Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Following my recent blog in which I bemoaned the modern condition of ‘Being Sooo Busy”- the words “busy lives” being used by everyone, repeated again and again in the media like a mantra so that it has, I believe, become a kind of affirmation. We say it and hear it so much that we believe it must be true and if everyone is saying it then we all must unquestionably be it and if we’re not then we must surely be some sort of loser or slacker.


Perhaps it’s just me but I think this is not sitting well with a lot of people. I think some of us might be saying “Um hang on – is this really necessary? – must I travel as fast as possible to my grave?” Some of us might, without even knowing it, be physically uncomfortable with this modern way of living and becoming ill or depressed as we move further away from our instinctive roots and natural habitats.


But it is a hard habit to kick. Even those of us who grew up happily making our own entertainment with Barbie and Action Man will now turn needlessly regularly to our smart phones to check on the latest communication from outside. I will quite normally watch television, read a magazine and keep an eye on my email and twitter accounts of an evening. To not do so feels, well a bit isolating, uncaring and even unprofessional somehow. It seems just one occupation of an evening is not sufficient any more.


But I am tired and I might often have a headache and though I know that constantly doing stuff without rest is not good for me, if I stop briefly it is such an odd sensation of inaction that I am not sure I like it. William and I went on a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads a while ago and I well remember the strange feeling of coming to an absolute halt. All we had to do for the next week was steer a very slow moving boat. We were forced to slow down and we loved it.


I live in a pretty little valley with a bit of woodland and meadow and a brook and our unruly but heartfelt garden. I am lucky. I spend a lot of time outside and every day I have enough time, if I take it, to stop and lean on a tree and just be in my space for five minutes. It is enough to check back in with myself, reconnect with my place, the season and what is happening around me.


My friend Penny and I, thinking along these same lines, have come up with the idea of offering other people this same ‘reconnection’ opportunity. We’ve teamed up with Jackie Thorne and Kayte Thompson-Dixon who specialise in Dru Yoga (a gentle form of yoga that anyone can do) and Mindfulness (also something we can all do but need reminding how) I’m looking forward to learning more about both of these disciplines. We will be running four Reconnection weekends a year – one in each season….A time for folk to simply get back in touch with nature and themselves.


This is of course something anyone can do at any time of their choosing in their locality but it seems fewer and fewer people actually do it and moreover don’t realise how much better they can feel if they did. Using simple mind and body exercises combined with beautiful surroundings and hospitality, we hope we can help people slow down and get back in touch with themselves and their natural environment. Quite simply to experience their own Reconnection.


Our first weekend will be 1st to 3rd February. There will be log fires and candles, gentle music and good food, a cosy kitchen for friendly chat & laughter and plenty of private corners for solitary reflection. I hope it will be a magical weekend of peace and reconnection for the busy, hardworking, preoccupied, utterly exhausted folk of this land! Come along whether you can spare the time or not!  You will be very welcome.

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xx Happy Christmas xxsarahcontact

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

I’m on a roll

There’s quite a lot happening in my life at the moment. Well quite a lot happening in my head anyway. I’m on a roll. My little book is at the printers and about to become a real beautiful touchy feely thing. In the meantime people are actually buying and reading it on kindle and even more wonderful they write and tell me they like it too! I suppose there may be some people that have bought it and don’t like it but at least they are polite enough to keep quiet J

It’s funny how self-publishing is kind of embarrassing – like you simply will not be told you have written a load of rubbish and stubbornly forge ahead anyway. I had some nice feedback from the agent Darley Anderson and the publishers Frances Lincoln but neither wanted to take it on – it is in no way a bestseller. But now I am so glad that I’ve gone it alone because my whole heart and soul is in this book and I feel happier – safer really– having it quietly available to people who want or need to find it. It will remain something special and personal but to be shared with the right special people.

From the book came the idea to set up The Honeysuckle Trust a charity that intends to provide gardening breaks for people coping with bereavement or depression. And from the creation of the charity came the idea of offering Ecotherapy Weekends here for absolutely anyone who wants to come.

