And for me, that’s worked really, really well. But most people always say, “Oh, don’t know if you should be really open and honest all the while.” So, that would most probably be my unpopular opinion. Is that an okay answer?

Kelly Molson: Yeah. That’s a great answer. Again, I don’t know how unpopular that’s going to be, because I would think that that’s the right thing to do.

Lucy Downing: Okay. Or if not, raw mushrooms are nice. 

Kelly Molson: I agree with you on that one. But a lot of people will find that very, very uncomfortable.

Lucy Downing: I’m not very deep, here, am I really? I’ll leave that to Sue. Sue can be deep.

Kelly Molson: There you go. Well over to you, Sue. What’s your unpopular opinion?

Sue Penlington: I’m not sure I’ve got one. I’m a pretty kind of uncontroversial, black and white, what you see is what you get. But I guess, and this is top secret, really, because part of my role is hosting school visits as the learning manager, and all about education and training and engagement. But I think my unpopular opinion is actually GCSEs don’t really matter that much. So, I see a lot of young people under a lot of pressure and they’re really hyping it up, and the reality is, great if they can get Maths and English, but has anyone ever given you a job based on your GCSE results?

Kelly Molson: No, that’s a really good answer, as well. And actually, it’s a topic that comes up over and over again when we ask this question, not always about GCSE results, but about university education or whether mainstream education actually works for everybody. And you’re right. I don’t even know if anyone’s ever looked at my GCSE results.

Sue Penlington: No, you don’t know. 

Kelly Molson: I don’t know that might B in science ever did me any favors.

Lucy Downing: Might now, with that sustainability plan.

Kelly Molson: Maybe.

Sue Penlington: Yeah, I would just want them to come out as a well-rounded individual that’s confident and healthy at the end of the day. Because of the pressures on them at the moment, social media and mental health and all that kind of stuff, they’re growing up too quickly. So, yeah.

Lucy Downing: I’m not telling my 15-year-old son that because he’s revising really well at the moment. I’m not going to tell him they don’t matter.

Kelly Molson: Don’t let him listen to this podcast. Keep that podcast from him for a while. Now, a couple of weeks ago, I read a LinkedIn post that your Marketing Assistant, Joanne Birch, put out, and it’s really relevant to what we’re going to talk about today. I just want to read it out to you. She posted, “Looking after the social media for a diverse 25,000-acre rural estate has its challenges. Whilst our content is largely based around tourism and leisure, it is also important to share the stories from the wider estate, from farming, houses, and forestry to landscapes, gamekeeping, and reserve management.” Now that, for me, summed up the vastness of Holkham Estates, and it will have an impact on what we’re going to talk about today and what a huge challenge this has been for you. But Lucy, I wondered if you could just give us an overview of Holkham Estates for our listeners that might not be aware of you or have visited there themselves.

Lucy Downing: I can. So if you’re going to picture it, most of the time, when you think about stately homes, you picture a stately home with a garden. At Holkham, we are very much a landscape with a stately home. So as you said, we’re 25,000 acres. We have a national nature reserve, a beach, a beautiful beach. It’s been in Shakespeare in Love. If you know the final scenes of Gwyneth Paltrow walking across the sands, that’s Holkham. Absolutely stunning. We’re a farm. But at the center of that, we’ve also got our 18th-century Palladian-style mansion, and that’s home to Lord and Lady Leicester and their family. They live in the halls, it’s a lived-in family home. But then we also have all of our visitor-facing businesses. So we’ve got the hall, our Hope and Stories experience, which is the attraction museum telling this whole history and the now and the future of Holkham.

We’ve got a high ropes course, cycle hire, boat hire, normally a really buzzing events calendar, usually. Obviously, not this year, but it will be very busy and it’s very exciting for next year. We have accommodations. We’ve got the Victoria Inn, which is near the beach. We’ve also got Pinewoods, which is a holiday park with caravans and lodges. We have our self-catering lodges, which are within the park. And then we’ve got farming, conservation, gamekeeping, land and properties. We’ve got nearly 300 properties on the estate that are tenanted. A lot of those people work for Holkham, or if not, they work in the local community. We’ve got forestry. And then we’ve also officing, where our land and property business is, that is home to lots of businesses. And it’s won lovely awards for the place to work in the UK. It’s a stunning landscape that surrounds it.

