Tuesday, 28 April 2015


We like to live up to our name at Helpful Holidays and that’s why each year we put together a glossy brochure for our customers to help make their holidays as enjoyable as possible. As always, this year’s issue contains in depth information and tips on how you can make the most of your holiday whilst staying at one of our cottages.

Our  “What shall we do today?” 2015 guide includes a collection of impartial recommendations about some of the best things to do whilst visiting  the West Country. This helps you tailor your holiday to your own tastes and needs, such as those travelling with  young children,  adventurous travellers who wish to pack their holiday itinerary full of activities or older couples seeking more relaxed options for their leisure time.

Our ever-popular top 10 lists are updated annually to ensure that we inform visitors of  the most up-to-date and exciting opportunities. Using our local knowledge, we’ve  compiled lists of the top 10 walks, beaches, places to eat, gardens and houses, attractions for children and West Country Wonders. The latter includes such delights as the appropriately named Eden, as well as picture-perfect Cornish villages and locations made famous through our literary and cultural heritage.

Farmers Markets are some of the most authentic and enjoyable days out in the West Country and we’ve compiled a list with dates and times when the more interesting ones are held, including those in Falmouth, Penzance and Dorchester. These markets provide a fun-filled way to mingle with local people and get a taster of the best local produce fresh from the farm.

Sun and beach worshippers will love our list of award-winning beaches, which include details on those that are marked with the prestigious Blue Flag and those with official RNLI lifeguards. Foodies can scan our list of award-winning as well as value-for-money pubs and restaurants, while holidaymakers who love a good hike can choose from the range of short and long routes. These are all divided up into regions for ease of reference.

Our month-by-month special events calendar will ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the West Country festivities, which include jazz festivals, craft fairs, regattas, surfing championships and oyster festivals. The region is also home to some of the most beautiful and enjoyable Christmas festivities in the UK.

And that’s not all. In the true spirit of keeping your holidays hassle-free, we’ve secured some fabulous discounts for you. Our brochure contains vouchers with discounts on admission prices for many attractions, as well as savings on activities such as watersports, bicycle and surfboard hire and even offers of free tea and cake!

There’s a lot of fun to be had in the West Country and we’ve done the research for you. All you have to do is gather family and friends together and leaf through our brochure to plan the holiday of your dreams.

Monday, 27 April 2015

New brochure packed full of welcoming holiday cottages…

 Helpful Holidays Supplement 2, 2015
Helpful Holidays - Supplement 2, 2015

Our latest colour supplement, featuring 24 welcoming holiday cottages spread right across the region from the far west of Cornwall to Somerset, is now available. 

If you’re planning to escape for a break in the West Country over the coming months and would like a copy, call us on 01647 433593 or email us and we’ll pop a copy in the post.  Alternatively you can browse the supplement online on our brochure page. 

The new holiday homes, sleeping from two to 13 people, extend our portfolio to over 760 places for happy holidays.  

Buster Barn
Prices start from £269 for a low season week at Buster Barn, a detached barn for two in Sampford Spiney with long views over Dartmoor; and at the other end of the pricing scale, Bight Boathouse, a spacious holiday home for 11 set high above the riverbank in Dartmouth with stunning views along the river Dart and out to sea, is priced from £1,244 per week rising to £3,116 in the high season. Pets are welcome at most of the new cottages in the supplement.

 Other highlights include:

On the edge of Bere Alston, a large, lively village not far from Morwellham Quay on the river Tamar, you’ll find 4 Bedford Villas a handsome Victorian villa sleeping eight with long views over the village and the river from the huge bay windows to the front of the house. 

You can really experience a touch of history at 1 The Brass Bolt Shop, a newly converted, Grade ll listed cottage accommodating four in the grounds of Perran Iron Foundry in Perranarworthal, a fascinating World Heritage Site at the head of Restronguet Creek, set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  

You’re handily placed for the sandy beach at Porthcothan, as well as Treyarnon Bay and oh-so-spectacular Bedruthan Steps, at Dormouse Cottage, a south-facing Georgian cott
Dormouse Cottage
age for six in the thoroughly Cornish hamlet of Penrose – also handy for the excellent restaurants in Padstow. 

Everyone taking a break with Helpful Holidays will receive a free ‘What shall we do today?’ booklet containing over 80 money saving vouchers for use at a huge range of leading visitor attractions throughout the West Country. 