In the meantime, I have been helping a friend set up the Herefordshire Horticultural Hub and meeting all sorts of fabulous horticultural types that aren’t at all haughty-culturals. I think many friendships will be made through the Hub.

It feels as though life has been patiently waiting for me to open the right door and it is now welcoming me in and ushering me through to meet more exciting ideas and even more wonderful new people who appear to be in the same room. Synchronicity is happening all over the place!

But possibly the most exciting thing is that I have discovered a new way to instantly improve areas of the garden. I did this while standing in the Blue Garden trying to find some blue. I renamed it The Square Garden. It instantly improved no end! I think this is something that might work elsewhere. The wiggly borders could become the floppy beds. The spring garden could become the snowdrop patch. Like I said, I’m on a roll.

Anyway, lots of good things happening but life will undoubtedly chuck a spanner or two at me soon enough, And lo – I have just remembered that I put some mushrooms on the stove when I started typing this. Burnt mushrooms for supper then.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A little piece about a little peace

What busy lives we all have. We all know that and we're always being told that too. It seems to be accepted that modern life is to be lived at as fast a pace as possible, keeping in touch with as many people as possible, networking, sharing, liking, blogging, following and being pinteresting simultaneously twenty four seven. But I can't do it. I am a failure! What a relief to admit it! I think for me, it is just too much of a conflict with the life I have chosen to live, given the absence of children. A country life of gardening and housekeeping, welcoming guests, having a moment or two to chat to visitors, looking after our animals and caretaking our little piece of England. It sounds like a simple life doesn't it - so why isn't it? I suppose because running a successful B&B and holiday cottages and now having a garden people appear to like to visit, we have created more and more work for ourselves. Being a success is great and we don't mind the work either, but something has to give and it's not going to be the business or the garden so it has to be blog? So, is this just a long-winded excuse for not having blogged for so long? Maybe, but it is also a heartfelt plea for a little peace in life. There are so many blogs that I would love to read, so many people I would enjoy chatting with on Twitter and no doubt all sorts of cool things I am missing out on on pinterest, but for now I would just like some peace and quiet please. All those virtual voices can be quite deafening sometimes. Is it OK to pick these things up and put them down again when it suits you? Or does that make me amateur, not really playing the game properly? Does anyone even notice if I don't contribute for a while? OK so enough excuses for the gap between blogs.... Sadly my desire for calm has even affected simple pleasures like visiting gardens. I find myself irritated if I can't go around a garden in a logical way, taking in all that is to be seen and instead have to double back or go in and out of garden rooms the same way. And mazes! Surely life is complicated enough without people going around making mazes. I'm not the only one that's after some silence. Yesterday morning about 4am I heard a tiny little bird voice start his morning song, followed by another sharper older? tweet. It was very much as though mother had said "Not yet you fool, go back to sleep" And there was silence again for a while. Maybe I've become so obsessed with making a relaxed and peaceful country retreat here that I can't see the good in a faster more varied way of life. Maybe in fact I am just becoming very very boring. Perhaps I'd better ask my Twitter friends which it is ........

Monday, 9 April 2012

All Hands On Deck


So it’s all happening down here on the farm. Not lambing like the proper farm over the road who now have their lambs bouncing about in the field opposite our kitchen windows (poor little unsuspecting mites) – but we are busy spring cleaning, repainting and creating new bits of the place for visitors (and us) to enjoy this year.

I returned from Australia in mid March where I spent time with my downunder family and felt very loved, did some lone bushwalking and felt very intrepid, and did some abseiling in the Blue Mountains and felt quite sick. I also spent two weeks as a workawayer at a fabulous house near a beach north of Sydney. As a workawayer I got my bed and board free with my own room and balcony overlooking the ocean, in exchange for a morning’s work, so after a few hours cleaning each day I was able to laze around on the beach watching the surfers in the afternoons. One day, as I contemplated my return to the UK, it occurred to me that I could do with a workawayer myself so I signed up to the website and fairly quickly found a willing volunteer.

