Jo Bray, leader of the ‘Gleam Team’
You might think cleaning is a ‘behind the scenes’ type of role, but we take it very seriously here at Old Oaks. We aim to meet the highest standards in everything we do. And that’s why we want to give Jo Bray, our super cleaner, some of the recognition she deserves.
Do look out for Jo next time you’re here because she loves meeting guests. She calls herself “the mad lady in the buggy waving at everybody!” And no matter how busy she is, she’ll always find time for a friendly chat with you.
Jo doesn’t just keep our facilities and glamping accommodation spotless, though, she’s also a phenomenal baker. You can sample her fabulous cakes in our shop.
Now approaching the end of her second season, Jo works with her husband, Steve, (aka Hubby). “It’s a case of I say; he does!” she explains. “After 43 years of marriage he’s used to it.” The pair have certainly had some adventures together with plenty more to come as you’ll discover in Jo’s answers to our questions below.
What were you doing before you came to Old Oaks?
Years ago, we were both in retail management, so we’ve developed a good eye for detail. I was in the food industry and Hubby was in DIY. We were both in customer–facing roles.
In 2004 we dropped off the ‘gravy train’! We went to live in France and were there for nine years, renovating old properties and selling them on – falling down places that the French didn’t want to buy. We worked hard, had a good lifestyle and enjoyed being among the rural French people.
What brought you back to England?
When we left for France we had one grandson. When we came back we had six grandchildren! We wanted to spend time with them while they’re young.
How did you get into campsites?
A property deal fell through, so we bought a motorhome instead! It was something we’d always planned to do.
We went and stayed at a park not far from Plymouth, where I’m from and where most of our family live. We ended up getting a job there and staying for five years!
What’s your typical day like at The Old Oaks?
It depends on how busy the park is. We go out and do a ‘sweep’ of the communal facilities in the morning to make sure there’s loo roll, that basins and taps are clean, and give it a hygiene wipe.
Then we get the glamping accommodation done first, before the next guests come in. The last thing you want is for people to be waiting around to get into their accommodation.
The shared facilities then get a thorough deep clean every day. As well as the showers and toilets, you’ve got the dish wash and the laundry room, plus the chemical waste and the motorhome point and some outside areas.
The facilities get another visit in the evening just to make sure everything’s in order. Hubby also does the bins several times a week, clearing away all the rubbish.
What do you like about working here?
It is very much a family–oriented feel. Everyone treats you kindly and that makes a massive difference. You’re treated as an equal.
It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re behind the scenes or in front, it’s an important part of the whole package. I’m really appreciated not just by the site staff and the family that own the site and the farm, but also the customers.
We’re very lucky in that our guests are very respectful of the facilities because we take such a lot of pride in them. We’ve got an awful lot of facilities for the number of guests on site, which also makes it easier to keep them clean.
What’s the best part of the job?
What I love is when people walk into the facilities for the first time and go “Oh wow!” That brings me absolute delight because people do appreciate the hard work that you put in.
I like people. I like knowing about them and getting the opportunity to engage with them. This year a lot of people have come for the first time and like to stop for a chat.
How do you maintain such high standards?
I look at the accommodation and think “Would I be happy to stay here?” Or I look at the facilities and think “Would I be happy to use that shower?” And If I would be happy to use it, it’s going to be spot on for anybody else because I am a bit of a fusspot!
It’s also about having a system. Planning, organising, and time management were always my forte when I was in management. It means you’ve got time to deal with any surprises. And you’ve got time to have a chat with the guests, and that’s the best part of it.
Can you share any cleaning tips with us?
My mother taught me that when you’re cleaning it’s all about the edges and corners and the centre will take care of itself. Anybody can sweep the centre of a room, but not everybody puts the brush in the corner do they?
Also, you have to use your senses. You can see dirt, you can smell dirt and you can feel dirt. Using sight, smell and touch is what makes a good cleaner.
Do you live at Old Oaks?
We live in a caravan at the end of a terrace. We have beautiful views and don’t get passing traffic.
What do you do when you’re not cleaning?
We do a bit of everything – visit family, go out. We like to walk. I do baking for the staff here as well as make cakes for the shop. I’ve got an extra oven in my awning which is all set up as my kitchen with cooker, cupboards and fridge–freezer.
(Jo was about to make at least 23 pasties for the staff when we spoke to her – you may have seen her baking pasties in a lockdown video made by Tony, the Head Warden.)
What will you do when Old Oaks closes for winter?
We’re off to Tenerife for three weeks, then coming back to have Christmas and New Year with the family. Then we’ll help out with a couple of jobs here before going to Spain for five weeks. We’re going to drive through France and visit our house there.
Do you have plans for the future?
We’ve just bought a panel van that’s going down to Plymouth to be converted for our retirement. We want to do a mass exploration of the UK and Ireland.
One day we’ll have to settle down, but I can’t at the moment. There’s too much to do and too much to see!
Finally, as a Devonian married to a Cornishman, do you have a definitive answer to the age-old cream tea question: should cream or jam go on the scone first?
People don’t realise that Devon and Cornish clotted cream are generally quite different. The Cornish one is quite runny and therefore better if it goes on second, whereas proper Devon clotted cream is quite thick and can spread like butter.
And how do you pronounce scone?
There’s an ‘e’ on the end, so it rhymes with stone!
A note from Tara, the manager:
Please say hello to Jo and Steve next time you come and stay; they’re always so happy to engage with guests. They make a fabulous team and have made our lives so much easier since they’ve been part of the Old Oaks family. Really great cleaners are sooooo hard to come by and we’re mighty grateful to have Jo and Steve on board as they work like beavers and nothing is ever too much trouble. Jo’s home-made pasties are to die for! How are we going to manage for 3 months over the winter without them?!
Big thanks from all of the White family to Jo and Steve x