A Weekend to Remember, After a Year to Forget…
That was the tagline I naturally gave a much needed long weekend away in Cheshire to attend a networking event for instagrammers to network with brand representatives and each other. This was organised by the totally amazing Lauren of the Instagram account Housewise, whose mission is to help brands connect with influencers to promote their products. Not just that, but the Housewise Brunch events are a huge load of fun, and the opportunity to meet so many awesome people into the same things as you and have a really great time was an experience I was sorely missing during the covid pandemic.
After my Chester trip in 2019, which I also loved, I had plans to go to at least two more things in 2020. That was before any of us knew what was about to happen, and with 2021 looking likely to be one of the worst years of my whole life with the collapse of my health on top of the continuing misery of the pandemic, I didn’t think those happy times would ever return.
Thanks to Lauren, I was wrong.
When I returned to Instagram in February and broke my silence after a year-long health battle, I told my story and was greeted with dozens of DMs. Lauren was one of them and it meant an awful lot that she saw me return. I didn’t have to wait long for news on her Insta of another event coming up, this time in the Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa near Crewe. The last time I had the opportunity to attend one of her events was in Leeds, 2018, so not only would I have the opportunity to see her again after four years, I’d get to experience something I’d been missing for a very long time.
As soon as I was able to, I bought a ticket, and a seven week countdown to a big part of my pre-pandemic life returning was underway.
I took the time to remind myself the route I took to Chester last time I went away as travelling from Norfolk, it was largely the same. I got my room booked at a nearby Premier Inn, staying from the day before to the day after. Over the weeks to the event, I pored over Pinterest for outfit ideas and my mum got involved too – she made some fantastic choices.
Before I knew it, the day got close, and aside from the event itself I’d decided what I wanted to do with my time away in one of my favourite parts of the world.
Friday May 20th – Travelling, Visiting Nantwich, and a Walk in Crewe
At 7am, a wake-up call from dad kicked the epic weekend off. I got breakfast, packed the last of my things and set off in the car at nine sharp, first stop being the Beaumont Shopping Centre in Leicester.
Driving in Leicester can get pretty tense with its many junctions and cameras, so you have to bring your A-game. Once I was refreshed, it was on to stage two – the A50 to Newcastle Under Lyme, stopping at the Wolstanton Retail Park for lunch in the M&S there.
The final stage was the hotel in Crewe, but before I went there I took a detour to Nantwich. I’d not been before, and it looked like a pretty nice town to me. I specifically wanted to visit Chic Interiors, a really great home decor shop right in the middle, and wouldn’t have been able to on the other days.
I came away with a nice little pot with a wooden lid and spoon, which fits right in with everything else on my kitchen shelves and I am reminded of this trip every time I look at it.
I then reached the hotel in Crewe, where I set up shop and relaxed with a cuppa before heading out again.
I was still wanting to close my activity rings (look up Apple Watch activity rings if you don’t know what I mean) so I decided to go for a walk into the town. The parts that I saw were beautiful and I took many pictures.
I got as far as Queens Park and walked all around it.
I then realised that I only had so much energy having just driven across eight counties and gone on a big walk afterwards, so I headed back, got myself something nice for tea at the restaurant next door, went up to my room and watched Beat the Chasers. It didn’t take long for me to get to sleep afterwards. The following morning, it was time for the real highlight of the weekend to begin…
At 7:30 that morning, the alarm clock went off. I felt like I could have slept for longer, but wasted no time getting myself ready for breakfast in the restaurant and then back up to my room to get ready for the big event at 12. Of course, I got a photo of my outfit before I left. I think mum and I did a good job with this.
I arrived at the Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa and was immediately hit with the place’s beauty. Boasting 69 bedrooms, a conference centre, function hall and bar, it really was a sight to behold. I was also reliably informed that it was also the place where the Beckhams got engaged. If that doesn’t tell you something about this place, I don’t know what will.
As I parked, I felt nervous and excited. This was a pretty big thing for me to be doing considering that less than six months ago I was still at an early stage of my physical recovery struggling to walk my first mile. I reminded myself that I had put in a lot of effort to overcome what I have had thrown in my way and this was my reward.
The staff at reception directed me to the event, and I went in with expectations of a very Instagrammable occasion. I wasn’t disappointed. It was so brilliantly done and I was blown away by the beautiful displays.