And we’ve got, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her, but Monica Vinader, which is a global jewelry brand. She’s based at Longlands, at the offices. She decided a few years back to base her whole business there. She’s got all of her shops around the world, but that’s where her business is. And I think she’s ahead of the times, ahead of this year. She knew how wonderful it would be to be working there, I suppose, and not in a city center. So I hope that gives you a flavour, but yeah, I think it’s 25,000 acres of beautiful landscapes with a house in the middle. And lots and lots of wildlife.

Kelly Molson: It really is one of the most beautiful places. And that stretch of the world holds a really special place in our hearts. It’s somewhere that we visit very, very frequently, and it’s stunningly beautiful. But, Sue, I’m just thinking. Sue, you lead on the sustainability plan for the estate, which I’m sure, considering the vastness that we’ve just heard about, is no mean feat. That’s what I’d really love to talk about today, is how you’ve been able to do that, and what that means. I guess my first question is, how difficult has that been to put plans in place, considering everything that’s been happening in 2020? Has it had a huge effect on it? Have you even been able to start?

Sue Penlington: Bizarrely, I would say COVID-19 had a bit of a positive spin, in that environmental awareness has really increased. People are a lot more passionate and aware of the disposable culture, and that sort of thing. My biggest challenge initially, I started the role in April, doing initial research. I started off visiting different teams, but then lockdown arrived in March, so I couldn’t actually spend time on the ground. So that was a little bit frustrating. And then in terms of building the strategy, it was probably six months of Zoom with senior managers, which, if anyone knows me, I don’t really sit in front of a computer very much. So that was really interesting, though, because we’ve got a farm manager, we’ve got a conservation manager, a finance manager, and across all the different businesses, the one thing that was the thread that unites them together is sustainability.

So it was a really interesting time, and it took four or five months to really come together, and what we would say is build that strategy, because there’s so much. We could chew on everyone’s day-to-day jobbing to do it, and take it as sustainability. So it took about four months. And now we’re at the exciting stage where we communicate that with our teams. So I’ve just been doing a workshop with some of the teams on the estate to share it with them, and then really get ready to deliver for 2021.

Kelly Molson: What does that look like, then? What does your sustainability plan look like for 2021? And has it changed dramatically since it was first conceived?

Sue Penlington: No. I would say the shape is still there. So we’ve got three main themes. One is pioneering environmental gain, which is all about connecting ecosystems and biodiversity and habitat. One is champion low carbon living, which is all about carbon emissions, our impact on construction and housing, our leisure operations, that sort of thing, and farming. And then the last one is the one that we always talk about, tread lightly, stamp out waste. So that’s all about recycling, reducing single-use plastics, and that sort of thing. So those three things are what we’re running with for 2021. We’ve got three goals, which are quite ambitious as well. And for me, I just see 2021 is that year of change, where we’ll make an impact. So we’ve done quite a lot of talking, and rightly so, and we want to take our visitors on that journey and really start to chip away at those goals.

Kelly Molson: With the goals that you’ve got, can you share what they are, and how you’d hope to achieve them with the sustainability plan?

Sue Penlington: Yeah, absolutely. So pioneering environmental gain, the goal is to increase natural capital with every decision that we make. So natural capital, if you’re not aware, is soil, it’s water, it’s air quality, it’s biological organisms. So everything in the environment that we as humans need. And what we want to do is increase that. So provide more homes and habitats for birds and insects and pollinators, that sort of thing. And then looking towards construction as well. So, for example, if we’re building four houses in Burnham Thorpe, we’re now looking at a little meadow down in the village, and let’s improve the biodiversity there, but also give the public access. So a big thing for us is bringing nature to people and really engaging with them throughout. So that’s pioneering environmental gain. Champion low carbon living is one that you’ll probably be pretty familiar with.

