Friday, 27 January 2012

Half term fun in the West Country...

We had good fun this week asking our Facebook fans what they were looking forward to during half-term week. The answers ranged from quieter roads to not having to make packed lunches!

Most, of course, are looking forward to spending time with their children or grandchildren. If you’re thinking of spending half-term in the beautiful West Country, there are plenty of attractions and special events to appeal to all the family – here are a few suggestions…

Pennywell Farm
Pennywell Farm in south Devon is opening its doors for another season this half- term. It’s time to snuggle up to the baby animals, race the ferrets, and, new this year, you can visit the Pennywell Miniature Pony Centre where pint-size ponies are waiting to be fussed over and groomed! Pennywell was recently awarded Visitor Attraction of the Year in the Visit Devon Awards – and well deserved too. Cuddle up at A67.

If your children love making models or even just flying paper planes, why not join 2,000 visitors, clubs and traders in Yeovilton for the Fleet Air Arm Museum Model Show on February 11th? The highlight will be a radio controlled flying display by the award winning British Model Flying Association. Take flight back to D2

Animated Exeter
From 11th to 19th February, Animated Exeter aims to excite and inspire young people, encourage and foster talent and showcase high quality animation. With over  100 animated films and lots of workshops, exhibitions and events, there’s plenty to get stuck in to. Draw your cartoons at A158.

There’s still time to get your skates on at the Eden Project’s magical ice rink in Cornwall. Watch the kids enjoy special fun-packed skating sessions tailored to their age and experience, and then off to explore the gardens and biomes! The rink is open until the end of February. Speedskate from R35.

Use our website to search for all our holiday cottages available for half term, or specifically search for holiday cottages in Devon or holiday cottages in Cornwall  - and don’t forget to use our Explore the Area map to find family-friendly attractions and events close to your favourite cottage.

We hope you, and your children, have a fantastic half-term.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Horsing around on Dartmoor…

Image courtesy of Babeny Stables
“Descending from White Hill on a summer evening with the sun going down behind Steeperton Tor, down to Taw Marsh riding a sun-bronzed Chester and then galloping the whole stretch to the River Taw, dodging cattle and sheep and springing over gullies and rocks until we stop, at last, in the cool water.”

That’s how our Help Desk Manager, David Hall, a keen rider, recalls one of his memorable outings on Dartmoor. 

It’s easy to spend hours, indeed days, exploring the moor. And now there’s the added pull to the south-western slopes of Dartmoor where scenes from Steven Spielberg’s film of Michael Morpurgo’s renowned novel, War Horse, were shot, predominantly around Meavy and Sheepstor.

We’ve over 90 excellent holiday cottages on Dartmoor and we’re lucky to have a number of places to stay near the film locations:

300 yards from the Royal Oak pub (where many of the film crew regularly lunched) in the pretty hamlet of Meavy, the quaint Acorn Cottage was totally refurbished in 2011 and features quiet, serene meadow and woodland views at the back; equally convenient for high moors or the town.

Just half a mile from Dousland, on a quiet lane and surrounded by a working farm, is The Old Byre, a smart, contemporary detached cottage next to the owners’ former farmhouse. Breakfast on fresh eggs from the farm’s free-range chickens, then head out for one of the Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Guided Walks around some of War Horse’s filming locations.

The Barn, Yelverton, is a beautifully converted, ‘upside down’, 17th century detached stone barn within extensive grounds and gardens. Walking and cycling are great ways to immerse yourself in the landscape but perhaps you’ll be inspired by the film to experience Dartmoor on horseback? There are lots of opportunities to ride on Dartmoor

Dartmoor is a fascinating place to visit at any time of year, so we hope you’ll come and create your own magical memories – and perhaps capture your favourite landscape scenes on film? We’d love to see your photos, so feel free to post them on our Facebook wall.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Helpful Holidays supports Farms for City Children…

We’re lucky enough to live and work in glorious Devon and many of our customers enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life to spend time in the beautiful West Country. We sincerely believe just being in the countryside is good for you. With that in mind, Helpful Holidays has again chosen to support Farms for City Children as its charity of the year. 

Farms for City Children was founded by children’s author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare at Nethercott Farm in Devon in 1976. 

The charity’s aim is to enrich the lives of children from urban areas, who may not know where their food comes from and have limited opportunities to get up close to animals, by giving them the chance to spend a week living and working on a real farm in the heart of the countryside. 

It’s an intense, ‘learning through doing’ experience of a different life and 75,000 children have taken part since it started.

