Friday, 25 May 2012

New holiday homes to help with your 2012 summer plans…

Still deciding where to holiday this summer?  Well, put the kettle on and get ready to be inspired!

We’ve just released our second 2012 colour supplement, adding another 26 self-catering cottages and country houses in coast and country locations to our portfolio - now 635-strong!

Waterside locations are bound to be top of the list now the sunny weather has arrived. If it’s a big family affair, how about J33, a large detached house for twelve peacefully situated on the bank of the Grand Western Canal in mid-Devon?

Or try L151, a stylish cottage for six tucked away on the water’s edge at Turnchapel, with views over bustling Plymouth harbour. There’s also P62, a smart bungalow sleeping six just 200 yards back from north Cornwall’s Widemouth Beach, and T12 is a pretty Grade II listed cottage for five within a mile of Praa Sands in far west Cornwall.

New places in countryside locations include E23 (pictured left), a pretty thatched cottage for four in the Somerset hamlet of Cricket Malherbie and G97, a retreat for two on the magnificent Cadhay estate in east Devon.

For a free copy of the new supplement and our main 2012 brochure, call us on 01647 433593; or search, check availability and book online at

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside!

Whether you like to stroll along the prom, lounge on the beach or have fun in the water, few of us can resist the draw of the coast. Here’s a selection of seaside sanctuaries for you to dip your toe into...

Marigold Cottage near Crantock is a devilishly good place to start. Legend has it the town was buried by sand for its sinfulness. With its pretty village setting including thatched houses, tea room, pub and splendid sandy beach plus Newquay’s surfing beaches nearby, this semi-detached converted barn is a charming Cornish temptation.

Exquisite Cawsand is a popular watersports and fishing destination. Use Trevarna as your base and you’ll have stunning views out to sea over Plymouth Sound from nearly all rooms of this impressive, Grade II listed, four-storey house. Recently renovated, it’s a thoroughly modern and comfortable holiday retreat, just a stone’s throw away from the beach and a mile from Whitsand Bay.

Salcombe is a yacht haven with creeks, sandy bays and waterside pubs. Stumbledown is at its heart, off a donkey-width lane; a neat studio apartment just right for two and a good value base in this popular town. Watch estuary life float by from the shore or hire a boat and find a secluded cove.

Keen to get away soon? Quirky Peelers Cottage – which had a former life as a police station and gaol – has June availability. Positioned in central Appledore, known for its boat building and fishing community, you can enjoy an ice cream and the pretty estuary views from the quayside or pop across the water to the beach at Instow for watersports.

For more ideas, take a look at our holiday homes within 5 miles of the coast in Devon and in Cornwall.  

Top photo credit: Podknox

Friday, 18 May 2012

What’s your favourite excuse to take a walk?

Often the best excuse to go for a walk is that there is something at the end of it, like a cosy country pub, or a spectacular view, or even just a welcoming bench!

We thought we’d look into some of the reasons people go for walks, and pick out some sights, stopping points and cottages along the way...

1. Stretch your legs
Sometimes you don’t want anything too strenuous, just something to gently remind your legs what they are there for! Try the circular route upriver from Lynmouth to Watersmeet and then to Rockford, then back along the river via Contisbury Common. Stroll back to The Dairy.

The Clock House
2. Climb to a high vantage point
Dunkery Beacon is Exmoor’s highest point (1,705 feet), and, if the weather is fair, boasts stunning views of the coast and mountains of South Wales. Come back down to earth at The Clock House.

3. Give the dog some exercise
A route from Seaton up river to Hessenford provides a welcome outing for man’s best friend. Stop for lunch in The Copley Arms, a beautiful 17th century coaching inn by the river Seaton in Hessenford (dogs on leads are welcome in the bar area) before heading back to base at 6 Lyme Mews.

Fiddlesticks Cottage
4. Take a physical challenge
The 18-mile Camel Trail runs between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow, and follows the route of the old railway line, winding alongside the spectacular Camel Estuary. The route comes to an end near the moorland village of Blisland. Tom, Dick and Harry are waiting in Blisland to welcome you.

5. Give your eyes a feast
You can gape at towering cliffs and stunning rock formations if you take a route from Lulworth Cove, past iconic Durdle Door and along the coastal path. Don’t forget your camera! Rest your eyelids at Fiddlesticks Cottage.

What’s your favourite excuse to take a walk?

Top photo credit: Namlhots

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Celebrating the stunning Fal River region…

One of Cornwall’s most popular destinations, with over 2 million visitors per year, the Fal River region stretches from Falmouth up to Truro and down to St Mawes. 26 beaches line the coast, and the Fal River boasts some of the UK’s most wonderful waterways.

There’s more than coastline though – it’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Area of Conservation. You’ll be charmed by the stunning scenery of the Roseland Peninsula, with miles of unspoilt walks and traffic-free cycle routes to get you deep amongst its boundless natural beauty.

Our own Adrian Innocent gets hands on at the Festival
One of the best times to visit has to be at the start of June, when the Fal River Festival offers an excellent opportunity to embrace the places, people, history, culture, sport and industry that are connected by this very Cornish river. This not-for-profit community festival comprises over 150 events varying from music and drama, the arts and heritage to gig racing, swimming, walking and lots more. Last year more than 100,000 people attended a range of different events, raising £75,000 for charity. We regularly sponsor this event and can heartily recommend it. If you feel like joining in, the Festival runs from Friday, 1st June  to Sunday, 10th June.

We now only have a handful of cottages available in the region during the festival.