We haven’t decided to go for net-zero. We haven’t decided to be carbon neutral. We want to be carbon negative by 2040. So we want to take it that next step, where we’re actually taking in more carbon emissions than we’re letting out. So that’s quite a bold run, and the key to that is agriculture. So our farms emit a lot of carbon through the use of artificial inputs, and the Belted Galloways and our cattle fart and burp a lot. And then also the diesel use for our big tractors and that sort of thing. So subtle changes to that farming system will be really important. And then all the stuff that we know about, like saving energy, we’re going to look at a solar farm or solar panels, moving over to electric vehicles, all little changes that will make a big impact.

And then the last one, tread lightly, stamp out waste. The goal is to reduce the amount of non-recycled goods on their state by 10% a year for the next 10 years. So at the moment, we’re processing the COVID waste mountain, because we had loads of all our cafes went to take away. We had a great event called Feast in the Park, which enabled people to come out into the countryside safely and have some food and drink. But again, that was all packaging, all take away stuff. So we’re looking at our waste mountain, but then ultimately we want to reduce the amount of waste that we create.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s a really good point to raise that issue. It’s something that we talked about a few weeks ago, very briefly, with Yael Coifman that was on, in terms of, I think that in the last few years, us as attractions, but actually us as individuals, we’ve made quite big steps forward in terms of what we’re doing for single-use plastic. I’m really aware of what I’m doing just in my own home, not buying vegetables that are wrapped in plastic, and just small, small changes like that, marginal gains. And, unfortunately, the COVID situation has meant a bit of a step backward in that in terms of packaging, single-use plastic, even down to, we were discussing when you go to the hairdressers now, the robes that they put on you, they’re single-use plastic, they’re going to get thrown away.

And it’s a real shame that that’s happened. So it’s great that that’s being acknowledged, and something that you know that you’re going to work on for the following year. What I’d love to know is how do you get the general public involved in this? Because you’re a huge estate, and as Lucy mentioned earlier, you’ve got so many different ways that people can visit or engage with what you do there. How do you bring your audience? How do you bring them into that sustainability plan and get them involved with it?

Sue Penlington: Totally from that pre-visit, from the website. Everyone just Googles nowadays, and straight onto the home page, and so sustainability is on that front page, which I think is really important. And then what we’re working on is consistent messaging across all the businesses. So if you’re staying at Pinewoods Holiday Park, the recycling bins look the same as if you come up to the Courtyard Cafe. So just making things really easy, making things really clear, and then using different media. So, obviously, social media is a great way of communicating with people, interpretation on the site as well, all of the events that we run. We’re looking at running a green-based event as well. So every sort of touchpoint that they come across, and through staff as well is really important. We just want to take them on the journey.

Lucy Downing: I think that staff point’s really important as well, that we’re a team of 250 people, and it should be seen at every touchpoint. So yeah, that’s where Sue and Alex, our head of HR, are doing these staff training sessions to introduce our sustainability strategy, and get everyone involved and make sure that everyone’s informed and passionate about it and really energized because we are a customer-facing business. So when the customers, whoever they’re engaged with, whether they’re buying a coffee in the cafe, or whether they’re on a nature walk on the nature reserve with one of the team, everybody is talking the same talk and believing what we’re doing and know what’s happening and can engage everyone in it. So I think that’s a really important point.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, definitely. And that was one of my questions, actually, is how does the plan translate to visitors and their experience, but actually, it starts with your internal team.

Lucy Downing: It does, yeah. It’s so important. So I think that’s, yeah, without everybody’s buy-in, and it’s actually, we’ve got our vision. We have a vision for Holkham, which is to be the UK’s most pioneering and sustainable rural estate. And then, under that, we have our five great Holkham behaviors. And last year, we made the decision that one of those would change, and in its place is sustainability. So there’s actually a behavior for us. It’s something that we need to be inherent. That something that we naturally do, so every decision that we make on the estate, whether it’s to print something, whether it’s put a lid on a coffee, whether it’s the supplier we’re using. That sustainability has to be a natural instinct, and that’s what we’re aiming for.

Sue Penlington: Right.

Kelly Molson: And that’s why it’s so important to embed it with the team, isn’t it? Because there’s so many different people involved in decision-makings throughout the estate. Each of them has to be fully aware of that sustainability plan to understand, okay, well, what decisions do I make about what paper we order, or what suppliers we work with? Are they aligned to our plan as well? It’s a huge, huge task, isn’t it? But really exciting.