The charity now has three working farms, including Nethercott, a huge Victorian manor house with beautiful grounds and amazing views towards Dartmoor. Whilst very full during term time, its house (sleeps 48) is available to our holidaymakers in the school holidays.

The three farms offer a warm, friendly environment, plentiful home cooking and comfortable accommodation, including classroom, library, quiet room and games room. 

The jobs on the farm are rotated so that everyone gets at least two goes at  activities such as feeding livestock, mucking out, grooming horses and donkeys, assisting at milking time and tending the kitchen gardens – as well as more seasonal tasks like apple-pressing and lambing! The children learn about the food chain, caring for animals and the land and the importance of teamwork; the overall experience has a heart-warming impact on their self-esteem and outlook on life.

You may have heard a lot about Michael Morpurgo recently - his book ‘War Horse’ has been the inspiration for both a successful West End play and a soon-to-be-released film directed by Steven Spielberg (filmed in part on Dartmoor). 
Morpurgo describes his own inspiration for the story when a young boy with a stammer visited Nethercott in 1978, and befriended a horse on the farm:
“He was talking to the horse, one to one, about what he had done on the farm that day. No stutter – words flowing out of him. I summoned his teachers and we hid in the vegetable garden to watch them. I was very, very moved. 
"The boy wasn't being judged or mocked. He trusted this creature. The horse wasn't understanding, but was listening. She knew she must not move away. She must stand there – because that is what friends do."

We hope you'll help us spread the word about this wonderful charity and the excellent work it does. We'll keep you updated on news from the farms and our fundraising efforts during 2012. 

If you’d like to make a donation, visit at any time or you can also make a contribution when you book a holiday through Helpful Holidays.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Our big houses are expanding!

If you’ve just enjoyed celebrating Christmas or New Year away on holiday, or have perhaps felt a little cramped at home this year, you may already be thinking ahead to some elbow room for Christmas or New Year 2012 – and now is just the right time, as our big houses are much-loved and get booked up months in advance!

We now have 80 holiday homes that sleep 10 or more people, including these three superb houses that have joined us in just the last couple of weeks...

Trevarna is an impressive, Grade II listed, four-storey house in Cawsand, an exquisite fishing village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The house stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its neighbours along the lane through the village, all keeping watch over Cawsand Bay and, as a result, offers the most stunning views out to sea over Plymouth Sound from nearly all rooms.

Recently renovated from top to bottom, the house has been totally transformed from its 19th century origins and is now the smartest of seaside homes, made thoroughly modern and comfortable by thoughtful owners as their own family holiday retreat. With extensive decked areas outside for al fresco dining and entertaining, plus plenty of room indoors, much thought has gone into making this a great place for gatherings and family holidays. Sleeps 12.

In the small village of Combe Raleigh, in the Blackdown Hills 1½ miles north of Honiton, Abbots is a handsome, 1780s, Grade II listed house, once the centre of the 3,000 acre Combe Raleigh estate. This big, three-storey, family home, warm and well-equipped with all the modern comforts of the 21st century boasts a good-sized, enclosed garden with large level lawn and lovely rural views over fields beyond.

Families will love it here: for young children there’s a well-equipped play area with swings, sandpit, play fort and trampoline, and for supervised/older children, a terrific campfire area with rustic log seating - ideal for toasting marshmallows and storytelling around the fire. There’s lots to do inside too: a half-sized snooker table, a Bechstein grand piano and a formal dining room with table seating 12 comfortably (16 with less elbow-room!) make this an excellent, roomy, comfortable home, ideal for gatherings and well located for exploring. Sleeps 16.

Situated just ½ mile from the immense sandy beach at Westward Ho!, Seadrift is a beautiful, light, semi-detached Victorian villa with panoramic views to the sea. The house has a wonderfully big living room that can be divided and made snug, and fantastic views from a bay window. You’ll also get those views (amazing at any time of year) from the dining room, and upstairs bedrooms come with sea views to Lundy Island on a clear day. 

This is a splendid, comfortable family house in a really easy location – good for sea-bird-watching, golf, fishing, riding, spectacular kitesurfing or for days out exploring nearby villages such as Clovelly and Appledore. Sleeps 10.

Our large houses are of course perfect for special occasions and get-togethers at any time of year, whether for birthdays and anniversaries or just some quality time with friends and family. You can download our Big Houses mini brochure or browse all of our big houses on our website.
Think big for 2012!