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Managing different language levels in small groups

I wanted to write something about this conundrum as it is a question that I very frequently get asked and it also seems to concern many parents especially those who send their teenage children to Fleetham Lodge for courses but adults are also sometimes worried too.

As an educator of over 40 years experience I feel I have seen and experienced most things in education. I have taught in language schools, mainstream primary and secondary education , colleges, universities, companies and also done a lot of one-to-one tutoring and I can say, without any hesitation, that the idea of a class of completely homogeneous students, say Intermediate level, is a myth.

Mixed levels and ages – English and Gardens course

I am sure that most people will agree with me when I say that people learn any subject or skill in different ways at different speeds and have different strengths and weaknesses and in language learning this is exactly the case too. The levels, usually Beginner to Super-Advanced, are only a way of delivering content so that skills in language can built up step by step. With large groups (12 to 20 students) it is easier for the teacher to focus on things that will be accessible to most of the group and certainly with these class-sizes a beginner in an intermediate class would flounder and an advanced student would most likely be very bored – this is because there is no room in a large class for individual teaching. Conversely in a one-to-one class the student is central and the teaching can be very targeted towards their needs and desires which makes this method highly effective.

Fun activities can bring every level together

While one-to-one lessons may be great for getting a big boost to English skills or focusing on an exam or specific event (such as a presentation or meeting) it is not always the ideal. Language is a means of communication and while on a course in the UK the very best opportunity is the chance to communicate with others. This is especially important for teenagers who need the company of others and who, let’s face it, are on holiday and it isn’t fair to give them yet more school – so the whole social side of a summer English course is really very important. The purity of language level must then be balanced against other things such as making friends, having fun and being able to use the language outside the classroom as well as inside – and here there is no such thing as language level!!

My classes at Fleetham Lodge are usually a maximum of 4 students and I see no obstacle to mixing different levels and any good teacher worth their salt can create a fantastic learning environment which easily caters to each and every student in such a small class. Emphasis on speaking and listening using fun activities (puzzles, crossword, stories etc.) can engage everyone equally with students sharing their knowledge and helping each other out. I like to teach grammar through story-telling and visual methods which again will engage everyone and once the work of writing, reading and vocabulary gets underway there is time and scope to work individually with each student.

I would like to present two case studies from our students to illustrate how working with different levels can be achieved. One is an adult group and the other a junior group.

Claudia holding forth

Claudia was a complete beginner (a very rare thing to see nowadays) and she came for a month to improve her English. During that time we also welcomed a group of 4 women from a university in the Netherlands for a 1-week course. Claudia wanted to learn everything and be able to travel, meet clients and build relationships with her clients and business partners globally (she had a very successful business and relied upon other colleagues to interpret for her and found this frustrating). The other four students found they had to teach and operate more and more in English in their jobs – dealing with International students and educational agencies across the globe and wanted to upgrade their skills. Over the 5 students the levels included Advanced, Intermediate, lower Intermediate and beginner/elementary. For two students there was also a major issue of confidence. For some of the time Claudia had her own teacher who helped her with the basics and for the rest they were all together.

Going out and about gets everyone talking

One striking feature was that Claudia, despite her limited knowledge of English, was a larger than life character and she didn’t worry about making mistakes. Communication was paramount to her and this really helped the other two students who lacked confidence come out of their shells and soon the house was filled with constant chatter, laughter and ‘electricity’. The lessons were fine and everybody contributed equally and made amazing progress – we could all see it. The more advanced students helped  and were sensitive to the needs of the less advanced. The teachers made certain that they also got what they needed. The balance of sheer dynamism and expertise drove everyone, every day and the results were incredible for each participant.

Days out are good practice for all

My second group was a teenage group. Over the years the teenage groups (on average 14 and 15 year-olds) have clustered around intermediate and upper intermediate and these are very easy to teach together. However one year we had a student who was rather more advanced and did in fact somewhat resent being in this group. As ever we concentrated on ‘inclusive’ activities in which everyone could participate and these by and large went well. As we drilled down into grammar and writing it became apparent that although Alexei was a very fluent speaker and had a wide vocabulary, his grammar knowledge was not as solid as the others as he had largely learned English ‘on the hoof’ so when it came to writing he needed more help than the others. Once this was clear Alexei realised that he too had things to learn from his classmates.

