A Shropshire hotel has been presented with a pair of prestigious awards in recognition of its efforts in support of an ambitious sustainable development programme.

The four-star Mercure Shrewsbury Albrighton Hall Hotel and Spa, which is managed by Focus Hotel Management, finished runner-up in the Accor European Planet 21’s Best Rural Garden category – and has also proudly achieved Planet 21 Platinum status.

The awards were presented to the hotel by Cristina De Oliveira-Frewen, Senior Vice President of Franchise Operations for AccorHotels, Northern Europe.

It meant a welcome return to familiar territory for Cristina, who was general manager at Albrighton Hall between February 2009 and January 2011.

The current General Manager, Jennifer Sibbald Wall, said it was a pleasure to welcome Cristina back, and a huge honour to win the awards.

She said: “Most of the awards went to major hotels on the continent, so we were thrilled to be recognised in this way; the team here is passionate about supporting Accor’s Planet 21 goals.

“The Planet 21 strategy has four levels, depending upon which criteria you meet. When I arrived here four years ago, Albrighton Hall was at bronze level.

“We have now been advised that we have reached the top level, platinum, which we are absolutely delighted about.”

The Planet 21 programme demonstrates the Accor’s ambitious goals for 2020, based around four strategic priorities: work with its employees, involve its customers, innovate with its partners and work with local communities.

The programme identifies two key issues to tackle, food and buildings.

The Albrighton team has made great efforts to ensure that when it says the food on its menu is locally sourced, it really means local.

The hotel team planted a 24-tree orchard, the produce from which enables Albrighton to produce its own jam, chutney and compote, to help make the hotel partly self-sufficient.

Jennifer said: “We had a rockery outside one of our main event rooms, which we turned into a herb garden, where we grow fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel, chives and many more which our chef uses and all our salad items are also grown here at the hotel. We also use freshly-grown mint in our drinks.

“The orchard and herb garden are popular topics of conversation among our guests, who seem delighted when they learn that we grow our own herbs and produce.

“We have also had successful talks with a local beekeeper, with the result that we have just introduced some hives on site, in order to produce our own honey.”

Cristina said: “It has been a huge pleasure for me to present these awards to the Albrighton Hall Hotel and Spa, not only because they recognise the remarkable work that has been done to achieve the accolades but because, on a personal level, I enjoyed two wonderful years as General Manager here myself.

“Being here has brought a lot of happy memories back to me, and I was delighted and proud to have this opportunity to return for such a prestigious occasion.

“I look forward – and will watch with great personal interest – to seeing what Jennifer and her team do next to build upon this deserved success and continue the work towards greater sustainability.”

Albrighton Hall Hotel and Spa, which is just three miles from Shrewsbury town centre, has an 18th century manor house set in 15 acres of grounds.

In addition to the food it grows, there are two woodland walks, in which branches and logs were used to create homes for the likes of hedgehogs, field mice, the protected hazel mouse, and birds, as well as areas for insects.

An island has been created within the ornamental lake, to provide a sanctuary for ducks, moor hens and other birds.

There are also a number of troughs in which the hotel grows bay leaves and lavender, which are used to make scented bags for its suites.

Jennifer added: “We are delighted with what we have achieved, but we have no intention of slowing down and resting on any laurels.

“We are already working on further environmental ideas for 2020 and hope to become even more sustainable in line with the Accor Planet 21 objectives.”

Focus Hotel Management is a leading independent hospitality management company with a portfolio of 15 hotels open, under development and in planning, totalling 1,597 bedrooms.