Heiko has been with us nearly three weeks now and has been a great success. Not only is he a good worker, he has been great company, his English is near perfect (he is German), he has a lovely sense of humour and an interest in, and encyclopaedic knowledge of, everything. He has cleaned all the windows and repainted the front window frames of the main house a lovely dark blue (I get the fun bit of choosing the colour, he does the painting which is marvellous) He’s repainted the front of the Hen House weatherboarding as well as the windows and doors. He has scrubbed all the algae off the picket fence, dug out a new path that runs alongside the brook and shifted four tons of soil and four tons of gravel in preparation for the garden for the newly converted Hoppickers House.

When I was in Oz my friend Margaret came to stay to look after the animals and while she was here she drew up the perfect design for the new Hoppickers garden – splitting an awkward area into three different raised beds. By the time I got back Willy had installed the old wooden sleepers and the garden was already taking shape and he’d also built the raised beds for the herb garden that I had asked for before I left.

The Hoppickers itself has been transformed in my absence from old travelling hoppickers quarters and latterly pig pens, to a really beautiful holiday cottage by our wonderful builder Tony Whitney. Everyone who has seen it so far has gasped at how lovely it is – and I haven’t even done all my pretty bits and pieces yet! Tony has a feel for these places and totally gets my desire not to over-smarten it, though he will step in and say “No Sarah that is not lovely and old, it is just rubbish and falling apart.” He now just needs to finish the fireplace for us and then we can get the woodburner in and start letting it at the beginning of May, although it is so nice in there I am seriously considering moving in myself and letting the main house as a holiday let. However, this may cause problems with B&B guests expecting self-caterers to share their beds and make them breakfast so I guess I will have to stay put for now.

Heiko’s wife Hannah has now joined us for the Easter holidays. She is studying fine art at Newcastle University so for her bed and board she is doing some painting for me and creating a builder’s mark in the Hoppickers to commemorate the year it was rebuilt and who ‘fecit’ it.

So, all in all, great progress has and is being made and I’m feeling very lucky to be surrounded by such helpful and talented people. Delegation is a wonderful thing.

(You can contact me if you would like more info about the workaway organisation or if you need a good garden designer or a builder!)

Here is a pic of Heiko and the new brook path he has made.


Here is a pic of Hannah’s builder’s mark on the stairs incorporating the Olympic rings


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A short note to the Pet-Sitter

Guests are often interested to learn about my many animals so I thought I’d share my short note to the Pet-Sitter who is looking after them all while I am away in Australia visiting my brother this February…..She should be fine shouldn’t she?

Dear Maggy,

Just a quick note to explain who is who. It really is simplicity itself…

Firstly my beloved dogs Harry and Dixter. Dixter is the friendliest easiest going dog you are every likely to meet though sometimes a little embarrassed by too much cuddling. On the other hand if you are not paying him enough attention he will chase his tail until you tell him he is the cleverest dog in the world.

Harry is gorgeous but getting on – he is now 14 so really very old. If you translate that into human years he would be saying “I’m 98 you know” to anyone who was listening - or not. Which reminds me he is also deaf so there is very little point in calling for him. The trick is to catch his eye and do an exaggerated beckon with your arm and hand Barbarba Woodhouse style.

The dogs have a walk in the morning and the evening just around our bit of land. Harry is too rickety to go further and Dixie is just happy to be with you and Harry. If there is some distance between you and Harry, Dixie will stand somewhere between the two of you, not wanting to leave either one. Loyal little dog.

The sheep are Soays and are the easiest of all the animals to deal with….simply give them something to eat in the morning and evening and check they are alive. There should be three.

The hens are pretty easy too. There are five. They are fed in the morning and evening and roam freely around the place in between. Their stable needs to be cleaned out once a week which is not such a bad job as it might be so long as they are getting their Bokashi mash which miraculously prevents a horrid stink.

The donkeys are bundles of gorgeousness. Don’t be afraid of them – just pretend they are large dogs ( but don’t feed them meat or let them off the lead) Alfie the grey is the more inquisitive of the two and likes to push the boundaries a bit. Sometimes he will rush up to looking decidedly menacing with his head down and ears back. You must stand your ground and he will skid to a halt right next to you, his ears will come forward and he will know you are not in the slightest bit affected by his silly sabre rattling. Talking to the donkeys is a good way of making them relax around you and convinces them nothing scary is about to happen to them. Truly if you treat them as you would a dog you will be well away.

