Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Blog For Sale

We’ve loved this place since 2003.  We’ve renovated, decorated, cultivated and planted – boy have we planted!  We’ve made what people describe as a ‘magical place’  ‘a place of peace and tranquility’.  This is one of the good things about Trip Advisor – people say such nice things (mostly).

It’s been hard work at times but for the past few years we’ve been able to enjoy the fruits of our labours as well as those of the garden.  With nearly nine acres of garden, woodland and meadow bordered by a gentle brook and two pretty and popular self-catering cottages we’ve been able to share this quirky, characterful historic nice little place with hundreds of people now and it is nice to make a living by essentially creating happiness.

Sharing a little piece of long lost old England with stressed executives, exhausted parents and romantic couples – watching them relax over the course of a weekend or longer is actually a very rewarding occupation. So what’s it really like running holiday accommodation in your home?

In truth we are the scaley legs and webbed feet working away under the plain sailing serenity of the Brook Farm Swan.  But with the help of local girls with the cleaning and the support of local suppliers and neighbours we’ve been blessed and things run smoothly - most of the time.  And when they don’t – a broken tap, a wasps’ nest, disappearing WiFi – guests are always very understanding.  I think this is partly down to the whole place setting its own scene.  It’s not the Ritz – it’s not a hotel with hot and cold running staff – it’s just what it is and people seem to like the relaxed unpretentious surroundings.  It’s shabby chic, it’s pretty, it’s Country Living magazine (not Country Life magazine) – it’s rustic and not particularly elegant.  As soon as you arrive you know it’s not the sort of place where you have to leave your shoes at the door.  The garden is wild and romantic and people instinctively know they can flop wherever they want for as long as they want.  There is enough space for everyone to get a little lost if they want to for a while – a real escape from the every day.

Of course behind this laid-back ambience we’ve had to get a lot of things right.  Apart from the layout and d├ęcor you’ve got to then get the hospitality right.  There has to be a genuinely warm welcome, an attitude of nothing being too much trouble, always being available to help but not invading privacy.  Some people like to talk, some don’t.  You’ve got to be able to read people and be what they need you to be.  Sometimes this means being several different people over the course of a weekend as different guests staying at the same time might want different things from you.
There is no point running a hospitality business if you can’t be hospitable.  Seems obvious but I think we’ve probably all been places where we’ve wondered why on earth they’re in the business if they can’t even manage a smile.  With this sort of accommodation though, it is your home and people are willing to accept ‘Your Way’ of doing things so long as you do it with a smile and a warm heart, even when faced with a rare difficult guest: Getting a smile on Saturday morning from a grumpy Friday night arrival is a small but pleasing triumph.  It’s my job to make sure people are happy and it feels good when I can see that they are.  

We all know that more pleasure is gained from giving than receiving and doing this for a living has been very rewarding.  Sharing this lovely old place with others is a win-win lifestyle – I get to work at home and in my garden, I get to give my time and hospitality to people who really enjoy it and then they pay me!

So what’s not to like?  Why are we leaving?  Well, this nice little place is almost perfect – but it’s not by the sea and I’ve always wanted to live by the sea.  This year I am 50 and it’s time I headed to the coast.  So, with mixed emotions, as they say, we’re selling up and moving on.  In the property market these days you can’t be fussy about who you sell to, but I’m hoping there’s someone out there who will love this nice little piece of England as much as I have and will live a happy and fulfilling life here, caring for it in the way we have.

So if you fancy taking over this blog, this life, this nicelittleplace you know where you can find me……for now…….

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Enough Said

With the garden opening on a regular basis shortly and the hospitality season kicking off, I’ve decided on a new shorter variety of blog. This may come as much of a relief to you as it is to me.

The very best thing that has happened recently is this…..


Last Saturday the people of our local town Tenbury Wells came together to dig a River of Poppies through its Civic Garden (to be found in the centre of town - by the car park handily) In summer we hope for a drift of red to float through the garden in remembrance of the soldiers who went off to war one hundred years ago.

The poppies will be encouraged to re-seed over the coming years as a lasting reminder and tribute.

Sometimes words just don’t cut the mustard.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Minding My Business

A kind guest recently described this place as a ‘healing retreat’ which is precisely what I hope it to be for our guests so it was very nice to hear, but I couldn’t help feeling a little envious of the feeling. As this place is my workplace as well as my home and the chores are seemingly never-ending, however lovely it is, it is actually quite exhausting. I therefore decided to take myself off on a retreat somewhere else to see what it feels like and if I could learn some tricks to perhaps appreciate this place in the way others do. So this week found me at The Barn at Sharpham in Devon along with eight other retreatants and the three co-ordinators Patti Dino and Peter.

