May 2019

Bees, bats and biodiversity - seems to be a good title for this month’s news as we have been busy on all these topics!

Suzy has completed a beekeeping course with a couple of friends from church (three church families are now keeping bees) and we started with one hive but have just set up a second (which came as a flatpack and took a while to construct). We all look forward to some honey later in the year.

We've taken part in the Devon Bat Project for the second year, by having the bat detector in our garden for three nights - we look forward to receiving the results - last year we recorded eleven different bat species. We’ve added flowers to encourage pollinating insects and the meadow field should also provide a good habitat for a wide range of creatures.

Many of you will know that we have been eco-champions for many years, encouraging everyone we meet to be more aware of the damage that humanity is doing to the environment - so we are delighted that this is now such a high priority subject. We are no longer referring to climate change but climate emergency. Even before we moved to Devon we had decided that all our projects and plans at Tinhay Retreats would take into account our environmental impact - we continue to keep this at the fore in our thinking.

On another of our fields, we are also planning to plant an orchard of apple, pear, plum and cherry trees - using locally sourced, traditional varieties. As David Attenborough has reminded us - we all have to take action now, so we encourage you to get planting trees, bushes, flowers wherever you can!

April 2019

It was a warm, sunny day when our friend Peter came round to capture some great photos of the progress we’ve made in March. The bell tent, our first venture into the world of glamping, looks great with Suzy’s home made bunting! The aim is to have a tent that is ready pitched with all the bedding required and a small gas cooker so that visitors can cook simple camp food and make those all important teas and coffees! We are now ready to take bookings, just form an orderly queue behind Charlotte who was first to enquire when we posted a picture on Instagram!

Elsewhere on the smallholding, the chickens are now laying well - about five eggs a day, white and brown eggs. The sheep are happy and healthy, they are enjoying the nice new grass, but the warm weather means Robert has had to dust off the mower and try to keep on top of the lawn-mowing and keeping the pathways clear. On the camping field the horsebox is well on the way to complete transformation and the electric power points for caravans, motorhomes and tents are being connected up this month.

The wild meadow field is a blaze of yellow, with the celandine flowers catching the sunlight. We have installed a couple of nest boxes for swallows and Jim has made an owl box for our tawny owls that we hear on a regular basis. We’ve also got a pair of buzzards circling above the fields, no doubt they are looking for field voles, just like the owls. To ensure that we encourage the field voles, we were advised to keep the grass in the meadow field a minimum of ten centimetres long (4 inches) . Seems to be working!

March 2019

After a warm spell in February, the weather changed and it has been a challenge to make much progress with the horse box, the lower section will be pale green and the roof will be a cream colour (one side is completed and if the weather stays dry long enough this will soon be completed)! This week it should be possible to make some progress inside the horse box, which will include adding new entrance door and partition.

We have added another two chickens to our collection, they are a rare French breed called 'La Fleche' - Suzy chose these as they lay white eggs and they are both laying well. Suzy has been busy preparing a programme of craft activities for her friends in the Lifton area, those white eggs will be useful for the egg painting workshop.

By the beginning of April, we should have some photos of our Bell Tent, our first foray into the world of glamping (camping for people who like their extra comforts)!

February 2019

Snowdrop planting on 2nd February was a great day, we had a good crowd of people joining us. We managed to plant over 400 snowdrops along the lane that goes past our camping field and we look forward to adding more each year. Snowdrops were planted in memory of loved ones by visitors from Tavistock, Plymouth, Horrabridge and we planted some for friends unable to join us from Reading and Folkestone.

With all the warm weather we have been able to improve the gardens, we have removed several large tree stumps that were causing a trip hazard on the lawn and in the orchard area. We have even been out on the lawnmower to ensure that the camping field is ready for any visitors - we have several bookings for September already this year!

We have also been improving the gates around the grounds, soon they will all be easy to open and close - well that is the hope! Wooden gates have a habit of swelling in the wet weather and then drying out in the summer. The sheep haven’t been helpful either as they enjoy leaning on the gates to see if they can break free!

January 2018

During 2017 we concentrated on preparing ourselves for the challenge ahead. We now have 8 acres of land to develop; some will be devoted to camping, some will continue to provide valuable habitat to local wildlife and some will be used by our farm animals. The land has been grazed most recently by sheep and all the fields are enclosed by established Devon hedgerow. The River Thrushel runs at the bottom of one of our fields and the river bank provides opportunities for fishing.

We've already started work on  maintenance and improvements:

  • repairs to an outbuilding roof
  • chimney swept to remove nests
  • logs delivered for wood fire in lounge
  • oil delivered for central heating
  • shrubs pruned and bulbs planted in the garden
  • decorating in the lounge and bedrooms
  • repairing gates
  • trimming overgrown hedges and trees
  • clearing space for our chicken run and coop
  • redecorating the lounge
  • replacing outside lighting
  • installing bird feeders
  • registering with authorities so we can keep sheep and pigs