Lucy Downing: It is. It’s really exciting. And also, if we can, whether visitors or one of those team members, if they can also take that thinking home and start to make changes in their day-to-day lives, and then they talk to other people and their friends and their family members, and it’s a ripple effect. And it is much more in the human psyche now, thanks to David Attenborough and COVID. And we are talking about it more than ever before, but it’s actually taking action and making changes. That’s the important bit.

Kelly Molson: So one of the things that you mentioned earlier is, and this is coming back to how this translate to the visitor experience, but you mentioned specific events around sustainability as well. Is that something that you’re looking to do more of next year, to highlight the plan and to bring your audience into it and help them be part of it as well?

Lucy Downing: Absolutely. So I think, in general, we have lots of tours in the hall and on the nature reserve. So we’ll be looking at incorporating that into those, and then on to chat about it. But a green event, we want to have a big event at Holkham. It’s our vision to be the most sustainable estate and be pioneering, which means that we want to bring people on that journey with us. So, yeah, we’re looking at introducing that next year, and we hope it will grow, much like, I suppose, Glastonbury, from a small music festival. So if we can have that span of growth, that’d be great.

Kelly Molson: So, can you share any of the plans for this event? Because I’d love to hear about it, myself. I’m sure our listeners would.

Sue Penlington: Yeah. So, what Lucy alluded to, we have a year-round program, and we have to manage to inform and inspire influence. Be it guided walks on the national nature reserve, or we do trailer tours, explore with the experts. So we can learn a little bit more detail, that sort of thing. So throughout our whole events program, we have what I guess would be called educational events, but they’re really interesting. And so we’ll layer sustainability throughout those. And this individual event, we’re looking at starting fairly small, and really influencing local tenants and the local community, and looking at a pioneering environmental gain. That’s an area where we’ve got opportunities. I think we’re already ahead of the game in some respects. And then we’d like to build it as a lifestyle event, but obviously, at the moment, we don’t know if you can have 500 people together or 10,000, so going to start small and build it up.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. That’s a challenge in itself, right? Trying to plan anything in advance at the moment. We have no clue what’s coming up. I’d like to understand a little bit about how you measure the effectiveness of the plans. Actually, what would be really interesting is maybe to get you back on at the end of next year, to see how these plans have developed and what’s come from it. But, yeah. Lucy, how do you measure the effectiveness of it?

Lucy Downing: Well, I think there’s two different focuses here, but what overrides all of it is data is king. So I think that we’re, at the moment, undergoing, we’re nearly finished doing our first big carpeting audits of every business. So that’s land businesses, but also all the leisure businesses as well because we really need to know where we are right now. Because I don’t think you can really set goals and informed goals and also track your progress and measure your progress all the way through without knowing where your starting point is. So that’s really important, particularly with our carbon goal. And then, from there, we’re going to measure and track all the way through. So we’ve got lots of systems, whether it’s in farming, but we’re going to measure and track. And then that most probably will adjust our goals, because at the moment, we’re saying we’d like to be carbon negative by 2040. We may well be better than we think. We could be worse. We just don’t know.

So that’s really important. And then in terms of marketing, I suppose, that’s what I’m looking after. It’s our web traffic, it’s our social growth, our in-use engagement. We’ll be doing online and on-site surveys to find out if people are engaged, where they’re at, what they want to find out about more, our PR coverage, it’s everything. And then, as you said, it’s having those times where you review, so like you say you’d like to chat with us next year, find out where we’ve got to, have we surpassed some of our goals, and then others we’re struggling with. It’ll be really interesting, but that’s definitely a review. And I think that’s where Sue’s role is so important because she’s herding sheep. I don’t think she is. Real amazing. But all the general managers of all the different businesses, they could have all gone off on their own tack with their own goals. What Sue’s done is brought everyone together. We’re all working towards the same strategy and goals, and it makes it then an estate vision and objectives. So I think that’s really important, and it’s wonderful to work with all the businesses, as well.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. So you’ve united everyone under a goal. That’s lovely.