At the end of my stay as I drove away I turned my phone back on and stopped to ring my husband just to check all was well at home. When he asked me how it had been I said “Amazing” which surprised me as it came out of my mouth, because while I was there I wouldn’t have described it as ‘amazing’ because it was all so, all so ….simple. It wasn’t ‘amazing’ in the way that I would describe a luxurious hotel with a spa and beautiful food amazing, but what made it so wonderful was a group of like-minded strangers coming together and becoming friends just through sharing a time of mindfulness, silence and meditation.

In the cosy barn sitting above the River Dart we each had our own very simple single bedded room and shared the bathrooms (of which there were plenty and there was never a wait or a queue) and we each had our own daily tasks - we weren’t there to be looked after and pampered but nor were our tasks onerous. After the morning wake up call at 6.20 it was my job at 6.45 to ring the bell for the first meditation of the day. We shared a 40 minute meditation in the meditation room and then we all went about our next tasks diligently -continuing the silence that had started at 9pm the night before. I prepared breakfast, in silence, with my breakfast buddie Naomi and somehow through working together in silence each day we became friends.

After 9am there was a house meeting and we went about our outdoor jobs until lunchtime which again was cooked by two of the group each day. In the afternoons we were left to our own mindful practice and we came together again with the ringing of the bell for a teaching meditation around 5pm. These teachings, from the Buddhist tradition, were utterly absorbing and each left me filled with a new hope and excitement for the way my life can be.

Then a DIY supper – sometimes shared, sometimes not, followed by our last meditation of the day after which we chatted or read (or wrote a silly poem –see below!) until 9pm when silence reigned once more.

A few days of simple mindful work and meditation has left me feeling like a new woman! I can’t wait to go forward with my business and my garden here in a more mindful way, maybe punctuated with some calming meditation from time to time. I feel I may now have the secret to enjoying this place as much as my guests do. I’ll keep you posted….Meanwhile … here’s a link to The Barn

……..and here is the silly poem I wrote….

Thank you oats, For making the most, Delicious porridge gently

Than you prunes, And the sun in June, Ripening goodness - juicily

Thank you bees, Happy happy bees, For making this honey - runnily

Thank you berries, For our jams and jellies, Sweetness enjoyed mindfully

And nuts that were made, Hidden in their shades, Sprinkled and crunched now thankfully

Thank you tea, For there is no me, Without your leaves quite honestly

Thank you wheat, Dino’s no cheat, Heavenly bread made manually

(Rice cakes! Dearie me!, I’d not like to be, Allergic to gluten – earnestly

Thank you sweet earth, For the perpetual birth, Of all that we need – generously

What rhymes with banana? Only manana, Well – thanks for tomorrow too – sillyly

Monday, 18 November 2013

Guest post from a working guest


A different perspective on Brook Farm from our wonderful workawayer Amanda.  Way over qualified for the work but apparently strangely happy …..

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Autumn Forage

I’m learning to love autumn. So long as it is dry enough there is so much to enjoy still in the garden and woods and meadows here. The colour change is coming slowly this year though as usual the Liquidamber at the end of the wiggly beds is showing off and ‘Being The Best at Autumn’. I am laminating some of her leaves – I don’t know how I’ll use them, but I just have the urge to preserve the beauty.

There was a lot of preserving going on here while we were in Scotland. My friend Jacqui turns our soft fruit into jam for us and our new housesitter Katrina who has been a forager for years (it’s the thing now to be a forager I think, but she’s been doing it for ever) was very excited about the amount of food growing here and set about making all sorts of chutneys preserves jellies and jams. Happily she has left some for us so we get the fruits of our forest so to speak without having to do the tricky bit. But she has also left me feeling that I’m not really making the most of this plot. I’ve been all about making a beautiful, peaceful and healing place to be and not so much about feeding.

Of course there is so much healing and good about eating food from your own soil – it can’t be fresher and more full of goodness than that. So my new love for autumn is also a new love for home grown food and instead of groaning every time Willy brings in another twentysix beetroots, I think “What lovely little balls of goodness – how shall I cook them this time?” (OK I try to think that)  Even better though Willy has started cooking them too – he’s in the kitchen right now preparing something ‘unique’ with beetroot which we will have alongside our homegrown curly kale and some mushroom tart.

