Responsible tourism: Petersfield luxury cottage, South Downs, England
Being farmers the natural environment is of particular importance to us. We recognize that some agri-practices are not sustainable and can ultimately have a detrimental effect on the natural world. As a result we have endeavoured to revolutionize our environmental initiatives (in-line with the changes we have had to make with our type of farming). Fortunately, our efforts have been rewarded as our funding applications have been accepted. Initially we were awarded ELS (Entry Level Stewardship) so we could fulfill the authority’s basic criteria. These included hedgerow management, creating buffer strips and providing wild bird cover. We were later awarded Higher Level Stewardship funding so we could plan more complex environment adjustments. Our efforts have seen the farm become visitation sites for various birds, and a recent RSPB Survey found Yellow Hammers and the endangered Lapwing, Starling, Cuckoo,Song Thrush and Red Kite. The latter can be seen circling our ancient Barrow Hill looking for prey. The name Ramsdean means Valley of Wild Garlic in old English and we do a lot of work to protect the ancient woodland on the Farm where Wild Garlic thrives and is also the home of stunning Bluebells in late Spring.
With the environment and sustainability in mind, we have installed a ground source heat pump to heat and provide hot water and under floor heating for our Cottages. This means pipes are underground sourcing natural heat to use in the cottages. For each unit of electricity we use to power the house, the heat pump generates this to three units. We also provide wood sourced from the farm for the woodburners in the living rooms and we have a tank which collects rainwater from the roofs and then the water is used on the garden.
Ramsdean is a small hamlet but our community extends to neighbouring hamlets, including East Meon and Stroud, which are both only a mile away. Our guests always want to know where the nearest pubs are and we point them in the direction of the The George in East Meon where we ourselves enjoy the food and ‘old world’ atmosphere. That is not to say that the Isaac doesn’t deserve a visit. Not only can our visitors enjoy wonderful walking, but we are only 3 miles from the beautiful Market Town of Petersfield, which has a lot to offer those who enjoy cultural events and history. We provide local magazines with information on community events. For instance, this weekend in April, to fundraise for the victims of the terrible tsunami, a classically-trained Japanese pianist is performing in the historic Norman Church of St. Peters. Rather than use names such as The Old Dairy or the Stables we have named our cottages after field names on the farm thereby helping to preserve names that are probably hundreds of years old.
Our Farm takes its name (Barrow Hill Farm) form an ancient Bronze Age Burial Barrow, which enjoys spectacular views for miles and is the home for badgers and our endangered Red Kite. It has recently been seen on TV in an advert featuring Jamie Oliver and is a well known local feature.
Our help from Natural England as meant our diversification to less intensive farming has enabled our business and immediate surroundings to blend seamlessly with the South Downs natural landscape. Already we have many paths that lead from the Downs onto the farm and out again and we want the passage way through this glorious pocket of the English countryside to be enjoyed. By putting our farming expertise into environment land management we have developed different areas of the farm that replicate the natural landscape. Once cultivated land as being returned to its original meadow state, while the planting of native trees and shrubbery encourages the pollination of the plants and development of wildlife. Under the deeply shaded canopies insects and fungi thrive in a very different eco-system to the sunny clearings and glades. Here we find stinking hellebores (which are renowned for their good-pollinating effects because their pungent aroma is particularly attractive to bees and insects). In turn, these have stimulated some orchid species, and the tall nettled leafed bellflower. At times the fields are awash with flicking and waving butterflies, one of which we have identified as the grizzled skipper (emblematic of chalk down lands).