This can often be the case even with the most advanced students like my IELTS groups – some are great at one skill but need work on others.

So can mixed level groups work? I believe yes they can and do and on short courses such as those at Fleetham Lodge they can actually sometimes work better.

Bonfire Night at Fleetham Lodge

fireworks bonfire immersion

Fireworks for Plot Night



Remember, remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot



On the night of November 5th 1605, a Yorkshireman called Guy Fawkes had hidden 36 barrels of gunpowder underneath the Houses of Parliament in London. His plan, along with a group of co-conspirators, was to blow up the King, James 1st, along with his Parliament when it opened on that date. The group were caught and executed. This was called the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate his deliverance, the King he ordered a great bonfire to celebrate the night and the rest, as we say, is history.

Bonfire Night

Today 500 years later Bonfire Night, Plot Night or even Guy Fawkes Night, as it is similarly called, is still a major celebration in the UK. It is a very simple celebration with a fire, a guy (a dummy put on the top of the fire – nowadays less popular), fireworks, sparklers and food such as plot toffee, toffee apples, parkin (a Yorkshire delicacy but eaten across the UK) jacket potatoes, hot soup and today perhaps burgers and hot-dogs. The whole party will be outside in the open air so, as it is usually quite cold, Bonfire Night events are not very long and you do need to wrap up warm with hats, scarves and gloves.


In Kirkby Fleetham each year (on the Sunday closest to November 5th) we celebrate Bonfire Night on the village green. This year’s celebration was just yesterday. The weather was perfect – dry, no wind, a full-moon and a crisp November air! Our committee spent the afternoon erecting a tent, setting up the firework display and preparing all the food and drink.

Beautiful in gold and silver

Admiring the display








The evening certainly went off with a bang! We didn’t have a bonfire just fireworks. A great crowd arrived they munched hot dogs and flapjack, drank hot, home-made soup and imbibed pints of local beer and hot mulled wine. We had some wonderful entries in our pumpkin competition and the main event, the firework display was amazing, well coordinated with some great music and lasted almost 15 minutes – “Just like Disney Land” one person said!!

I’m not sure about Disney Land but for such a small community it was impressive. Bonfire Night is a very small and intimate celebration but it lights up a dark and cold part of the year and if only for that it is most welcome!

Halloween at Fleetham Lodge


York Ghost Walk

Over the past 15 years or so Halloween has travelled over to the UK from the US and is now a firmly entrenched date in the October calendar. Children dress up and go door-to-door seeking sweets while adults organise parties with ghostly themes and the TV has its ‘Fright Nights’ showing old and not so old horror movies.

The festival is connected with the feast of All Saints on November 1st – the evening before – October 31st being All Hallow’s (holy) Eve – hence Halloween and is in fact an older festival which goes back centuries and was actually exported to the US many centuries ago from here. In the UK children used to celebrate Halloween (I remember this from my childhood) by carving lanterns, not from pumpkins, but from large turnips (or swedes), dressing up as ghosts, witches or skeletons in fact any ghostly character ( a friend of mine once dressed up as a mummy – it took ages to do all the bandages!) and then going around the streets making ghostly noises and pretending to scare people. There were also traditional games like apple bobbing and of course we told each other ghostly stories!

Betty’s Halloween Display

Nowadays it’s a far more commercial affair and perhaps an excuse to have a party – as the days get shorter and the nights draw in there does seem to be a need for such parties, to inject some light into the darkness outside. Supermarkets sell a range of Halloween foods and costumes and many of the attractions (Halloween generally falls in the school half-term) offer activities such as lantern carving and ghost tours. One of the most famous being the Ghost Tour of York which is the oldest in the country and actually

runs all year round but is especially popular at this time.

Ghostly goings-on at Kiplin Hall

Kiplin Hall is a local Mansion that we visit very often with students. It is a lovely house surrounded by gardens and a large lake. It features in our Christmas course and we have also taken students to Shakespeare plays in the grounds in the summer. It is a favourite place to visit.