It also gives information on local farmers’ markets plus recommendations for the best beaches, coast and country walks, places to eat and quirky events.  

Monday, 13 April 2015

Lifelong memories from Farms for City Children

Readers of this blog will know that Farms for City Children is our charity for 2015. The charity, founded by children’s author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare at Nethercott Farm in Devon in 1976, gives children from urban areas the chance to spend a week living and working on a real farm in the heart of the countryside.

The charity has many fans - namely the thousands (70,000 to be exact!) of children who have benefited from this fantastic experience over the years. Of course the vast majority are now adults, but the memories remain crystal clear, as this testimonial from 40 year old 
David, from Omaha, NE. USA shows:

I am now 40 years old, but when I was 10 and 11 years old, back in 1978 and 1979, I visited Nethercott Farm as a pupil from Chivenor Primary Schoool on Castle Vale in NE Birmingham. The farm school manager was a Mr Morpurgo – I will never forget that name!

To this very day, I have a very vivid and delightful memories of my two week-long visits to Nethercott. I remember watching a sheep being born, ‘mucking-out’ the cow shippen and collecting Kale in freezing cold weather. Wonderful!

I was from a very poor, single parent family; we lived on Castle Vale, a poor, depressed housing estate in NE Birmingham. My wonderful and profound experiences are forever set in my memory. 

I wanted to write to you just to encourage you that the children who visit Nethercott are changed forever; I will never forget my delightful visits and I talk about them to my wife to this day and will talk about them to my children as they grow older.

I now live in Omaha, Nebraska, which is a million miles away from Nethercott and the little village of Iddesleigh, yet, my experiences and all that I learned at Nethercott are still with me today. Keep up the great work! 

Or how about this, from 33 year old Lisa, now a nurse:
I came to Nethercott 22 years ago when I was 11 during my four years at Castle Vale’s Pegasus School in Birmingham. My father’s business had gone bankrupt and we were forced to move from our home into a high rise block of flats on a notoriously poor council estate. The school was great and I remember it for two reasons; the teaching staff encouraging the children to be creative and to realise their potential and the stay at Nethercott Farm.

I wanted you to know the impact my stay with you had on me. There are images, memories and smells that will stay with me forever. Whilst we were there a calf was born and you called it Pegasus after our school.

This trip to Nethercott really promoted my independence. It was the first time I’d had to look after myself.

A couple of years ago I drove my partner nearly mad saying that I wanted to find Nethercott and he drove me around Devon until we found it! Just driving by brought the memories flooding back.

Please keep up the fantastic work. I’m sure you know just how valuable this resource is to Inner City Children but we all deserve to have a pat on the back now and again and to know that what we do really makes a difference.

And finally, this from 36-year-old Claire:

I visited and worked on the farm for a week at a time between 1984 to 1986. I'm 36 now and often talk about my experience to whomever will listen, from visiting the dairy (wheelbarrows full of cow pats), feeding the skin head gang (sheep), tractor rides, grooming and cleaning the stable and my absolute favourite was feeding the calves, I still remember the smell of the sweet milk and putting our hand in their mouth to help them digest. 

These were and will remain the best three weeks over three years of my life.

I would like to thank them for opening their home and hearts to so many of us over the years. I am now a police officer working for the MET just outside London. For me this would not have been possible without the guidance and life experience that I received from Michael.

We hope you'll help us spread the word about this wonderful charity and the excellent work it does. If you’d like to make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/helpfulholidays at any time or you can also make a contribution when you book a holiday through Helpful Holidays.

To find out more visit www.farmsforcitychildren.org. You can also find them on Twitter and on Facebook.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Best of British Cottages with the BBC series "Poldark" Part Two

The Cornish mining heritage is something that is held dear to many local people with a history that spans the centuries. This theme runs throughout the Poldark series, often expressed in the conflict and contrast between the lower and upper classes. The early episodes of the series cover the time when mines are being closed down with hundreds of miners being forced out of work, after which Ross Poldark opts to open his own mine.

Although the Perran Foundry at Perranarworthal was not used on set, this is a really significant Tullimaar House, a 19th-century parish that was once the home of award-winning novelist Sir William Golding. Within a valley of the village sits The Brass Bolt Shop – a grade II listed cottage in a residential development of homes newly converted from the Foundry. The romantic cottage is located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has easy access to the award-winning pub and farm shop in the local village.

