Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Our 2012 brochure is out...

You'll find an even greater choice of holiday cottages in east Devon, Dartmoor, South Hams and Cornwall for 2012. The number of places carrying our top 4½ or 5 star rating has also risen, reflecting our holidaymakers' demand for high quality places to stay.

The new brochure (our 30th!) is packed with more than 560 holiday homes throughout the West Country, ranging from romantic retreats for two up to big country houses sleeping a maximum of 48 guests; prices are from £167 to £6,440 per week. The portfolio also includes several Dorset cottages within easy reach of Weymouth for the 2012 Games sailing events.

Q10, SeaDrift, Mawgan Porth
We've continued to see high levels of enquiries from both holidaymakers and home owners. Our General Manager, Moray Bowater, comments, “People booking holidays this year have been seeking value, but are happy to pay a good price for top properties and high standards of service. We believe our quality/price ratio is a major factor and are confident that the market will continue to grow at this level.”

Now in our 30th year, we estimate nearly two million people have stayed in our properties. “We are grateful to everyone who gave us their trust in our early days and the many who have continued to holiday with us almost every year,” continues Moray Bowater.

E20, Stonedge Cottage, Bath
All of our holiday homes are regularly inspected and star rated by our team so we can advise you honestly through first-hand experience and help you find just the right place for a happy holiday.

30 of our holiday homes carry a top 5 star rating, whilst 55 have 4½ stars; 80 have use of a heated swimming pool, some have private moorings or fishing rights; others are on working farms and most have stunning views across countryside or out to sea. Many are within ambling distance of the beach or local pub, and over half welcome pets. We also have some exceptionally plush, big and beautiful places - 73 sleep ten or more and many can organise catering and maid service. Something for everyone!

For a free copy of our 2012 brochure, call on 01647 433593, order or download a copy online or email help@helpfulholidays.com. Every property in our brochure is also featured on our website.

View a list of all the new properties in our 2012 brochure.

Happy browsing!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

October foodie heaven...

The West Country is renowned for its abundant, tasty produce and is home to many celebrated chefs.

Next month is bursting with mouth-watering foodie events, so what better time for an autumn break?

We've selected a few to whet your appetite...
Mitch Tonks

Exmoor Food Festival 30th September to 9th October  

Boscastle Festival 1st to 2nd October

Celebration of Food 1st to 31st October
  
Falmouth Oyster Festival 13th to 16th October

Dartmouth Food Festival 21st to 23rd October

We've some fabulous holiday cottages still available during October where you can enjoy your tasty treats or perhaps experiment with your own culinary creations?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Get away for October half-term…

If you’re hankering after a relaxing break at half-term, it’s not too late. We’ve still some super cottages left, and as you’d expect they’re all good places for happy holidays. Don’t delay though, we recommend you book now to avoid missing out on your favourite cottage.

There are lots of family friendly attractions in the South West and they’ll all be geared up for lots of fun activities to keep your kids entertained. Here are some ideas…

The Dairy is a detached, neat and comfy single-storey cottage on the edge of Hawkchurch, where Dorset meets Devon. Situated in Wyld Court, home to a striking Elizabethan manor house, it’s surrounded by acres of peaceful, rolling countryside with pretty villages and stunning coast nearby. The cottage has its own private enclosed outside space, plus shared use of a games room with a pool table, darts and table tennis. The friendly owners, who live in the manor house along the drive, are happy for you to help with the feeding of their many family pets (ducks, chickens, cats, dogs) and miniature Shetland ponies and goats that reside in fields around the cottages. Nearby places to visit include Pecorama, Forde Abbey and the Donkey Sanctuary. There are also plenty of fossils to discover along the Jurassic Coast.

Safe Haven is a welcoming 200-year-old, end-of-terrace stone/cob house in the heart of the pretty boat building and fishing village of Appledore. As well as lovely, long views over the Taw and Torridge estuary, the cottage boasts a super, sunny, enclosed garden with a summer house and a play fort. The big sandy beach at Westward Ho! provides energetic youngsters with plenty of space or perhaps enjoy a leisurely family bike ride along the Tarka Cycle Trail? Nearby places to visit include The Big Sheep, Exmoor Zoo and Hartland Abbey.

