Responsible tourism: West Sussex farmstay B&B, England
The barn itself is a Grade II listed 17th century Sussex barn and there was very little that we wanted to do to it regarding the way it looked. We didnít change anything on the outside of the building other than a few windows, and replaced the barn doors with glass ones. We began by restoring the barn and then we renovated the inside. We kept everything from the building in storage so that it could be re-used at a later date if needed. For instance the roof was coming off, so we had to replace many of the tiles, and re-used the ones we had in storage.
Our intention is to make the barn entirely self-sufficient. Currently the whole building is heated with under floor heating that comes from a ground source heat pump; this also heats all of the water at the barn. There are huge trenches dug in our fields about a meter down, with big tubes containing a mixture of brine and water. The tubes extract heat from the ground, even when it is cold, and this goes through a pump that converts it into the under floor heating and hot water, with the use of electricity. For every 1kw of electricity used by the pump, we get out 4kw. We are hoping to install a solar PV system so that the 1kw of electricity needed for the conversion is coming from the sun, making the whole process completely self-sufficient. We were also very aware that a building needs to be very well insulated for under floor heating to be effective, and since we started the renovation from scratch we were able to include this into our design.
Being on a farm in the middle of the countryside we have wildlife everywhere; rabbits, badgers, deer, foxes and birds. We have a resident owl that is often sitting on the gatepost when we arrive home; it doesnít fly away, merely looks at us wondering what we are doing here. It was once spotted by some guests in the middle of the driveway just sitting there. There are more birds out in the land and on the lakes and ponds youíll find ducks, geese and moor hens. The wildlife here lives in harmony with us and we donít do anything to deter it. We also have provided bat boxes around the farm.
We provide breakfast and have a dining room serving 4 course dinners, as well as selling our organic meat; almost entirely all of the ingredients are produced on site. We have our own hens for eggs and rear organic beef, pork and lamb; weíve even got our own butcher. The orchards provide fruit, as do the hedgerows where it grows naturally. We grow vegetables on our land and anything extra we need we source from the local area.
Where we are situated at the top of the South Downs National Park feels very remote, but we are only 2 miles from the centre of Haslemere and just under an hour from London by train. However, public transport here is not great so you can either go to Haslemere station and jump in a taxi, or arrive by car and bring your bikes.
One of the ways we are linked to the local community is via a Haslemere community group whom we have donated some of our land to. They have used this plot for market garden production to grow their vegetables; almost like a private allotment. In return for the land, we get given some of the produce, which is what we use for ingredients in our meals.
The local primary school has also been a great link to the community for us. As a school they are very interested in the great outdoors and what it has to offer. The children are often out on the common looking at wildlife and they grow their own vegetables. We are involved with them in a number of ways, from donating pumpkin and potato seeds for them to grow, to brining them to the farm at various points during the year to see how the animals develop over the seasons. They already have a lot of knowledge and it is great to be able to show them how an organic farm works.
Local fundraising events and charities often ask us for one off donations of prizes or sponsorship, to which we oblige. At the moment a gentleman is raising money for Chase Hospice by living solely off the land for a whole month. We are providing our woods as the land for his month long challenge and sponsoring him as well.
Being on the Sussex and Surrey boarder and just a few miles from Hampshire means there are three counties to explore. In this area there are 3 or 4 excellent pubs within a 20 minutes drive that we would recommend and can point you in the right direction of. Then you can venture out into landscape and visit Cowdray Park in Midhurst or Goodwood Racecourse for racing, polo or a wealth of other activities. Estates and gardens abound in all three of the counties as well; Petworth House and Park, Arundel Castle, The Weald and Downland Museum, Ramster Garden and many more are there for wonderful day trips.
There are beautiful trails out across the farm; you can walk on the flat and past the lakes, or a minute from the farm gate is a footpath that will take you up to Blackdown. Blackdown is the highest hill in Susex; it was one of the first pieces of land to be given to the National Trust and is covered in purple heather, wavy grass and pine trees. The views from the top are truly magnificent; you can see all three counties in a 360į panorama. From there you can walk for miles in all directions through unspoilt land. There are footpaths everywhere that all link up with each other and we have walking maps that guests can use to find their way. We also have lots of woodland on our land, covered in beautiful bluebells that is perfect for a lovely walk as well.
As you drive up the driveway into the farm, just up the hill overlooking the land is Lord Tennysonís house; he was one of the great British poets during the Victorian times. It is a truly lovely stone building that gets bathed in the morning sun and looks quite remarkable. Supposedly he came to visit the area rather a lot and liked it so much he decided to build himself a holiday home here. Later this became his main residence, and there is a statue of him in the garden.