Outside, by the way, we appear to have a parliament of owls (Yes I did look that up) They are really quite chatty but sound so very much friendlier than the noise that comes out of Westminster. Which is nice.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Lichen Love

highlandsoct13 (1)
So after a busy summer here we are having a nice little break in the bonnie highlands of Scotland – and jolly bonny they are too. I include both spellings to clearly demonstrate my willingness to accept variations in spelling and grammar having been accused of previously being a grammar and spelling policeman-woman-person and conveniently switching my attitude when it came to a discussion of lichen today. OH likes to call it like-en, I call it litchen to rhyme with kitchen. Either is perfectly acceptable as I confirmed with a surprisingly high speed link to google from a far away place called Applecross.

The point was and is that the lichen here is truly beautiful. I have lichen envy. And moss envy too. I want to fill my garden in Worcestershire with these mosses and lichens and this will be testing my Gaia Gardening thinking to the max over the next few months because there is no way I’m going to manage it without her. We do have a little lichen on the old apples in the orchard and we do have a little moss here and there because the garden lies at the bottom of our own little valley and is quite damp – but I want MORE! However, you can’t order lichen and moss over the interweb so all I can do is slop some diluted yogurt around and hope my friend Gaia gets the idea.

In the meantime here are some pics of the lichen at The Walled Garden at Applecross which we stumbled across by accident though it appears it is actually quite a well known place with a well known kitchen in the old potting shed. We had a fabulous lunch and a lovely walk around the garden in the rain which we actually enjoyed just as much as our walk around Inverewe garden in the sunshine a few days ago.

This is my first visit to the Highlands and I am quite bowled over by its beauty. We’re staying in the fishing village of Plockton where last night we ate in the pub and listened to traditional music and where we have a sweet little self catering cottage called The Shed, which is really very nice but a little small for us as we are too old and unromantic to be living in such close proximity. Which reminds me of the eternal mystery of the ensuite bathroom….it never ceases to amaze me how many people book our room with the ensuite bathroom rather than the one with the bathroom next door. We really don’t need to be this close to….well whatever it is the other is doing in there….am off to turn the music up…..

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Guest Blog by Ros Bissell of Moors Meadow Garden

Ros wrote this in response to a challenge to her monthly column in a local magazine.  Like me, Ros has no children…..

Our Environment: Why Should I Care?
I would like to say that the information I obtain for my articles is from reading numerous reports which are mostly from the EU and USA also some from other countries around the world. I also try to be sure these reports are from recognised researchers and specialists as well as from those for whom the subject matter may have touched personally both ‘for’ and ‘against’ any particular subject.
I am not an expert but I am very interested in world affairs and all things environmental however I am NOT a ‘bunny hugger’, I am also interested in politics but do not give my allegiance to any political party.
I have an agricultural background, being brought up in a farming family, now I am a horticulturalist though through the years I have worked in numerous fields (no pun intended), in both the paid and voluntary sector. I have also had close ties to the armed forces and been personally touched by the horrors of war and chemical use.
I have travelled quite extensively and seen for myself how great a detrimental effect that our excessive consumerism and throw-away attitude has on communities and wildlife and their habitats across the globe.
I like to meet and talk to the people of the countries I visit, and I am in touch via the internet with many people around the world in agriculture and horticulture who use both organic and ‘conventional’ methods.
I will not guarantee to getting everything correct but endeavour to try my hardest to give the facts and do not knowingly write anything which is not true.
At a young age I was environmentally aware and very concerned about the serious degradation man has on the Earth. The environment is not something we just look at in our free time but we are a part of it and anything we do that affects the planet affects us in return. We cannot just change the planet for a new one when this one becomes past it’s sell by date, there will not be another passing planet we can hop onto. Everything we do is interconnected, everything we use or throw away just because we ‘want’ the latest model, everything we waste all comes initially from natural resources. Even man made things originate from the earth, they do not appear as if by magic on the shop shelf nor will they always be there whenever we ‘want’ them. I feel that society as a whole has lost the distinction between ‘need’ and ‘want’.
The earth’s resources are not infinite and the human race is depleting them at an alarming rate. I am not being alarmist, if I were to class myself as anything it is as a realist, I realistically know that money, power and materialism, as well as over population is the cause of most of the worlds problems. I write about the environment to try to raise awareness of some of these problems.
I have no children so there will be no grandchildren or great grandchildren coming after me who will have to suffer the results of our excesses. So why do I care? I don’t know but I do.