However, there is another side to the Hall which was revealed to our students when we took part in the Ghost tour of the house one evening. It appears that things are not always as they seem and this fascinating tour really made us all feel rather differently about the house. I’m sure I will view it in a different light the next time I go – but it won’t be in the dark!! Find out more by watching this YouTube video about the ghostly goings-on.

Halloween Costumes

For the last 3 years here at Fleetham Lodge we have organised a one-week Halloween themed Teenage Immersion course complete with ghost tours, pumpkin carving, torchlight treasure hunt and a Halloween party on the final evening.

As we have a large collection of dressing-up clothes the students can put together a costume very easily and this is all part of the fun. We invite other local teens to these events which makes the immersion even better and our students can have fun and improve their English at the same time.

One of the highlights is the torchlight treasure hunt around the garden where they not only have to find the clues, but then work them out to discover where the treasure lies. Other traditional party games such as Murder in the Dark and Charades on a ghost theme have proved popular.



Witches and Skeletons

We love to decorate for Halloween too and over the years have collected things together to give a spooky feel to the house for this course.

A carved pumpkin










Pumpkins feature large and we dot them around the house and garden – the colours stand out during the day and at night, when they are lit, they definitely give a ‘spooky effect’.

Strings of spiders and bats festoon the hall and streamers in orange and black paper fall from the doorways. It’s a special course for a special time and the students love the experience. Here are some of their comments:

Woodland walk



“I’d never experienced Halloween before – it was good fun”

“We loved the party and decorating – the ghost walk was very scary!”

“I like the woodland walk with Halloween things hidden in the trees – it was amazing!”

For Halloween fun and great English language skills (this year was all about IELTS) consider our Halloween Course 2018. It’s a great way to experience something a bit different while you improve your English.


Apple Day was a Washout!

Traditional apple varieties

Sadly the sun did not shine on our very first village Apple Day and as the day went on, so the rain and wind strengthened. Still in ‘true Brit style’, this did not dampen our ardour and people turned up in wellies and raincoats ready to experience the event! One can never predict what the weather is going to be like in our country so we have to soldier on regardless, grit our teeth and enjoy our days out nevertheless. I suppose this gives us our so-called ‘bulldog spirit’. It also indicates why many of our greatest British fashion brands, Burberry, Hunters, Barbour and Mackintosh are all associated with raincoats and wellies!!

Apple eaten from a string

Preparations started early and we set out several traditional apple games (played at Halloween and Bonfire night as well as Apple Days) such as eating an apple from a string (no hands allowed!), apple bobbing (eating an apple from a bowl of water -again no hands allowed) and relay races – apple and spoon, apple on the head and apple between the knees – all ridiculous  – but fun. Alas the weather prevented some of these from happening.


Checking the apple press

We also set up the apple press, adopt an apple tree and of course, the tea room – we had a veritable mountain of cake to serve – all home-made by people in the village and mostly featuring apples and other fruit – Dutch, Danish apple cake, apple pies, apple flapjack and many more. It all looked delicious. People started to arrive a round 2.00 with their buckets of apples for pressing. We were using a traditional hand press and people were eager to try it out and take home some wonderful juice.


Juice was available to purchase for those who didn’t have their own apples to press.

Making Apple Juice

Selling the apple juice








The orchard with trees old and new



The main focus of the day was the orchard which is being developed by a local farmer as part of a project to maintain and restore old apple varieties especially local ones. Apple Days are held throughout the UK in October. This local orchard contains newly planted as well as much older trees and we were invited to adopt an apple or pear tree during the day – this means that during subsequent years the person adopting can collect all the fruit from that tree – helping the farmer to reduce his workload and allowing people to have their own apples.

Teaching about tree pruning


A fruit tree specialist was on-hand to teach the correct way to prune apple trees and gave a demonstration in the orchard. She gave detailed information on looking after the trees to get the best possible harvest in terms of yield and also quality. Despite the battering rain several people joined this demonstration and learnt a lot about caring for their trees.


Tea and cake inside the farmhouse



After standing in the rain for half an hour there was only one thing to do, get inside, in the warm, for a cup of tea and a piece of apple cake.

