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‘This is the most fantastic thing that I have ever done’
IN 1996, London-based consultant Jeremy Walford arrived at a retirement village in County Durham to give managers two days of advice after it hit financial crisis.
Fast-forward 17 years, and he is still there, although he is now running the place.
“My two days became three months, because they asked me to do a rescue package, and late one Friday evening, when I was driving back to London, I stopped for a cup of tea, and thought, ‘Goodness me, I think I want to do this permanently’.
“I had fallen in love with the idea of what Middleton Hall could be. My thengirlfriend thought I had absolutely lost the plot to want to move to the North of England and run an old people’s home.
“I had never been to an old people’s home in my life before this, but it was a great site and it just felt right.”
His 17 years at the helm have resulted in a lot of changes at Middleton Hall, close to Middleton St George, near Darlington.
He said: “We have totally revived the business.
“It has moved from being a stalling care home to being the North-East’s premier retirement village.” Since he took over the running, the business has made a number of investments, including the creation of the Middleton Woods retirement apartments, for people who can live independently, along with the Middleton Grove assisted living complex, for people who do not need residential care but who require more support.
The complex also retains residential and nursing care at Middleton Gardens and Middleton Court.
As well as a cafe, shops, a bar and restaurant and other communal services including sports and recreational facilities, under Mr Walford’s leadership, the village also now has a spa, spa pool, swimming pool, treatment rooms and an exercise room.
He said: “It is about quality of life for our residents and giving them the ability to enjoy life, regardless of age.
“It gives me a buzz to see our residents having a good time.”
Outside of work, he has another passion – ski trekking, which involves walking up mountains and skiing back down.
He said: “I like to keep myself fit and active. I think that is a big part of staying youthful. Remaining mentally active is a big part of it, as well as having a bit of a life.
“There is a lot to be said for just experiencing and enjoying life.
“If you had said to me 20 years ago I would be either living in the North or doing what I do, I would have questioned your sanity.
“But it is the most fantastic thing I have ever done.”