Fernhill Travel Ltd was started in August 1979 by Frank Holgate from the family address in Fernhill Close, Bracknell, from where the company took its name. Frank and Val had moved to Bracknell in the 60’s as Bracknell attracted families from West London with it’s ‘New town’ status and incentives.
Frank worked as a lathe turner locally and it was during the early 1970’s and the enforced three-day week that Frank started working part time for Coombes Mini-coaches, and along with his passion for all things mechanical this sowed the seeds for the years ahead.
Within a few years Frank had decided that factory life was no longer for him and when the opportunity arose to start his own business, he grasped it with both hands. The company started with a Ford transit mini-bus with a second added within a short time, the first full size coach arrived in 1983 and the fleet was up to four in 1985 with a second full size coach being added.
The company had a few operational centres during the early years, but these were mostly on the Longshot Industrial estate which is where the bulk of todays fleet are kept to this day. It was around the mid-eighties that Martin Holgate began working for his Dad and by the early 1990’s Richard had joined the team along with the boy’s sister Suzanne and the operation was truly a family business.
The ‘office’ was now alongside the coaches in Longshot Lane and the company passed from ‘sole trader’ to a ‘partnership’. Frank, Richard and Martin were now partners and as the Millennium approached the company made a policy to regularly upgrade its vehicles with brand new vehicles being purchased where possible.
The company grew steadily through the years with new vehicles added when needed, the main focus of the business was home to school contracts with a mixture of school and corporate private hire work filling the days and weekends.
In 2016 Richard and Martin joined forces with Simon Rowland and purchased White Bus of Winkfield. White Bus undertake broadly the same style of work as Fernhill and had worked closely together in the past, both companies sit under the parent company, The Rowgate Group.
The fleet is now at sixteen vehicles, modern with an updated livery which sit proudly beside the White Bus fleet across two sites. The bulk of the fleet are in Bracknell with the remaining bus fleet stationed at North Street Garage, Winkfield, where all mechanical work is carried out and the office staff are housed. The Rowgate Group is now one of the largest bus and coach operators in Berkshire and the surrounding area with a combined fleet of around fifty employing some seventy staff at the time of writing.