Networking in the New Forest

Networking in the New Forest


Hampshire Fare’s popular networking programme returned to the New Forest this month with Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst hosting the latest event.

Tracy Nash, Commercial Manager, Hampshire Fare, welcomed around 50 members, including corporate friends and partners (pictured above is Mike Watson, Trethowans LLP, Dave Gosling, Menzies LLP, and Kathryn Evans, Trethowans LLP). Tracy explained: "Nothing beats being able to meet face to face, to make those valuable connections and form friendships within our supportive food and drink community.”

Tracy thanked Michael Clitheroe, General Manager, Balmer Lawn, for his team’s friendly service and for providing a selection of refreshments including canapes, coffee and alcohol-free mojitos. She also gave an update on Hampshire Fare’s latest activities which included Tracy being interviewed about the effect of ‘no-shows’ on the hospitality industry on Radio Solent, via telephone link at 7am from the panic room of a London hotel (the only quiet space she could find) while attending the Speciality & Fine Food Fair at Olympia.

Kathryn Evans, Head of Employment Law at Trethowans LLP, one of Hampshire Fare’s corporate friends, providing an extremely useful, thought-provoking and occasionally amusing talk. This was followed by a question and answer session that covered members’ employment concerns and the complex issue of avoiding unintended discrimination while offering staff benefits. Kathryn Evans is recognised in the Legal 500 and specialises in strategic planning including grievances, performance, and absence management matters. As she explained: “My role is all about strategy and as much about how people tick as how the law ticks!”

Michael Clitheroe, General Manager, Balmer Lawn, invited attendees to tour the hotel to find out more about Balmer Lawn’s multimillion pound refurbishment, carried out over the past few years, including the latest addition, The Lodge on the terrace at the front of the hotel. This inside-outside dining room concept was actually conceived and commissioned prior to the pandemic, however the management team adapted the design, to create a safe entertaining experience with outside kitchen and bar that met the new requirements that came into force as lockdown measures eased.

Michael Clitheroe explained: “The Lodge has been hugely successful. In the three weeks pre-Christmas last year and the five weeks post-lockdown this spring, when outside dining was introduced, we hosted a total of 14,000 customers safely outside in this weatherproof and covid secure outside space. We had hospitality venues from across the south of England asking us about it as we were spearheading this approach. It had been commissioned so early that there was nothing else like it available at that time. It was a lifeline for us. This is a family-owned business and this initiative kept the business viable and safeguarded 125 jobs for the future.”

About Hampshire Fare’s networking event, Michael added: “It is wonderful to see the return of face to face gatherings, such as this networking event, enabling reconnections. The entrepreneurialism of small businesses connects us all!”