Afternoon tea





The apple juice was truly scrumptious!

Apple Day , despite the weather, was a great success!

Things that make us Unique at Fleetham Lodge

Kitchen garden

We sometimes ‘boast’ about how our immersion courses offer a unique experience to our students and how these are things which may not be offered on other English courses in the UK. Some of these may be intangible like the atmosphere we try to create on our courses or the ‘feel’ of being in an English ambience, but others are much clearer, like the fact that many of the fruit and vegetables we cook come from our own kitchen garden and are grown ‘organically’ or the hens that you can see wondering around which produce our eggs. Students enjoy collecting the eggs or even picking vegetables.

I wanted, in this post, to share some other more tangible things that we have included in our courses – some were planned and others just happened to coincide – which was a bonus.

The Theatre

The Georgian Theatre Royal

We try, where possible, to include a theatre performance in our courses especially for the adults. Our nearest theatre is The Georgian Royal Theatre – this is a historic theatre dating from 1788 and is really tiny in comparison with later theatres. It has a really rich history and we often go on a theatre tour even if there is no performance available to attend.

At one performance with a group of Dutch and Colombian business students we were all invited to a drinks party in the bar with the actors and then took a photo on stage with them. We had no idea that this would happen but it made for a very exciting evening and also a great chance for our students to interact with the cast. On another occasion one of our group was actually invited to go up on stage in the performance (it was a comedy) to take part in a small scene!

On stage with the actors

The Georgian Theatre Royal








Romeo and Juliet in the Park



During the summers it is a tradition in many parts of the UK to have open air Shakespeare plays and we have twice been able to take students to these. The most recent was with a German family who were on our English and Golf programme. The play was Romeo and Juliet and it was performed with an all-male cast (which was the tradition in Shakespeare’s day). We took a picnic, chairs and blankets and sat beside the lake of a beautiful old country mansion and enjoyed the play – a magical experience, if a little chilly towards the end :-).



90th Birthday Party

Parties are always fun and we have included our student guests in some of these. My mother-in-law’s 90th bash coincided with a student’s visit and we took her along for the celebration. This not only meant the party itself, but travelling to Tunbridge Wells in Kent where we stayed with a friend. As her course was a month then it was a good way to see another part of the country and Tunbridge Wells is a lovely historic town. She was able to meet lots of people and really practise her English with native speakers who were at the party.

Posing with the Royals

Royal anniversaries and events are always a time for national celebrations and we have had several in recent years. One of these was the Royal Wedding of William and Kate in 2011. The village celebration was a dinner dance with a royal theme at the local Solberge Hotel. Martina, a business student from Germany, was here for her immersion course so we bought an extra ticket for her. It was a black-tie event (we took another student to a black-tie event and kitted him out with a dinner suit from a local suit hire shop – everything is possible) and suitable glittering for the royal occasion. We even had a really clever magician to entertain us all.

Black-tie event


Sports and Hobbies

Three of our young students had particular hobbies that they were keen to continue during their time with us and we were able to accommodate these requests and enrol them into local teams.

The first, Yoann from France, was a football ‘fanatic’ and really wanted to play during his 6 weeks with us. A local five-a-side club were very happy to have him train with them every week and he even managed to play two games

Newcastle vs Hull

for them. It was a real win-win as the team were grateful to have an extra and rather good player and he was able to engage with this fellow players and improve his English skills. They were all very sad to see him return home. We even arranged a trip to see Newcastle United play Hull (he had hoped for Chelsea but sadly there was nothing local during his stay).

Just last year Jeremie and his sister Sophia came for a month to improve their skills in order to enter a UK boarding school. Their passion was basketball. Again we rang around local teams and found two that were close enough. As a result they were able to go to basketball practice twice a week and took part in two tournaments. Again this worked for both the teams and the students as they made friends with whom they could speak English and the teams got two new experienced players!!

Local Events

Two local events which are brilliant for a day out are the Great Yorkshire Show in July and our very own village small equivalent in August; Kirkby Fleetham Feast – we’d love to take you to these two events! The first is now the biggest in the UK and is a really interesting day with something for everyone from the competitions for the best cow, sheep or pig to huge tractors to some great shopping for  woollen sweaters, country coats, dresses and bags. At the Kirkby Fleetham feast there is a chance to enter something or just enjoy the day – something hugely traditional, social and actually quite impressive for a small community. Another chance to meet local people and join in the fun!

