Updated: Aug 17, 2019
July isn’t just a month of warm weather, it also marks the end of an era here at Skern Lodge. Andy Milne has finally hung up that Skern fleece (not that he’s been needing it much lately) and has retired from Skern Lodge. After being at Skern Lodge for over 39 years, it's time to step away and hand the reins to Glyn to steer the centre for the next few years.
Andy joined Skern Lodge back in 1981 to go into partnership with Martin Robinson and helped physically relocate Skern Lodge to its current location. Both met at Loughborough University whilst studying for their degrees and spending as much time as possible outdoors doing adventurous activities together. Following their studies, they went their separate ways, Martin into teaching and Andy into the Airforce. After several years of flying and teaching in the impressive Avro Vulcan – that provided many of his late-night Christmas party stories – Andy left the RAF and reunited with Martin, who had begun Skern Lodge back in 1976.
They both had the amazing vision of turning the derelict Watertown Farm into the thriving centre it is today. It certainly needed a lot of vision. For starters, over a foot of cow muck had to be cleared from the old barns that now form part of the courtyard accommodation before they could even start considering any renovation.
As the centre developed and numbers grew, both in terms of clients and employees, Andy and Martin were required to step back from instructing and focus solely on the management and development of the business. Taking on different roles, Andy would manage the money and Martin would spend it!
In 1997, at the age of 50, Martin sold his share of the business to take on a new challenge with Cornwall College. It was at this point Andy joined partnership with John Watson. John had been working with Martin since 1980 and had been Centre Manager for a number of years under Martin and Andy.
Andy’s partnership with John flourished and the business developed as a whole. New buildings were added and new activities were introduced. In 2003, Glyn became a Director as Skern became a Limited company and the three of them continued to take the centre forward.
Throughout his time at Skern Lodge, Andy has always preferred to be out talking to clients and staff rather than behind a desk in a closed office. Andy’s concern and support for every member of staff is one of the reasons why so many ex-employees look back at their time at Skern with great fondness. Andy always had the philosophy that if you looked after your staff, they would look after your clients. How right he was.
As for retirement, Andy and his wife, Innes, have no plans for putting their feet up. With their small-holding on the edge of Exmoor and its menagerie of animals, their house in the south of France and the many grandchildren that occupy their days, it’s just not an option.