Lucy Downing: When people go onto our website and see our film for our sustainability, we’ve titled it, Wonder, because we feel we are a place of wonder, you stand in awe, we’re beautiful, but you also wonder what it could look like if you don’t do anything about it if you don’t look at sustainability. So Wonder is our sustainability campaign, it’s the title of our strategy. And Sue is our Wonder Woman.

Kelly Molson: Oh, she absolutely is.

Lucy Downing: She’s going to hate that. Sorry, Sue!

Sue Penlington: Yeah, [inaudible 00:27:29] .

Lucy Downing: I’ll get you a mug. I’m going to send you a Wonder Woman mug because I think you need to keep that on your desk all day long.

Sue Penlington: Yeah. I bought sustainability shoes. I’m not sure if it works.

Kelly Molson: I think Wonder Woman is a little bit, you know, that’s power.

Lucy Downing: A mug and a cloak. I think that it needs both.

Kelly Molson: I’m not sure Sue’s keen on that. Don’t think the cloak’s going to go down very well.

Lucy Downing: Or the gold beads. Anyway, [inaudible 00:27:54] .

Kelly Molson: It would be interesting to know what advice you can offer to any of our listeners that will potentially be going through this process themselves, or thinking about how they can make, you know, we talked about small marginal gains, where you can make things increasingly better and better and better over time. Are there any advice that you could share with our listeners, in terms of how they start or begin to look at sustainability?

Lucy Downing: Interesting. I was chatting with Lord Leicester yesterday about the subject, and we’re agreeing that I think you definitely need to know where you are, particularly as a business. You need to know where you are because then you can set your goals in a realistic fashion. I think the one thing to remember is that it has to be realistic because you need to set goals that you can financially deliver. Because if they’re not financially viable, then you’re not going to be here as a business to deliver them. And what we’re also finding, talking to other businesses, is that actually quite a lot of the sustainability gains that you can make are actually financial ones, too. Because you always probably cut down on some of your resources that you’re using, you’ll think better, you’ll work smarter. I think that’s something to definitely remember, that it has to be sustainable in all ways, socially, financially, and environmentally.

So that’s definitely some key advice. And I think be authentic. There’s a lot of talk around greenwashing. Don’t be guilty of thinking, “Wow, this is something we really should do, and we’re going to do it.” And just talk about it. It has to be authentic. So really think about where you can make the biggest changes environmentally for sustainability and focus on those, and just make sure, yeah. It’s like us, really. We’re saying we’re launching our sustainability strategy. Actually, for the past 10 years, we’ve got a hundred-acre solar farm. We’ve got an anaerobic digester. We heat the hall and all of our businesses with a wood chip. So we’ve got our biomass boilers. So we’ve been doing it for quite a long time without telling anyone. But what we’re now doing is saying, actually, that’s not even enough. We need to up it further. So yeah, that’s the thing. I think it just has to be authentic and realistic.

Sue Penlington: Yeah. And from my point of view, I’m a bit of a doer, not a talker, so don’t get bogged down. It could be absolutely overwhelming. And I think when I was first approached by my boss here, I was just like, wow, because it isn’t just rubbish. It’s every single business. It’s huge. But from my point of view, small differences can make a really big impact. And keep chipping away at it, because solutions are out there. There’s loads of people doing really cool things. Every night, I’m on Google looking up something else, or going down another rabbit hole because I’ve seen something on Twitter. So for me, every day’s a school day, but yeah, get stuck in and collaborate with other like-minded people. Nowadays, you’re not considered swampy because you’re talking about sustainability. It’s totally on brand, isn’t it? And let’s not reinvent the wheel. If we can learn from other people, then let’s do that. Going through it, literally, every single individual can make a difference.

Kelly Molson: Oh, Sue. You’ve just got me right there, Sue. I think what you said about collaborating and learning from people, that has been something that’s so key this year. People are so willing to share their plans. They’re so willing to share what they’re doing and how they’re doing things, especially within this sector. There’s always somebody that’s doing, or a couple of steps ahead of you, that you can learn from, and people are so, so willing to give up that advice and their time at the moment as well. So definitely, that’s a key one for me, ask people. Ask people for help. Ask people have to do things. Lovely. Thank you both so much. I cannot wait to see what happens next year. I’m really excited. I’m going to be at that green event, for sure.