Kings Corner is a pretty, Grade II listed, thatched cottage in the off-the-beaten-track little village of Kingston, just a mile from the river Erme’s beautiful wooded estuary. Nearby places to visit include Pennywell Farm, Woodlands Leisure Park and the National Marine Aquarium. There are also fine sandy beaches at Bigbury-on-Sea – children will love walking out to Burgh Island at low tide or trying out some watersports.

Treworgie is a handsome detached house with Georgian origins, wonderfully tucked away on a 140 acre dairy and sheep farm 1¼ miles from Manaccan. The accommodation is a self-contained part of the family home, and you’re welcome to watch the milking activities on the farm. There’s also a very large first-floor games barn with lots of toys, table tennis, air hockey and table football. Nearby places to visit include the Seal Sanctuary, National Maritime Museum and Pendennis Castle.

Browse through our holiday cottages available for half term and use our ‘Explore the Area’ map to find places to visit near your favourite holiday cottage.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Get classical at the Two Moors Festival…

The Two Moors Festival is the South West’s most prestigious classical music festival. Made up of 30 concerts and talks held across eleven towns and villages on Dartmoor and Exmoor, the ever-expanding festival runs each October and attracts BBC Radio 3 broadcasts and many keen concert-goers from outside the area.

The concerts, which run from 13th to 22nd October, feature a variety of both established global performers and young, local musicians. The festival’s patron is HRH Sophie, The Countess of Wessex, and past performers have included Julian Lloyd Webber.

Ksenija Sidorova
We’re supporting the festival through a part sponsorship of one of the events - a celebrity recital in Widecombe-in-the-Moor on Monday 17th October at 7.30pm. The recital comprises Mozart Adagio and Rondo, Stravinsky Concertino, Schnittke Revis Fairy Tale, Nunn Escape Velocity and Astor Piazzolla Tango Sensations performed by accordian player Ksenija Sidorova and the Solstice String Quartet. Tickets are £16.

The aim of the festival is very much to support the local community and expand musical culture in the South West. Festival-goers and visitors to the region inject much needed out-of-season funds into the local economy, while revenue raised by the concerts helps the charity to continue its work beyond October. One of its goals is to introduce music to children in rural primary schools and since 2003, 38 schools and over 3000 children have benefited from music workshops.

The festival also operates an annual Young Musicians Platform competition, a unique opportunity for youngsters aged 18 and under who live or go to school in the South West. Past winners include professional musicians, undergraduates at major universities and those studying at recognised conservatoires. The festival headquarters on Exmoor also offer young professional musicians a much needed haven to rehearse throughout the year.

If you decide to visit the festival while you’re in the West Country, do let us know what you saw and how much you enjoyed it!

Need somewhere to stay? Take a look at our holiday cottages in Dartmoor and holiday cottages in Exmoor.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Fishing in the West Country...

If you’re a keen angler, you’ll know that fishing can be a tremendously enjoyable pastime whilst on holiday. The West Country boasts many rivers, streams, watercourses and water impoundments, ideal for fishing for salmon, sea trout, brown trout, grayling and coarse fish.

The West Country Angling Passport provides two easy ways to go fishing – a token scheme which provides flexible access to many miles of wild, uncharted waters, or a booking office where you can reserve fishing on more established main river beats.

The Passport initiative was started to provide access to a considerable undeveloped fishing resource on many farms and properties within Cornwall and Devon. By facilitating the sustainable development of this resource, the Trust aims to provide farmers and landowners with an economic incentive to protect and enhance the rivers, streams and lakes of the West Country.

The Passport is not-for-profit and this means the money anglers pay to go fishing goes straight back to the fishery owners and then the Trust in turn helps the owners invest their revenue back into the fishery. In effect, simply by going fishing on the Passport waters, anglers are helping to protect and improve the West Country’s fisheries.