It didn’t take long for me and Lauren to be reunited and I got one of the biggest hugs I’ve had in years. I can recall what we said as we finally met each other again after so long apart…
Me: Oh my goodness me! Four years I’ve been waiting to see you again!
Lauren: I know, this is amazing! How do you feel?
Me: Honestly, incredible. Absolutely incredible. Thank you so much!
The place was soon filled with influencers and brand representatives setting up their stalls around the edge. Prosecco and other drinks did the rounds and the event was in full swing. After some time to break the ice with each other, we were directed to the auditorium next door where the brands gave their presentations. 247 Blinds, Strata Homes and Griggs Bathrooms to name a few.
There were a few technical hitches – one being halfway through one presentation the projector shutting off and the screen retracting into the ceiling, but this just made the whole thing even more enjoyable. I will now always be reminded of it every time I hear “Levitating” by Dua Lipa.
One powerhouse of a speaker, Nikki (@thehighvibesmamma) the Female Empowerment Coach gave an incredibly motivating and encouraging speech that did exactly what it said on the tin. Feeling empowered, we all felt ready to take on the world.
Once the talks were done, the rest of the afternoon was ours to network as we wanted to. It wasn’t long before the totally lovely Fatiha (@acethetic_home) came up to me and had a great chat and we clicked straight away. From there, my confidence started to snowball and I spoke to more and more people. A couple of other special mentions go to Celine (@justleftmyforties) and Ria (@thecourtyardhayloft) who were both amazing and just so approachable. I got a lot of people following me off the back of this, which is great as it helped me feel supported.
The event finished at 4, but several of us were around for a bit longer, including me. I wondered if this whole event was going to fly by, but actually it felt like a decent amount of time. I came away from this event feeling so supported and I had a great time. The last two years have been miserable for everyone and I think this is exactly one of the things we were all missing.
I went back to the hotel and updated my Insta stories with the photos and a message of appreciation for Lauren and her incredible work on this wonderful event. Time for tea and a nice chilled evening.
Sunday May 22nd – Blakemere Village and the Long Road Home
I packed my things up the following morning ready to check out, but I wanted to do one last thing before I left. Cheshire Style Interiors, in Northwich, was a place I really wanted to see after a long time friend on Insta, Laura (@lifeonjacklane) mentioned it in her stories. Directions on my phone took me to a place called Blakemere Village near Northwich. I figured I just about had time to head there before going home, so off I went after a quick breakfast.
It was a nice place, with plenty of attractions for young families and lots of shops inside.
Unfortunately though, none of the shops inside were what I wanted. I was going round and round in circles in a place I didn’t know, while under time pressure due to the journey back. It later transpired that the place had moved and Google hadn’t updated the details, and because I wasn’t from the area I had no idea. How frustrating! I still got to speak to the owner Clare over Insta DMs and got the actual address for next time.
I still came away from Blakemere with this photo frame, which I intend to use for a photo from the Brunch.
Out of time, I headed home. I was significantly more confident driving through Leicester this time, though towards the end I was starting to tire. I got home with enough time to recuperate before having tea with mum and dad, where we discussed the weekend and showed the wonderful goodie bag from the Brunch with all its contents.
Some Final Thoughts…
I said on my Instagram stories that this was the happiest I had felt since before covid. After everything that happened over the last two years, especially last year, boy did I need this trip. Though it often takes me a while to “get going” socially at events like these, I really do love them, and I thrive on social settings, something that was badly lacking during the pandemic.
I’m by no means an influencer. At the time of writing this, I have 1,110 followers, which was considerably smaller than pretty much all the other instagrammers at this event. My engagement rate, understandably after last year’s events, is pretty poor. None of that matters though. My objective here was to network with instagrammers rather than brands. I did that, and I had lots of people follow me there and then. I built great relationships with people while I was there.
I’ve never really had a goal to become a massive influencer or anything. Long term, my goals are fairly medium size, getting to about 5k or so. It’s that middle ground between not being fussed about having a massive (as in five or six figures) following while at the same time feeling as if a decent number of people are interested in and inspired by what I do.
I’ll likely rebrand myself at some point as well, as now I am about two homes rather than one (and a third and fourth are on the way later this year).
Lastly, I can definitely say I have my mojo back to express my creativity and meet some amazing people in the process after last year’s collapse. If you have the chance to go to a Housewise event then I really do recommend it. We don’t really have this kind of community here in the East so I will be back. Lauren is a fantastically supportive person who is full of enthusiasm, and everyone needs someone like that in their lives.
Until next time,