It was a beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon when a happy group of Liverymen and friends gathered at the Pilgrim Hotel, a beautiful hotel in Hereford. We congregated in the lovely sun lounge with gorgeous views over the hills, for pre-dinner drinks, making the perfect start to our Craft Visit. It was lovely to be joined for dinner by our hosts for the Craft Visit, Andy and Diane Rowlands. 

Following a wonderful three course gourmet dinner and much animated conversation, we retired to bed in anticipation of an interesting and varied day.

After an early start and an excellent breakfast, we checked out and made our way to Rowlands Roofing, where we were greeted enthusiastically by Andy and his team. As we entered, we all noticed, with some trepidation, that the workshop floor was set up for various tasks that we were going to be set later in the day!

The day started wonderfully with a presentation from Andy Rowlands giving us an overview of the centre and its main purpose for training and education, which we all found fascinating. This was followed by a very interesting talk from Gary Walpole about the NFRC’s role in the industry, concentrating on the health and safety aspects of roofing and tiling/slating.  Stuart Black, Sales Manager at CUPA PIZARRAS, the world’s largest slate manufacturer, then gave a fascinating talk about how slate is quarried, its various different qualities and its fantastic durability, that all go together to make slate the perfect material for long lasting and durable roofing. The talks were all very informative, and we felt that we came away from them knowing a lot more about this wonderful, skilled industry, than when we went in.

There followed a demonstration of roof tiling and slating by expert Matt Timby, a Skillbuild winner, who made it all look so easy!

We then took a break for a lovely lunch, after which it was our turn to have a go at various tasks that had been set for us by Andy and his team. We were given six tasks to perform and only if they were all performed to the required standard, would Andy hand over the prizes, beautiful hand-crafted slate coasters. He is a hard task master!

I am happy to report that everyone managed to pass the tests, some with slightly more help than others. We were all very impressed by the skill levels shown by Andy and his team, they just made everything look so easy to do, but when we tried the tasks ourselves, we soon learned the difficulty and the skill required to complete them well.

We all thanked Andy and his wonderful team for giving us such a fascinating and educational day, it was truly wonderful.

We then all got into our cars and made our way to our hotel in Staffordshire in anticipation of the next part of this wonderful visit.

Our transport arrived at 6:00 pm and we were taken to Liveryman Brenda Upton-Kemp's home for what was to be a fantastic get together. On arrival we were greeted with glasses of champagne, nothing less for Brenda, and of course her wonderful smile and welcome. I mustn't forget Liveryman Diana Malzer, who was there ably assisting Brenda and helping to make us all feel so much at home. As it was a beautiful sunny evening, many of us gathered in Brenda’s lovely garden, overlooking the wonderful Staffordshire countryside.

There was much conversation and good fellowship, with everyone mixing and talking. It was truly wonderful to be able to talk to some fellow Liverymen with whom we had not had an opportunity to interact previously, and learn something about them and their lives. Brenda and Diana had prepared a fabulous banquet for us, including Beef Wellington, Salmon en Croute, Beef Stroganoff, Fish Pie, Poached Salmon, and much more. And the desserts were also simply fabulous.

They had both obviously put in a huge effort and much energy to entertain us so beautifully. We were all very impressed and incredibly grateful, especially to Brenda, for inviting us into her home and for entertaining us so wonderfully. The evening continued with much supping of wine and good conversation, however, unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end, and I was delighted to present Brenda and Diana each with a bottle of English “champagne” (the Queen’s favourite), as a small thank you for a delightful evening.

We all made our way back to our hotel after an unforgettable evening of superb food, wonderful wines and great fellowship.

The following morning, we made our way home, happy and satisfied after a truly wonderful Craft Trip.