The Brass Bolt Shop 
Although the Perran Foundry at Perranarworthal was not used on set, this is a really significant historical site that has been awarded World Heritage status. Between 1791 and 1879 and during the Industrial Revolution, it was an extremely important location for invention, milling, casting, forging and pattern-making. The village of Perranarworthal is situated between Falmouth and Truro, close to some of Cornwall’s most spectacular sights. It contains a number of interesting historical buildings, including the

A mining location that was used in the Poldark series was the underground Levant Mine – a National Trust property in Trewellard, a small village on the north coast road. Helpful Holidays has a number of properties in the wider area, including a four-bedroom, semi-detached 18th century cottage Trecam in the village of Pendeen. The cottage is decorated in contemporary style and boasts a great location within easy reach of classic pubs, hiking opportunities along the cliff coast and spectacular beaches.

Land’s End is one of the most well known parts of Cornwall, and some scenes for Poldark were filmed in Porthgwarra, a lovely fishing hamlet. Its secluded beaches and great surfing opportunities are around 90 minutes’ walk from Lands End along the coastal path. The tiny coastal village of Mousehole is home to The Queach – a stone and slate cottage with expansive sea views. The village is just one mile from Penzance and also features a compact outdoor terrace.

The Queach
While the vast majority of the Poldark shooting took place in Cornwall, there were also some scenes filmed in Prior Park in Bath. Just four miles outside the centre of the city you’ll find Week Farm, which can only be described as a truly spectacular home. A sweeping, tree-lined drive introduces the Georgian country estate, which sits in 98 acres of private grounds and features a 12-person outdoor hot tub, games room, family suite, library and kitchen with a 16-seater dining table. The formal living room perfectly showcases the property’s unique design concept that blends original period detail with a luxurious modern finish. Original stone stairs, flagstone flooring and oak beams play out alongside hardwood and granite units and mod cons. The surroundings are just as wonderful, with the pretty village of Combe Hay just moments away and the city of Bath with its elegant history and natural thermal springs within easy reach.

Week Farm

Friday, 3 April 2015

Dorset's Myths and Legends

Corfe Castle (photo by Seb Perrotin)
The county of Dorset is steeped in history, and with history come myths and legends - stories of fairies and witches that will delight the kids and dark tales of torture and betrayal that will have the adults in the family enthralled.  

Here are just a few of the places and landmarks you should visit during your holiday in Devon if you want to immerse yourself in the local folklore.

The Cerne Abbas Giant

This ancient chalk hill figure is one of the largest in Great Britain, measuring 180 feet in height. It is also the most controversial, thanks to its rather obvious male parts.

There are a number of theories as to when and why it was created. The most widely believed explanation is that it is a depiction of Hercules and was carved from the chalk bedrock during the reign of the Emperor Commodus, who believed he was a reincarnation of the mythical hero.

Local legend has it that sleeping on the phallus of the so-called 'Rude Man' can cure a person of infertility. Rather interestingly, figures show that women in North Dorset have the highest birth rates in the country, with an average of three children each.

Corfe Castle

The ruins of this 6,000-year-old castle on the Isle of Purbeck are the ideal place for ghost hunters and history buffs, as it is brimming with tales of treachery, treason and mysterious apparitions.

Its most famous ghostly resident is the Woman in White, who appears headless in a white nightgown and is said to haunt the castle's boundaries. She is thought to be the spirit of a young lady who betrayed the castle to Oliver Cromwell's troops during the English Civil War.

Corfe Castle is also the location where, in 978, King Edward was assassinated on the orders of his stepmother so that her own son could ascend to the throne.

St Catherine's Chapel

This 14th century chapel, which sits on a hill overlooking Abbotsbury Abbey, was built by monks as a place of pilgrimage and retreat. It should be high on any visitor's list of places to see thanks to its fantastic views alone. But there's more to it than the scenery.

Until the late 19th century it was common for young women to go to the chapel to seek the help of St Catherine, the patron saint of virgins, in finding a husband. They would put their hands and knees in the holes in the south doorway and say a prayer.