Climbing Fun

Dancing Sheep

A stunning Display of Vegetables

















These are just a handful of the things that have been included in courses that are a little bit special, but they give you a flavour. We try to be as creative as possible with what we offer on our immersion courses and the more we can get you in front of local, native speakers the better the experience will be. And not only that, but the more we can involve you in the local life of our community, the better the immersion.



Fleetham Lodge Through the Seasons – Spring

The arrival of Spring

The first snowdrops poking through the ground give us all a feeling of hope. These are followed not long after by swathes of bright yellow daffodils all along the streets and lanes and we know that Spring is here. That feeling of new life and renewal is something very natural in human beings and the signs around us – especially in the countryside – confirm our feelings of hope and anticipation after the long, dark days of winter. We relish the sun, the longer hours of daylight and the start of some warmth in the air. It is a truly special time of the year.



Full of the joys of Spring

With all of this outer bursting of life comes, quite naturally, an inner feeling of renewal and of eagerness to do new things and experience new things, no wonder then, that this is a time for travel, visiting places and exploring. The tourist industry awakens in March, venues dust off winter, fling open their doors and invite people in. The exam season starts and students start to prepare in earnest for their exams ahead. The streets are more populated, there is more bustle around and we all begin to look forward to those lazy, warm summer days that we all know will follow (although not necessarily here in England – but we live in hope :-))


Testing the beer from the micro-brewery

One group of Dutch students made the most of Spring to check out the displays of Easter eggs and other products. They were all experts in food packaging and display and we had a great time checking out shop displays, chatting to food producers and finding out about methods of production and marketing. They decided to check out all the supermarkets for their Easter displays and rate them. It was a toss-up between M&S and Betty’s – in the end M&S got their vote! The season and the fact it was Easter gave us the chance to put on a really great course!!

Finding out about brewing

Checking out the cheese choices

Easter Egg Hunt


Easter itself is so wrapped up with spring – with rabbits, flowers, eggs and lambs. We have Easter egg hunts around the garden every year which is a fun thing to do and everyone grabs a basket and joins in. We always have Easter fayre such as hot cross bunssimnel cake and Easter biscuits and usually have a big traditional Sunday lunch on Easter Sunday itself.

A great time for family groups to come and join in these events.



The countryside waking up in spring

For sheer outdoor beauty the spring is wonderful. The new, fresh greens of the landscape and the unfurling leaves on the trees coupled with the sight of new-born lambs, ducklings and birds. All of these things make us alive with wonder and joy. It feels good to be outside in nature and watch it all going on around us – it’s a time of amazing productivity and can be a great time for productivity in study too. There is time to fit in a course before the summer or to prepare yourself well for the end of year exams. Victoire did just this arriving in March for 3 weeks of English before she returned to university to prepare her dissertation and swot up for the final exams. A student of product design, there were lots of exciting places to go to for her major and we even organised a day with a professional photographer to give her some pointers as this was her great love!

The Angel of the North

The feet of the Angel! – Victoire and me










Mummy sheep and her baby lambs




So Spring is most definitely a perfect time to come, study, enjoy the landscape and get lots of fresh, ‘warm’ air into your lungs! Enjoy this video of other ‘spring’ students who have chosen this time of year for their course.



Fleetham Lodge Through the Seasons – Winter

Tan Hill in February

I was at a Language Fair a few years ago and had a poster of Fleetham Lodge in the snow. A lady looked at it (she was Italian I think) and said that to her it didn’t look very inviting. I actually thought that it was a really beautiful photo (I happen to like the winter) but it made me think about whether winter would indeed be a good time for students to come to North Yorkshire 🙂

The truth is, in fact, that days like the one here with my daughter Imogen and IELTS student Sophia from Germany are really very rare in this area. We have a micro-climate which sees most snow, ice and even rain blow itself out over the moors and dales and snow is so unusual that we get very excited when we see it!! (this is true for much of the UK – snow sends us all into a tiswas).