There are some fantastic areas to choose from – for example the Duchy of Cornwall fishing on Dartmoor. The East and West Dart rivers and their tributaries provide some of the best salmon and trout fishing in the UK – there are over 25kms of river to be explored.

Hiring a guide (or ghillie) can really make all the difference between catching fish and drawing a blank, especially if you’re a novice. Depending on where you’re staying or want to go fishing, give one of the guides listed here a call and have a chat about what you want to get out of your day’s fishing. 

Near to the pretty village of Lustleigh, nestling into the eastern edge of Dartmoor you’ll find Stable Corner, a much praised and appreciated cottage (one of four we let on this 35 acre farm). You’re just one mile from attractive trout and pike fishing reservoirs – also ideal for walks and birdwatching.

Further afield, anglers can try their luck at catching salmon, trout, perch, roach and bream on the Exeter Ship Canal and River Exe.

Just ½ mile from the old village of Millbrook and the big sandy beach at Whitsand Bay is Tregonhawke Farmhouse, a smashing home from home. Just 300 yards away there is a coarse fishing lake (carp, tench, roach, rudd, bream and perch – some as large as 25lbs!) with fishing free for residents. You’re also not far from coarse fishing lakes covered by Plymouth & District Coarse Angling Club with fish available including specimen carp, bream, chub, tench, perch, roach, rudd, gudgeon, orfe, dace and crucian carp.

Wherever you stay in the West Country, you won’t have to travel too far to go fishing, but for ease, take a look at these holiday cottages with private fishing included.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend…

In just a couple of days, the next MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend will be here!

Now in its 18th year, MCS Beachwatch is a coastal environmental initiative, involving thousands of volunteers who passionately care about their local coastline. The event  takes place every year, making it the most influential fight against marine litter in the UK.

The initiative is the only national volunteer beach clean-up and survey in the UK. Over the weekend of 18th and 19th of September 2010, 376 beaches were cleaned by 4,927 people who went to their local beach to make a big difference.

The Beachwatch events give MCS a better picture of just what washes up on our shores and when - plastic still makes up the majority. Plastics pose a great threat to marine wildlife because they can take thousands of years to fully break down.

The data collected is used for the annual MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend report – you can read the 2010 report here.

There are events all over the UK - find a Beachwatch beach in your area.

If you’d like to register for this event or take part in surveys throughout the year, please register now to take part.

MCS is our charity for 2011 and you can find a link to their Good Beach Guide on the property details page of each of our holiday cottages to see beaches within 20 miles.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Super September events…

Lovers of the West Country won’t be surprised to hear that this September is jam-packed with events across the region. We’ve focused on just a few with cottages to match…

Head for Plymouth city harbour from 10th to 18th September to see the F1 of yachting – the 34th America’s Cup. Take a look at this video to whet your appetite for what should be an extremely exciting and prestigious event:


There’s lots more to see in Plymouth - from the biggest fish tank in Europe at the National Marine Aquarium to the Barbican Leisure Park where you’ll be surrounded by history and many places to eat, drink and be entertained! Place to stay: You might get a good view from Eureka

TV-funnyman-turned-mandolin-player Adrian Edmondson and his punk-folk band The Bad Shepherds are a highlight at this year’s St. Ives September Festival, from 10th to 24th September. They were nominated for ‘Best Live Act’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2010 and you can see why here:


The festival is a great celebration of music and the arts and takes place around St Ives. As well as The Bad Shepherds, there may still be tickets left for Chris Barber, Barbara Dickinson, the Brodsky Quartet and many others. There’s also lots of free music on throughout the town. If news and current affairs is more your thing, you can attend a recording of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby on 9th September in the Guildhall. Place to stay: Escape the crowds at Trecam.

You don’t have to be a steam engine fanatic to enjoy the West Somerset Railway Autumn Steam Gala from 29th September to 2nd October. Puff along to Bishops Lydeard for some great sights including ‘Norton Manor’, ‘Prairie’ and a Heritage Freight Train. You’re welcome to have a look around the Works and see the Minehead Turntable in operation. You can catch up with all the latest news on the West Somerset Railway’s Facebook page. Place to stay: There’s a station near Chapel Cottage.

