Alton luxury B&B Hampshire, South Downs, England

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Alton luxury B&B Hampshire, South Downs, England

Environment

My family has occupied the farm since 1942 and, since the demise of agriculture in this country, we have devoted ourselves to encouraging all species of wildlife whilst maintaining the upkeep of the estate with alternative enterprises.

We are home to an amazing number of different birds and have the second largest Sand Martin colony in the south. Our guests are most welcome to freely walk our grounds As a Country House Hotel, we are committed to the environment through various methods and policies which we try to implement every day. One of the most important of these for both our guests and the environment is our 'Fresh food only' policy. This entails only using fresh ingredients in any of the food that we give to guests, nothing prepared or packaged will be served at any time if at all possible.

Where we can, we try to provide as much of the food from the grounds of the property. We use eggs from our own chickens, lambs from a neighbour and occasionally we are treated to beef from our own cattle and rhubarb from the garden, though preferably not together! One of the rather different conservation strategies that we have is the bee keeping. I have quite a few bee hives in the grounds which we have managed to start farming and we get some delicious honey from them, something our guests love to try when we have it. Most other produce is bought from our neighbours at 'Country Market' which is a market gardening business and next door to us.

We try to conserve water using two methods. Primarily, we treat our own dirty water on site and in addition we have a well and use this supply together with rainwater when watering the extensive gardens and plants. Another area in which we help the environment is in recycling, the idea here is to recycle everything. Whether it be plastic, glass, cardboard or cans nothing goes in the normal waste if it can be recycled. This is extended as far as food waste. Rather than serve everyone huge portions of food we try to create less waste by having the food placed in the centre of the table; everyone has as much of what they would like and we almost never see leftovers come back to the kitchen. This also starts a good conversation with other guests and we always have interesting and eclectic group of people staying with us.

Community

Ours is a people business working at five star level but we have not lost sight of our roots and have an attitude of 'where there's a will there's a way'. A positive guest experience is everything and we go the extra mile to ensure this happens every time. When we have events such as weddings, dinner parties etc. we always source the extra team members locally, from caterers to florists, photographers to taxi drivers, manicurists to hairdressers. This business couldn't run without the team and we are proud to have such diligent and hardworking staff who mean everything to us.

We are always happy to recommend local shops and businesses and would rather pass on the guest to another local accommodation provider than lose their visit to the area if we are full. There are also many local restaurants and pubs serving fresh food to tempt you. Should you choose to eat out, wherever your tastebuds want to take you I can point you in the right direction. Within the local area there are lots of cultural attractions for any guests to visit whilst staying with us. One of the most popular is the famous house lived in by Jane Austen which is in nearby Chawton, now a museum and a recommendation for anyone who enjoys English literature. We are happy to help you plan your day.

Landscape

The building is located in a rural setting within 185 acres of grounds just within the South Downs National Park at the North Hampshire end. We have a mix of heavy clay and sandy soils in the surrounding area which can literally change from one to another in a footstep. The hotel is on what is called the mixed farmland and woodland vale landscape character type. This means gently undulating landforms underlain by mudstones and sandstones with water logged clay soils supporting mixed farmland and deciduous woodland copses dominated by oak, hazel and ash woodland. It is a largely medieval landscape of isolated farmsteads set within irregular fields some with the original medieval assarts.

We have planted many native trees and allow all the hedges bar those around the house to grow completely wild to enhance bird life and species. I have also 'laid hedges' when in need to regenerate them.

There are any number of walks that we can recommend one of my personal favourites is to the local village of Arford where there is a lovely pub 'The Crown' serving local food and real ales. For those who wish to enjoy our facilities and not go too far, we have a bar licence so you can have a relaxing drink and read if you prefer. The famous Alice Holt forest is within walking distance where whole days can be spent doing treetop walks or guided walking tours taking in the wildlife and learning about the ecosystem. There are also the well known Saxon archaeological sites at Weald and Downland Open air museum showing how life was in Saxon times with at least fifty houses built in that style on show. All of these cultural and natural attractions, when combined with the natural setting of the South Downs, create a wonderful setting. Birdworld and the Watercress Railway Line are also on our doorstep. Our position allows for an incomparable way for you to experience the South Downs, in an area that is 'beneath the radar', but in the same way that we do, but without the work!

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