One of our Christmas trees

So, with that ‘health-warning’, I can tell you that there is something quite magical and enigmatic about a visit to Fleetham Lodge in the winter and I am not just talking about Christmas which, of course, has it’s own special magic in the western hemisphere. It’s more of a transportation to a foregone era, I’m thinking about Miss Marple, Poirot or even Downton Abbey (although we are not as grand :-)) but something more oldie-worldie. Let me explain:

It’s more about a landscape that probably hasn’t changed in centuries, a kitchen that looks like it did 50 or 60 years ago and open, roaring fires that evoke an earlier time. These things come into their own in the winter. To walk inside from a cold, blustery day to the smell of wood-smoke and the warmth of a  welcoming fire is something that no other season brings. Or it may be a visit to one of our many – we Brits really do love nostalgia! – Stately Homes all dressed up for Christmas as they may have looked two or three hundred years ago is a magical experience and none does this better than Castle Howard.


But Christmas is very special and no discussion of the winter season can ignore it. For us here at

Carol Singers Photo:

Fleetham Lodge it all starts at the beginning of November when we make our Christmas cakes and puddings. For me this is one of the best parts of Christmas as there is the anticipation of the festival without any of the real pressures. Then as December begins there are Christmas Fayres, concerts, our annual carol signing in the village (we go around the village in a shooting brake and stop at various points to sing traditional carols joined by local householders – it’s a charity event) and finally Christmas itself is usually spent with family. We have many traditions from giving cards and presents, to the religious services to the food we eat and the games we play. Light plays a big part so there are always lots of candles and fairy lights both inside and out.

If you want to experience these traditions and find out more about Christmas in the UK then our Quintessentially English Christmas course does just that. It’s a feast of Christmas events, food and traditions which combine English in a ‘hands-on’ way rather than in formal lessons. It is a unique experience and we know that you will simply love it.

Business student Michael on a snowy walk

And after New Year? In fact January and February have been the most popular months for Business Class Immersion courses.The New Year is a fantastic time for renewal and resolutions so it makes sense to really work on those English skills once and for all! The same applies to IELTS, if you are going to do it then what better time to dive in and make January the month to pass the exam! There are few distractions. The weather is not very inviting, the festivities of Christmas and New Year are over and it can be a time when people feel a bit ‘low’ so perfect for really focusing on study and setting yourself up with fantastic language skills for the rest of the year.


Check out the video for more of our Winter students.

Fleetham Lodge Through the Seasons – Autumn

Autumn leaves on the pond

To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


Fleetham Lodge in Autumn

Halloween pumpkins

Autumn can be a perfect time to study here at Fleetham Lodge. We’ve had several students taking advantage of a quieter travel time, but still a reasonable time from a weather point of view – September and October can be warm and sunny.

The colours can be truly magnificent once the trees begin to turn yet there are till some light evenings and warm days to enjoy. Many of the local attractions are open into early October and woodlands like Thorp Perrow Arboretum are open all year and beautiful in autumn.



Walking in the Dales


Some of the best courses to take now are the English with golf, cycling or walking as you can get out and about to enjoy the last of the good weather before we head towards the winter. If you are considering a business course or our Quintessentially English course then these work too as whatever season it is there are always things to do and places to go. Our new biomass boiler will ensure the house is cosy and the open fires add a little romanticism to the darker evenings.



And, of course, we have two great celebrations in Autumn; Halloween and Bonfire Night.

Witches and Skeletons

We love to decorate the house for Halloween with carved pumpkins, black and orange streamers and plastic spiders and snakes and for our junior students at this time we include lots of ‘spooky’ activities including our favourite, a torchlight treasure hunt! This is often the highlight for our juniors and we always end the evening with a roaring fire and a good, hot meal.

Students can also create their own scary pumpkin faces and display these around the house.