What’s the best type of walking festival? One that runs at the same time as a food festival of course! Those thoughtful folks from Exmoor are holding Exmoor Walking Festival from 30th September to 3rd October, and the Exmoor Food Festival from 30th September to 9th October. You can see the full walking festival programme of events here – a highlight is ‘The Inns and Outs of Trentishoe’ on 30th September, a varied walk which starts inland and climbs quickly to follow Heddon's Cleave with wonderful views across the valley and out to sea. The walk then follows the South West Coast Path
before turning back inland down a steep valley to return beside the Blackmoor Water. The food festival has a handy Google Map to help you triangulate your walks with the very best foodie experiences on offer. Place to stay: Plot your route from Jubilee House.

If you’re planning an autumn break, browse our holiday cottages available during September and October. You can check our ‘Explore the Area’ map on each property details page for more event ideas near your favourite cottage, or subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter to receive our pick of both major and quirky events for the month ahead.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Autumn holidays in the South Hams…

Do you like to travel in September or October? As summer turns to autumn, red and golden leaves begin to add a warm glow to the West Country countryside. With the evenings getting shorter and temperatures dipping slightly, what better excuse to dig out your comfy knits and gather together around an open fire after a fun-filled day out in the popular South Hams area.

At The Stables, a mile from Ermington, sheltered by trees on a hilltop with tremendous uninterrupted views to Dartmoor, you can see lovely sunsets – a perfect spot for relaxing after a long bracing walk along the glorious coast three miles away at the river Erme estuary. There’s a superb indoor heated swimming pool too, as well as a rustic woodburner to warm your toes.

Swallowsmeet, near Battisborough Cross, is surrounded by rolling farmland leading down to the open sea. This impressive, excellently converted, ‘upside down’ house has been cleverly designed to retain original features from its former function as a stone-built barn to Alston Manor Farm. Lovely exposed scissor-beams and comfy leather corner sofas in the superb, spacious open-plan living/dining/kitchen area make for delightful evenings in after days out exploring. A great base for visiting south Devon’s beautiful coastline, beaches and pretty villages.

On a quiet lane in Washbourne you’ll find Bridge Cottage, a pretty, detached stone cottage sympathetically renovated to a very high standard. Berry Pomeroy Castle and Dartmouth Castle both make ideal nearby places to visit, and on the way back you can pick up some award winning, classic English wines and cheeses from Sharpham Vineyard. The area is rich with foodie pubs and restaurants for delicious lunches and dinners.

Number 4 Garden Cottages, in the heart of Kingsbridge, is in a brilliant position for restaurants, caf├ęs and good pubs. You’ll enjoy walking up and down Kingsbridge high street, window shopping and ducking into quaint shops and galleries. Discover the many-creeked Kingsbridge estuary on a boat trip or head to the stunning beaches at nearby Salcombe and Bigbury-on-Sea for countless watersports.

Browse through our holiday cottages in the South Hams to find just the right place for a relaxing break in September or October.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Autumn walks in the West Country...

There are many different routes for walkers across the West Country, and happily many of our cottages are ideally located to step out of the front door and straight on to a walking trail.

The Mariner's Way, Dartmoor
For instance the Mariners' Way on Dartmoor is a favourite among walkers, part of an ancient trackway which runs from Bideford in north Devon to Dartmouth in south Devon, taking in breathtaking views across the moor. According to legend, seafarers used to land on the south coast of Devon and trek all the way up to ports on the north coast.

As the Mariner’s Way enters Dartmoor it passes Throwleigh, where nearby you’ll find Sampsons, a beautiful, Grade II listed, detached house, one of two barn conversions in a secluded and peaceful courtyard setting. This is a much loved home from home, well-equipped and handy for exploring the open moor – and the Mariner’s Way – just half a mile away.

