A PANDEMIC, beer and proving doubters wrong — these are just three of the key cogs which played a part in Easthampstead Park’s transformation journey.

The former conference centre is set for a full opening as a hotel in February next year following a £10 million revamp which has taken around two years to complete.

LOOK INSIDE: Here's what Easthampstead Park looks like as £10 million refurb nears completion

Carried out by new owners Active Hospitality — who took over the running of the site from Bracknell Forest Council in 2018 — the hotel features 65 plush new rooms, reimagined conference rooms, two restaurants, a gym and much more.

Bracknell News:

From an outdated and crumbling mansion house to a modern and glamorous venue for all to use, the site’s transformation is nothing short of spectacular.

But getting there wasn’t always easy.

When the firm’s takeover was announced, the move was met with some opposition from local groups who were concerned about Active Hospitality and their aims for the mansion house.

Bracknell News:

But those issues soon went away with some careful communication about the firm’s plans to create an asset accessible to the community.

Bruce Cave, director of Active Hospitality, said: “I’ve chatted with a few [of the doubters] over the past couple of years and they’ve all said ‘gosh, we were wrong.’

READ MORE: Boss of firm running Easthampstead Park explains vision for the site

Bracknell News:

“It’s not they were wrong, they just didn’t know [about Active Hospitality’s vision for the site].”

He added: “Now, I hope they will really say, ‘A, Bracknell Forest Council did what they said they were going to do’, and ‘B, the guys they chose to win the bid actually are proper local community hoteliers.

“The business plan we laid out is exactly what we are doing.

Bracknell News:

“Most property developers would have done it differently to us.

“If some other [large hotel chain] had bought this, there would have been 200 bedrooms here and very little us.

“They would have been bringing people in from Heathrow and just farming them out.

Bracknell News:

“It would have been a classic international hotel. Whereas, what we have done is said ‘we can’t compete with the big boys so we’re going to do our business plan differently’”.

With this hurdle conquered, refurbishment work should have been plain sailing.

But then were was a global pandemic.

Bracknell News:

Despite this, Bruce and his team found a way to keep work going so that the firm’s intended opening date is only one month out.

He explained: “We were quite lucky in that we decided in February [2020] to order in five months of materials.

READ MORE: Bracknell Forest Council sells Easthampstead Park

“We locked the builders down here with Rick, my partner, and they built throughout the pandemic.

“There were no safety issues with covid as we locked them down on site.

“We fed them, gave them beer, and they were happy as Larry.

Bracknell News:

“We were going to keep it open during the refurbishment but when Covid came and with the boys here we couldn’t do that.

“We chose to keep the building works going so we could launch new year 2021.”

Discussing the highs and lows of the project, Bruce said his team had “no surprises” along the way in terms of unexpected costs during the refurbishment, meaning the hoteliers have been “lucky” as the final spend matched the originally envisaged £10 million.

With such a big investment tabled, Active Hospitality, a group with family ties, is “here for the long-term”, as Bruce told the News back in 2018.

The conclusion of the refurbishment is not the end for Bruce, however.

He added: “For me, this is the start of the beginning. What we’ve done so far is just get to the point where we can trade in an effective manner.

“I’m very excited to have effectively finished it and that we finished it on time, and on budget, and now we want to drive to stabilisation.

“This is the start. This is our mothership. We’re excited.”