Queenie is the quieter of the two, personality-wise, though she is the only one who can bray properly noisily. (Alfie is still learning and sounds like a teenage boy whose voice is just breaking- his bray is very sweet and funny.) Queenie is the boss of the two and she can give Alfie a really hard time when she is in season. You will know if she is in season by the way she snips at Alfie and generally looks pissed off. Neither of them have ever hurt me but I do take a little more care around Queenie when she is like this. Standing too long behind her back legs would simply be asking for trouble. If either of them bites or kicks you (which they won’t I am certain) you must not waste time writhing around on the floor in pain, but return a swift boot to the bum (or whatever bit of you can easiest reach whatever bit of them ) within three seconds of the attack. After three seconds they won’t associate the two things and just think you are horrid. Shouting loudly works just as well with bad behaviour so if you find you cannot rise to return the thump, do make sure you yell at them.

The donks get fed morning and night, go out in the field during the day and come into the barn at night. This is the most pleasurable part for me – seeing them bedding down happily in their straw, munching on their hay in a nice big dry barn. They will come to the gate to be taken in – don’t go and collect them from the top. They will take their time about it which can be frustrating if you have a million other things to do, but hopefully you will be in roughly the same state of mind as them – perfectly relaxed and not seeing what there is to hurry about. Alternatively you might decide that it is quite true that donkeys are indeed the stubbornest of animals. If they don’t come, go away and come back when they start yelling.

The barn needs mucking out every morning but I am doing a deep litter system which means you only need remove the poo and not the pee-soaked straw. There is a rather dubious idea that this creates extra warmth for them over the winter but I use it because I don’t have the time to completely muck out everything every day and prefer to put off the day in spring when the whole lot needs to come out. Lucky for you you will be well away by then.

So that only leaves the cats. Well, there’s just the thirteen of them.. Eleven are fed in the utility room but Twinkle (small black & white) and Holly (named because she was very prickly as a kitten but is a sweetie now) are fed in the barn.

Willow (tabby with white socks and bad breath) will welcome lots of cuddles. Dilly (tabby with only one eye) will also welcome cuddles and likes to nibble your fingers. Brookie (ginger and white) would love a cuddle but will probably be too shy to ask for one til the day before you leave.

The others will probably only come near you at feeding time in the utility room. Fast movements, noise and normal speech alarms them. Spotty is a tortoiseshell with an orange spot on her forehead, wide round eyes and a kink in the end of her tail. Scally cat is similar to Spotty smaller, thinner, shyer. Keep an eye on her as she is very shy and prone to illness so you need to be sure she is actually getting some food. Albie is the floppy pretty all over ginger, Smithy is the less pretty solid looking ginger. Albie has just discovered the delights of being stroked so you may have some luck making friends with him. Rosie and Molly are the fat multicoloured ones, mother and daughter, Molly (mum to Rosie, Brookie and Willow) is the enormous one, Rosie is the simply large one. Bella is the large tabby and mum to Dilly, Scally, Spot and Albie.

Mincie is the black and white one with wobbly legs. He is a law unto himself and will in the space of five seconds come for a cuddle and then swipe the nose off your face – so watch out! However, it appears he saves most of his aggression for me and has now also started sabotaging my business by doing unmentionable things on the floor in front of potential guests. (This has actually happened just the once and he has been left in no doubt about the error of his ways.)

The cats will eat a box of Felix pouches and two or three tins of food a day. The dogs will push them off and eat it themselves if they get the chance. The cats and dogs will eat the hens’ evening feed of sweetcorn and sardines. The hens will eat the cat food in the barn and everyone will eat the bread put out for the birds. The donkeys will eat the sheep food and the hens’ breakfast corn. All such sharing of feed is to be discouraged as much as possible…..(good luck with that)

And that’s it ! As I said, it is simplicity itself ………………………….(*Heads off to the airport whistling*)