In nearby St Mawes, Peel Cottage is a very comfortable and welcoming detached cottage just two minutes’ walk from the enclosed patio garden via lane or footpath to the waterfront, beaches and shops. Once there, this beautiful village situated at the end of the lovely Roseland Peninsula looks across to St Anthony Head and to Falmouth and the Helford River. Fancy popping over to Falmouth? Take one of Cornwall’s iconic boat trips and catch the St Mawes Ferry to Falmouth harbour.

Coppers is another well-located property within easy walking distance (300 yards) of St Mawes beaches and village centre. From the elegant and spacious interior of this comfortable, three-storey house you can enjoy far-reaching south-westerly coastal views over St Mawes River and Falmouth Bay. Both Peel Cottage and Coppers have a Wednesday changeover day which means you can miss the weekend traffic when travelling.

In the heart of Perranwell, in country lanes between Falmouth and Truro, Ancarva Cottage is a lovely semi-detached cottage with its own ‘secret’ garden by a stream. The private lawned garden with patio, perfect for al-fresco breakfast or a contemplative evening drink, is accessed by a short (50 yards) footpath beside the cottage. Another stunning ferry ride connects you to the Roseland Peninsula – established in 1888, the historic King Harry Ferry is one of only five chain ferries in England.

In addition to the Fal River Festival, we also sponsor the Fal Walking Festival in October. What better way to enjoy this very special area? A number of organised and self-guided walks take in some truly world-class scenery.

Top photo by Tim Green.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Farms For City Children - a week of muck and magic!

As you may know, Farms for City Children is our charity for 2012.

Founded by children’s author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare at Nethercott Farm in Devon in 1976, Farms for City Children has since seen 75,000 children aged 9 to 11 take part in its programmes. During the last school year (2010-2011), 2,843 children stayed for 7 days each.

We interviewed their chief executive, Helen Chaloner, to find out more…

Why is the charity so important for children?

Heavy lifting at Wick Court, Gloucestershire
“It’s a rounded experience which enables them to learn through doing.  Children work together in teams and are immersed in a completely different environment for seven days - deep in the countryside, with stars in the night sky.”

“They learn the farming way of life, which is round the clock and far removed from their daily lives of TV, mobile phones and computers – they get none of that on our farms. They don’t need it, and we find that they don’t miss it. They interact with each other, sit down to meals together and support each other.”

“The children learn things linked with the National Curriculum, like maths, science, biology and history, and they also learn about themselves – recognising that they are people and citizens. By looking after animals they become responsible for another living being. Non-academic kids get the chance to shine and develop their leadership qualities.”

So what does a typical stay on the farm involve?

Lambing at Treginnis Iraf, Pembrokeshire
“Children come as a class with their teachers, and are provided with a carefully constructed list of jobs throughout their stay. They start work early, at 7:30am, and they could be in the dairy for milking and mucking out, or helping with a stock check of sheep, collecting eggs or mucking out donkeys, pigs and hens.”

“They get a cooked breakfast every day at 9am – something warm and hearty like bacon and eggs, pancakes or porridge. Then it’s off to do another job at 9:45am. They get some free time from 11:30 until the main meal of the day at 12:30pm. They eat very well - the farms have big kitchen gardens, so children always have fresh vegetables and meat. Most food is from farm to plate – which gives children a real appreciation of where food comes from.”

“Another job in the afternoon is followed by a light tea and then a final job at 6pm. It’s a busy day – closely following our learning by doing philosophy. The children actually love mud and rain and dirt and wind, and are physically worn out as they muck in together. We have lots of good role models on the farm to influence the children.”

But it’s not all hard work?

Donkey Walks at Nethercott, Devon
“Not at all. In the evening, children are treated to cocoa and cake and spend time with their teachers, taking part in talent shows, storytelling, reading in the library, or playing table football and ping pong. Once a week the children work with local artists and craftsmen, who come in and spend an afternoon teaching them skills likewillow weaving, making charcoal, carving and wire sculpture. We let the children experience using tools, making sure they do it properly and carefully.”

Tell us about your illustrious founder and the early days?

“Michael Morpurgo used to read to the children a lot, and the poet Ted Hughes was involved early on with his wife, Carol. Illustrator Quentin Blake was another who has worked with us, to help bring out the creative streak in children – you’ll see his lovely illustrations all over our website and in our marketing material.”

“Michael is still a trustee, an actively involved board member and a high-profile ambassador for the charity. We’re also incredibly lucky and honoured to have Princess Anne as our patron.”

Has the formula changed much over the years?

More Donkey Walks at Nethercott
“Not really. The model has lasted incredibly well. We experimented with different lengths of stay and group sizes early on, and found that a seven day stay, Friday to Friday, works best. We’ve moved with the times to incorporate healthy eating and   physical exercise, providing an alternative to convenience foods, obesity and sedentary TV lifestyles.”

And what plans for the future?

“We’re looking for a fourth farm in the north of England. Our existing farms have been fully booked for three years now, so there is a need for expansion. We’ve been talking to the National Trust and there are a few possibilities but nothing concrete yet. We have time to plan and wait for the right one.”

So who qualifies to come on a farm stay and how does it get organised?

“We prioritise our marketing at schools from inner cities and disadvantaged areas, but children can come from any town or city, any urban environment. Children always come with their school, so they should contact the farm they wish to visit for availability. We’re open all year round, and often winter is just as good as summer - what it lacks in sunshine it more than makes up for in terms of farm activities and events and all the animals are kept in their barns, so there is much more opportunity for interaction.”

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