Tyneham Village

While there are no reports of ghostly goings on in Tyneham, this Dorset village definitely has a spooky air about it, having been completely deserted for more than 70 years.

It was evacuated in 1943 during the Second World War, with locals given 28 days to leave so that the area could be used to train soldiers. They hoped one day to return, but sadly this never happened and today only the empty buildings remain.

In the school room you'll find a fascinating display, in which the days of the 1920s have been painstakingly recreated. There are open school books and names above the clothes pegs. It's almost as if the children left the building just minutes ago.ADNFCR-1734-ID-801772472-ADNFCR

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Best of British Cottages with the BBC Series "Poldark": Part One

The eight-part series Poldark has been another smash hit for the BBC, with the eight-part series currently halfway through its run. It is based on the first two novels in the historical series written by Winston Graham, which is set in the late 18th-century.

One of the most striking features of the series has been the gorgeous backdrops and filming locations. With the story set in a colourful historical era in the depths of Cornwall, the Cornish landscapes have beautifully enhanced the drama as the story unfolds.

The village of St Agnes and the seaside resort of Perranporth on the north Cornish coast are two of the locations used in the series. The former is a large village with a wealth of history that was also the home of Poldark’s author Winston Graham. The St Agnes Heritage Coast is a protected area with an abundance of wildlife while the surrounding area includes many archaeological sites.

Hayne Cottage
Helpful Holidays has a number of quaint English cottages to rent in the area, including a gorgeous detached cottage Hayne Cottage in the hamlet of Rose, just a mile away from Perranporth. The area offers the opportunity to play golf and go pony trekking. Alternatively, you can walk down to Perranporth over natural sand dunes and go surfing on the famous Cornish waves. The cottage includes a spacious private garden with a picnic table and barbecue, as well all mod cons and space for up to six guests. Original details including a large woodburner, narrow beams and staircases, which give the cosy cottage a real sense of character.

Many of Poldark’s scenes were filmed in and around Helston – a town and civil parish 12 miles east of Penzance. The small market town is famous for being the most southerly town in the UK, and its picturesque town centre is and quintessentially British - home to stone sculpted buildings and traditional pubs. As the second oldest town in Cornwall, the most narrow of the ancient streets are just large enough to fit a wheelbarrow! The town is a hub of activity year-round, with weekly markets, a boating lake, bespoke shopping and an assortment of quaint restaurants and teahouses. The colourful Flora Day celebrations to welcome the spring season take place every May and see the town covered in flowers and foliage.

Withy Barn
Just outside Helston, in the hamlet of Coverack Bridges, there is a lovely place to stay. A former 19th century barn, the three-bedroom home has been converted into a modern, smart cottage Withy Barn , close to Helston’s theme park and swimming pool, as well as the seal sanctuary at Gweek and the lagoon at Loe Pool. The cottage itself features an expansive garden above the banks of the River Cober and the local area is a lovely place to hike and enjoy Cornwall’s coastline. The Gunwalloe Church Cove near Helston was another filming location for Poldark and its sandy beaches, views and attractive pub are within easy reach of the property.

Hallowarren Barn
Keen Poldark viewers may recognise Lizard  Point – a National Trust location on the southern tip of the Lizard Peninsula that has been featured in the series. This beautiful sight is located just outside Landewednack, a sleepy hamlet within Lizard Village that is home to a picturesque parish church made from local serpentine stone. Helpful Holidays has two cottages in Manaccan – a pretty village further up the peninsula and nine miles from Helston. One of the cottages Hallowarren Barn is truly beautiful and like something out of a fairytale. Converted from an 18th century barn, it features original detail including low lintels, knobbly walls and beams. The property overlooks acres of award-winning gardens and woodland, while the beach at St Anthony-in-Meneage is just a mile away and you can hire a boat for a day trip.

Poldark tells the story of title character, Ross Poldark, who returns to the Cornish tin mines after serving time in the army. The Helston & Poldark Mine in Trenear is one of Cornwall’s most important heritage sites and was once a location of significant industrial activity. This mine features in the Poldark series and you can find Tregwynne in the nearby area of Rinsey Cove. The hamlet of Rinsey features a series of granite cottages, and this semi-detached 19th-century home is situated just minutes from the coast path and the beach. It features a large conservatory, warm atmosphere and gorgeous views in an enviable Cornish location.