A path on the National Trust's Godolphin Estate
Land owned by the National Trust is home to many spectacular walking routes and dog friendly Mazeys Cottage, in the tiny village of Germoe on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, is perfectly placed for lovely walks from the door up Tregoning Hill (with views to north and south coasts) and to the National Trust’s 555-acre Godolphin Estate. From around this wonderfully tranquil and comfortable cottage set on a 15 acre small holding there are fantastic panoramic views to the sea at Mounts Bay and the whole of this end of the peninsula.

Coastal walks are especially attractive in the region around the Slapton Sands Nature Reserve in the South Hams. Here you can join the South West Coast Path, 630miles of superb coastal walking. Deep in leafy lanes, 1½ miles north of Slapton in a sheltered wooded valley, you’ll find Cherry Cottage, one of three around a courtyard. It’s an ideal base for route-plotting and recuperation on a top notch walking holiday – your four legged friend is welcome too.

Lerryn
When moorland and coastal walks have been ticked off your list, you’ll appreciate the picturesque beauty of Lerryn Creek, halfway up the river Fowey estuary in Cornwall. It’s relatively unknown and unspoilt, surrounded by miles of wild, dense woodland and forest downstream with farmland and meadow upstream above its medieval bridge. Just 30 yards from the bridge is Mote Cottage, a smartly whitewashed, early 19th century end-of-terrace stone cottage. Careful restoration has preserved much of the cottage’s original charm with thick, knobbly walls, exposed beams and low ceilings – a charming, comfy place in a pretty location with lots to see and do nearby.

Has that inspired you to lace up those trusty walking boots ready for a trip to the West Country this autumn?

For more walking route ideas near your favourite holiday cottage, simply click on the ‘Walks’ link beneath the Explore the Area map on its details page on our website.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Enter the Soil Association Raffle and win a week’s holiday!

As a company based in the West Country, with our properties strewn across some of the most fantastic natural landscapes to be found in Britain, we share many ideals with the Soil Association, a membership charity campaigning for planet-friendly food and farming.

If you buy organic food at your supermarket, you’ll likely have spotted their logo – the Soil Association symbol is the UK's most recognised trademark for organic produce. When used on food packaging, it tells you that produce is certified to high organic standards and provides an assurance of organic authenticity.

The Hayloft, Kentisbeare
If organic living is important to you, you’ll be pleased to hear that this year, together with Maddocks Farm Organics, we’re supporting the Soil Association by providing part of the first prize for their Summer Raffle - a week’s holiday for 12 people at The Hayloft in Kentisbeare, east Devon. The winner will also receive £1,000 spending money - and there are super prizes for the runners up too.

The Hayloft, a very roomy and comfy house beautifully converted from a barn, is just over a mile from both Kentisbeare and Cullompton, in the middle of rolling farmland and on the edge of the Blackdown Hills. The property is located on a 5 acre organic smallholding (loads of fresh vegetables available), which you are welcome to walk, with lovely views across miles of countryside. We’ve had lots of positive feedback from people who’ve enjoyed happy holidays here.

Whether you’d like to enter the raffle yourself or sell tickets to raise extra donations, you’ll need to request your books of tickets by 12th September and return your entries by 29th September. The draw will be made on 30th September. So be quick and good luck!

You can find full competition details on the Soil Association website.

We’ve some other lovely holiday homes on organic farms or smallholdings. Take a look at Mallard Cottage (pictured left) in Poltimore, east Devon, a comfy cottage in the grounds of the owners' 60 acre organic farm which you are welcome to roam or Stickwick House on Dartmoor, a fine, Grade II listed, 18 century Georgian country house surrounded by lush farmland and a 50 acre organic farm. 

In the South Hams, you’ll find delightful Crannacombe Farmhouse on an 80 acre organic farm in the beautiful river Avon valley and excellent Blackthorn Barn near Kingsbridge on an organic 300 acre sheep/beef farm which you are welcome to wander. Or how about spacious Merryfield Farmhouse in St Cleer, south Cornwall, beside a 114 acre organic farm?

The Soil Association is the UK's leading environmental charity campaigning for sustainable, organic farming and championing human health. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.