Celebrating the Bond

Celebrating the Bond's differences

Robert and Sue Matthews invested in the Holiday Property Bond in 2001 - the second generation of the family to do so. "My parents were among the earliest Bondholders," recalls Robert, a retired chartered accountant. "I remember we visited Braithwaite Court in Cumbria, and Barnham Broom in Norfolk, on their Bond. We were well impressed, but it wasn’t really right for us at the time."

About 12 years ago though, with the planets better aligned, Sue and Robert holidayed with friends, a Bondholder couple, at El Balcón de Santa Ana, the Bond's home in La Gomera, the second smallest (but arguably most perfectly formed) of the Canary Islands. "It was a different world," says Sue, a former 'mystery shopper' for a supermarket chain. "Don't get me wrong - Barnham Broom and Braithwaite were both lovely, and still are; but it was clear the Bond had come a long way since those earlier trips."

"As, indeed, had we!" Robert interjects. "We were beginning to think about retirement; the children were pretty much off our hands; and financially we were in a position to make an investment. Still, we dithered a bit; but a visit to Blore Hall, HPB's Derbyshire site, settled matters."

Robert and Sue have been busy Bondholders, racking up an impressive tally of HPB holidays so far: La Reserva de Biniorella in Majorca; Henllys in Anglesey; El Pueblito de Alfaix in southern Spain, the Bond's newest overseas site; St Brides Castle in Pembrokeshire; Santa Rosa in Lanzarote; Stigliano in Tuscany; Sibton Park, the Bond's Kentish home; a return trip to Braithwaite ("We wanted to confirm it was as lovely as we remembered it. It was."); Encosta Cabo Girãoin Madeira; Physkos in Turunç, Turkey; Merlewood in the southern Lake District, HPB's most recent UK addition; and Lodge Yard in the Yorkshire Dales, as well as the adjacent Kings Arms, the Bond-owned coaching inn made famous in the All Creatures Great and Small TV series.

The latter three, the couple agree, are their favourite sites. "All the sites are well managed, but Physkos is exceptional," says Robert. "As for Lodge Yard and Merlewood - well, you can't really choose between them. At Lodge Yard you've got that beautiful Yorkshire countryside on your doorstep; whereas at Merlewood there's perhaps more to do on site, so wet days are better catered for. So it just depends on the weather!"

Another site they love is Duloe Manor, in Cornwall - not so much because of the site and the area, "glorious though they both are", but because a visit in November 2010 brought rich rewards. "Sue and I are keen birdwatchers," says Robert. "I wouldn’t go as far as describing either of us as twitchers but we have enjoyed visiting various reserves whilst holidaying at HPB locations. While holidaying at Duloe we were privileged to see a green heron in the Lost Gardens of Heligan (a very rare sighting of the bird - Google 'lost gardens of Heligan green heron' and you will see just how rare). I even got a photo of it."

Sue and Robert have also made repeated trips back to La Gomera, and at the time of writing were looking forward to another visit in May to coincide with Sue's sister's 60th birthday. "My sister and her husband are also Bondholders," Sue discloses. "They saw what a lovely time we were having and figured if they couldn't beat us, they might as well join us." Robert and Sue are also set to visit Henllys in September with son Edward, his wife Ciaran and new grandson Albie. Daughter Caroline, her husband Nicholas and their daughters Amelie and Esme have also holidayed with mum and dad. Do the children ever use the Bond independently? "No - we're too greedy with our Holiday Points!" laughs Robert. "But they are benefi ciaries, so they'll inherit. Eventually."

And of course, Coreggia in Puglia, southern Italy, and Tigh Mor Trossachs in Perthshire, where these pictures were taken. The Italian holiday was, says Sue, "a revelation". "Totally different from Tuscany in character and feel; but so beautiful, and so laid-back. And the trulli - those coneroofed houses that characterise the region – are something to behold. And to stay in!"

Different again was the later trip up to Tigh Mor, to coincide with the opening of the Lochan, the site's very own trout pond. "I'm no rabid angler," Robert says, "but learning to cast properly, in a location like that - by the end of it I was beginning to see the attraction."

Sue, however, puts her finger on why she and Robert find HPB so beguiling. "I think it is the fact that all the sites are so diverse," she says. "Puglia is different from Perthshire, which is different from Anglesey, which is different from La Gomera... I could go on, but you get my drift. All the sites offer something unique to them; but the standard, across the board, is unique to the Holiday Property Bond."

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