We also arrange a Halloween party on their last evening when they can dress up (we have a selection of

A carved pumpkin

things and they can be very inventive) and play some of the traditional games like apple bobbing, as well as try traditional food such as parkin and toffee apples.

bonfire english immersion blog

Bonfire Night









Bonfire Night comes just a few days later and we have an organised event in the village that everyone enjoys. Hot soup, home-made burgers and hot-dogs, an outdoor bar with sparklers and dark toffee for the kids both large and small. This age-old tradition still continues and brightens up a dark November evening. The firework display is usually spectacular and this particular festival takes everyone straight back to their own childhood. It’s a very special experience (despite its origins).

Consider autumn at Fleetham Lodge – there is much to see and do!

Here is a flavour.



FAM Trip at Fleetham Lodge

The summer is over and now it’s time to focus on the remaining months of 2017 and also to the year beyond.

Alphe Workshop London

I’ve been silent – this is due in part to holidays but also mostly to attending the Alphe Workshop in London and to our two Fam Trips that we held here in Yorkshire for a selection of agents attending the workshop.

I thought I’d kick off my return to the blog with some insights into these FAM trips and also to share some truly wonderful photos (taken by our guests) that were taken to show the opportunity that awaits the students here at Fleetham Lodge.

The aim of the Fleetham Lodge Fam trip is to replicate the experience that our student clients have when they are here with us on their courses – we literally wanted to give our agent visitors a snap-shot of how it would be for their clients.

Fam Trip 1

Each trip began with the journey by train from London to Yorkshire. We decided to use the train to get people here as it is far quicker, just 2.5 hours, goes through some lovely scenery and also gives participants a chance to meet and get to know each other before they arrive. It is also the journey that some of our students take when coming here. We are lucky to be on the route from London to Edinburgh and so have plenty of direct trains from London Kings Cross to our local station – Northallerton.

Fam Trip 2

The journey from Northallerton gives the chance to see the area – which is very rural and agricultural but also quite lovely. The house stands quite proudly in its setting and this year the garden has been particularly lovely and colourful giving a very welcoming feeling. After a tour of the bedrooms and other facilities everyone took time to relax and unpack a little before we met together to go around the garden (we have 3 acres of garden to wander in including a well-stocked kitchen garden, tennis court and pond). Our bespoke classroom was the final destination where we all discussed the opportunity for various groups of students and had an in-depth question and answer session.

Ready for Breakfast

By this time we were all ready to eat and my husband’s dinner of roast chicken, roast potatoes, green beans and carrots did not disappoint. All the vegetables were from the garden (not the chicken I hastened to reassure as we do have 3 hens wandering around!) which gave them an extra edge of flavour. Washed down with a lovely red wine and accompanied by good conversation and the evening was both relaxing and enjoyable. Our loyal friend the dishwasher took care of the dishes and we all retired happily to bed ready for the start of the second day.

The sun shone brightly during the first Fam trip and we headed off into the Yorkshire Dales to experience Aysgarth Falls which did not disappoint with its tumbling water and beautiful landscape. Lunch, sampling the local beer, was in a very traditional pub where we actually discussed what makes a ‘traditional pub’ with the pub landlady – lots of old polished wood, an open fire, traditional British food and drink and a friendly atmosphere – was the official line.

Beautiful weather at the waterfall

Lunch over, we headed to Bolton Castle which was another great success even though it did rain a little. This is an old traditional castle (partially intact) which is very well- presented and gives a good account of its history and the society at the time of building through to its abandonment in the 1700s (life in a draughty castle had certainly lost its appeal for the wealthy families of the 18th century!).

Afternoon tea is such an English tradition – although with our substantial pub lunch we were only able to share a piece of cake! Nevertheless it was good to take the weight off our feet and enjoy a hot cup of tea before venturing forth to our final destination of the day – Jervaulx Abbey, a hauntingly serene and lovely ruined monastery just outside the town of Masham.

Serenity at Jervaulx

Although once a very impressive and important monastery, it was destroyed almost completely by Henry VIII. Yet as we strolled around the broken pillars and crumbling archways we could glimpse at its former magnificence.

It had been a long day albeit an interesting one and we returned to Fleetham Lodge for a short rest before dinner.

We passed an interesting evening joined by our 18 year old daughter Imogen and enjoyed some lively discussion!