Lucy Downing: Yeah. Well, you’ll get an invitation, a special one. You’ll have a special invitation.

Kelly Molson: Thank you. I might even bring Doris, my dog, who has kindly not barked through the whole of this podcast. Thanks, Doris. Now, we always end the podcast by asking our guests about a book that they’d recommend. So if you’ve got a book each that you’d recommend, that you either just love or it’s maybe helped shape your career in some way.

Lucy Downing: Okay. For me, I could have just been, I looked at Brene Brown and all of the books have been published, they’re really helpful. But I’ve actually got it here, I brought it in with me today.

Kelly Molson: Oh, that’s a great book.

Lucy Downing: So I’ll just say The Kitchen Diaries because I’m a bit of a foodie. And I think that you need to be nourished well, because if you’re fed well, if you feed yourself well, and you really, again, it’s about sustainability. It’s about knowing where your food comes from. You then perform better. So if you want to do really well at your job, and in life in general, you need to look after yourself. So yeah, Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s a very spectacular book. Yeah. I love Nigel Slater. I think he’s an inspiration. And he calms me down at the end of the day. Otherwise, I can get quite excited.

Kelly Molson: He has this beautiful garden, as well. He has a really beautiful garden. Whenever I see that on telly, I’m like, that’s the garden of dreams. It’s so neat and beautiful and lovely.

Lucy Downing: It is. Oh, he’s got a great kitchen. And he relocated his kitchen, and he’s down in the depths of his kit where the old kitchen used to be. Yeah. A bit of a sanctuary. So yeah, I’m a bit of a stalker of Nigel Slater.

Kelly Molson: All right. Well maybe he’s listening, and he’ll run a mile now.

Lucy Downing: Yeah, he will.

Kelly Molson: Sue, what about you? Do you have one you can share with us?

Sue Penlington: Well, really any Usborne book that’s got a lift flap for my 4-year-old son. We love reading anything about science or farm machinery. But, to pull it back to sustainability, it’s a bit of a cliche, but there’s an awesome book called Dirt to Soil, by Gabe Brown. And it’s all about regenerative agriculture, and how he turned an American dust bowl into a sustainable farm that can grow crops and repair the soil. And it’s all the kind of ethos that we’re delivering over here. So, yeah, really inspiring. And I haven’t got it to show you because I’ve passed it on to someone in my team to read.

Kelly Molson: Oh, I love that. That’s what you should do with books. They’re never to be thrown. They’re always to be kept or passed on.

Sue Penlington: Yeah, that’s a really good read.

Kelly Molson: Brilliant book choices. I love that they’re on-topic as well, because, as you know, we give these books away as prizes. So again, if you’d like to win a copy of these books, and if you head over to our Twitter account, Skip the Queue, and you retweet this episode announcement with the comment “I want Lucy and Sue’s books”, then you’ll be in a chance with winning them. And so if you have got a really keen interest in sustainability, this is the podcast for you to enter that competition on because I don’t think you could have got two better books. Thank you. I cannot wait to come and see what you guys do next year. Just before we leave, can you let us know where’s the best place to see what you’re up to? Is it your website?

Lucy Downing: It’s our website and all of our social channels. And join our newsletter. Join the database so that you received the news. At the moment, you might get a little bit bombarded by Christmas, but a lot of that is sustainable Christmas. So it’s really nice to read. But definitely head over to our home page. You can sign up there. And watch the launch film, which is wonderful. And Sue and I, this afternoon, are about to go and record the second film.

Kelly Molson: There you go. So, head over to the website. And what is the website? We’ll put all of the links in the show notes, but what’s the website domain for us, Lucy?

Lucy Downing: Holkham.co.uk.

Kelly Molson: There you go. Thank you both for coming on. It’s been an absolute pleasure finding out about what’s happening and getting to know you both. So thank you.

Lucy Downing: Thank you.

Sue Penlington: Yeah, no worries. Thank you. And don’t hold fire. If the restrictions allow, Kelly, come to Holkham before this time next year.

Kelly Molson: I will be there. No worries about that, Sue. 

Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at info@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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