Devon self catering accommodation, England
How Devon self catering accommodation, England makes a difference
We try to include sustainability in all our business decisions (and have won a good handful of awards to prove it). But your holiday accommodation is 'mainstream' - sandals and hair shirts are not required. A responsible holiday shouldn't mean giving up all the good things! Our ethos is simply sustainability and relaxed comfort, not consumption and 'luxury'.
Our grid-connected wind turbine and solar panels produce more power than our lodges, cottagte home and business use in a year, making staying at the Farm effectively carbon neutral (and if it's calm your electricity comes from a 100% renewable grid tariff). You can even recharge your electric car here.
All three lodges and Otter cottage have solar hot water (with immersion back up). Firewood for wood-burning stoves in Otter Cottage and Plovers Barrow cottage is from our own managed woodland. When we have to replace appliances, we always buy ‘A rated’ for energy efficiency. We buy recycled products wherever we can. In managing Plovers Barrow (from 2012) we're working towards the same high environmental standards as our own accommodation (but we're not quite there yet!).
This year we'll be opening our new very low-carbon lodge, built with straw bales, timber from a local woodland conservation project, rainwater harvesting, solar panels, solar hot water, passive solar heating (and a wood burner!) and as many eco-features as we can cram in. We'll be advertising it from around April and opening in the summer.
We ask you to join us in recycling paper, cardboard, glass, cans, drink cartons, and food-plastic, and putting all food waste in the biodigesters. We collect hazardous waste, like batteries, separately so they don’t end up in landfill sites. Your help already lets us keep nearly 80% of our waste out of landfill. Our ambition is 'nearly nothing to landfill' by 2015.
We will collect and return you to the bus or train station if you arrive at our Devon self catering accommodation without a car. We cycle ourselves, and have a fleet of reclaimed ‘farm bikes’ for you to borrow. We encourage car-free, walking and cycling holidays by offering itinerary suggestions, time tables and our local knowledge.
We like to put fresh flowers on the tables, but not ones with airmiles attached!
We took over the farm in October 2006, and use the revenue from the holiday cottages to manage the land for wildlife – so your stay makes a very real contribution to wildlife conservation in Devon.
We’re particularly privileged to own Popehouse Moor, 7 acres of Culm grassland. It’s designated as a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest', marking it out as one of the country's very best wildlife sites.
It is lightly grazed by cows in summer and sometimes burnt (or ‘swaled’) in winter. Several rare and locally important plants grow here, including Wavy St Johns-Wort, and a botanical survey in 2009 found 190 species of plant.
However, before our arrival the site endured a decade or so of neglect. To reverse this, we are cutting back encroaching brambles, opening up over-grown ponds and marshy areas, and regenerating old coppiced hazel stands. This is a long term and gradual process, now supported by the government's Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.
Our guests are welcome to explore, or just ask if you want a guide. We are developing better-marked paths and more interpretive information. We ask you not to take dogs into Popehouse Moor (we don’t take our own), and to leave flowers and dead wood for the bees and the minibeasts. Devon and Cornwall have lost a staggering 92% of their culm grassland since the 1900s, with 62% of sites and 48% of their total area disappearing between 1984 and 1991. We’ll be taking good care of this special place.
Elsewhere on the farm, the small fields are surrounded by hedgerows on traditional Devon banks. We’re slowly bringing themback into active management for birds and animals. Our land has a covenant that specifically bans intensive agriculture. We have nest boxes for barn owls, dormice and bats, as well as garden birds.
The business and beyond:
Our office is now almost entirely paper-free. Wherever possible we reuse paper, and when we can’t, we use recycled. Our environmental policy is on our website and in our visitor information packs, and we also have a green choices blog, where we record and assess the sustainability of our business decisions.
We promote other local businesses, and local things to do. When you shop in the village, eat at the pub, or order food from Fiona’s farm shop up the road, you’re helping the local economy. And if we don’t have availability for you we’ll try to recommend someone near Winkleigh who does.
All our own Devon self catering accommodation was built as holiday lets and there's no planning permission for year-round occupation. So staying at our farm boosts North Devon's economy without taking accommodation away from local people. Plovers Barrow does have residential permission, yet despite being available for letting was largely unoccupied before we took over its management.
Maggie is an elected Parish Councillor for Winkleigh and takes a strong interest in community sustainability issues, including helping run a green group and a plastics recycling scheme for our village. Ian has 25 years experience in sustainable tourism and is active in local 'greening networks' for tourism in Devon. In 2012 he was invited to join the board of the Devon Environmental Business Initiative.
We know that Devon is about more than just beautiful countryside to visit. It's about community too, and we always look for ways to boost local involvement. For example, when we re-shaped our largest pond, making it better for wildlife and introducing more wetland areas for birds, flowers and dragonflies, we gave the fish away to a local community angling club (with help from the Environment Agency). Fishing is now in the small pond!
Devon self catering accommodation, England