Lunch at Ampleforth Abbey

For the second Fam Trip we awoke to pouring rain! As the plan was to take a walk along the edge of the moors, this was clearly not a good start! However all was not lost and we decided to flip the day around and do the indoor part first. Things couldn’t have worked out better! We spent the morning at Nunnington Hall exploring first the house and later as the rain eased, the gardens. This took us to lunchtime which was enjoyed at Ampleforth Abbey – a living monastery and boarding school and after touring the grounds, abbey and visitor centre, we headed off to see the white, chalk horse at Kilburn. These chalk horses can be found all over England carved into the hills. Kilburn’s white horse is the largest, created in 1857. As luck would have it, the sun came out and we were able to walk up to the top of the horse and then follow the scenic path back to the Moors visitor centre. This walk in the sunlight overlooked the whole of the Yorkshire Moors and gave some truly spectacular views.

It all worked out perfectly.

The Yorkshire Moors

Helping in the kitchen











Elena checking the dinner!


Our group wanted to visit the supermarket to buy supplies for the home journey and we had also promised them a visit to the village pub. Unsurprisingly, it was quite late when we returned to Fleetham Lodge. However, everyone rolled up their sleeves and mucked in to help with dinner and we had a fun time preparing the evening meal which we all thoroughly enjoyed before finally retiring to bed after a long but enjoyable day.

Both groups awoke to a sunny day on Day 3 and were able to take final photos before we drove them to the train for the return journey to London.

I believe that they all had a new and hopefully unforgettable experience that they can pass on to their prospective clients and we hope to see these students here very soon 🙂

Fleetham Lodge Through the Seasons – Summer

We’ve looked at various types of course, particular students and local places in the blogs over the past few weeks but a question you may be asking yourself is ‘When is the very best time to visit Fleetham Lodge for a course?’ The answer really depends on what you like to do and experience. In fact there is no ‘best’ time as each season brings different scenery and different opportunities.

For the next four weeks I want to show you the changing seasons here and also give you an idea about what things happen at various times of the year to help you choose the best time for you. We’ll start with summer.

Fleetham Lodge in Summer


Fleetham Lodge in high summer

Summer is a wonderful time to come if you enjoy flowers and gardens. Our garden here is at its best from May to July and, of course, the weather is warmer (although temperatures are not generally higher than 25C). It is also the time when most of the stately homes, beautiful gardens and attractions are open (generally from April to late September).

Summer allows us to sit around the garden in the evenings, eat outside if the weather is warm and even have our lessons outdoors on really balmy days.

From a practical point of view it means you have less to pack as no heavy jumpers will be necessary (although for most people the UK in summer is much colder than your own summer).

Our visits will mostly take in places that are open in summer some of the best being Newby Hall and Castle Howard both of which have lots of summer activities for young and old alike. It’s also a good time to stroll in the gardens of these houses and take a picnic out to the Yorkshire Dales or Moors.

Eating outdoors is a treat and one which is not so common here in the UK so when there is a chance we embrace it!

Leisurely lunch al fresco

Summer picnics












The seaside is a great place to be in summer and Whitby (although this is great any time of the year) has always been voted the favourite seaside place. It’s dramatic, quite unique and as well as the famous Whitby Abbey, there are boat trips, the old fish market and one or two Dracula themed attractions to see. The beach is a fun place to be even though the sea is bracing!! Not forgetting the 199 steps from the Abbey down to the town (and back up again!)

Whitby Abbey











Of course outdoor events are everywhere in the summer and these include plays (we’ve taken our students to 2 outdoor Shakespeare plays), music concerts and very traditional barn dances – which sometimes happen in the village. Last but not least is our village Feast during the second week of August there are activities each day with the final show day on the Saturday. Some of our teenage students entered the competition and two of them won first prize for cookies!!

Produce from the garden

We mustn’t forget about food. We have our own large vegetable garden and during the summer it is at its best – fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce as well as a chance to pick raspberries and strawberries, all straight from the garden. We love to cook and what can compare with food picked freshly from the garden and put straight into the pan – truly scrumptious!

So, come in summer and create some wonderful memories.



I’ll leave you with a snapshot of some of our students at Fleetham Lodge in Summer.

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Afternoon tea is something Quintessentially English & we’d love you to try some Real Yorkshire tea and cake!