Posted on January 8th, 2017 - Fiona
I’ve been catching upon reading blog posts this past week and feel I may be bringing up the rear in finally managing to gather my thoughts on the year passed and my goals ahead. I’m not big on New Year Resolutions, but setting out a few objectives with Farmer Nick is essential in planning for success in business.
2016, how did we measure up?
Looking at my post from a year ago, either we were soft on our goals, or we were super successful! The answer is probably a bit of both as I like the ‘feel good’ factor of achieving targets.
Refit the under 5’s Play Barn
There was drama and expense as Nick bought a super new soft play system for our shed, then insulated and raised the floor of the barn so the equipment didn’t fit! A rise in the walls and a new roof later and we had a new play barn we were proud of.
Install Cattle Grids
Watch out now on your drive to the lodges, there are two sets of bespoke cattle grids to cross with sheep grazing in between. These cattle grids have opened up our top fields for animals without the need for holiday guests to jump in and out of cars to open and shut gates.
New wood burners for Honeysuckle and Willow Cottages
Another project that sounded simple but in fact turned out to be anything but. We had damp on the outer wall of Willow cottage and thought the chimney was to blame, this was re-pointed and funky new woodburners added. However the damp turned out to be from the outside wall where the pointing had failed. A long month of hard work with a trowel and a bucket of concrete and Farmer Nick had everything sorted.
Begin building Polzeath Lodge
This was our big autumn project. If we raised enough money from 2016 summer bookings, the plan was to start building a new holiday lodge. We raised the funds and began work after October half term. By the Christmas holidays we met our objective of having the shell up and the building watertight.
A Few Extras
On top of these stated objectives we achieved a whole lot more that makes me wonder now how on earth we fitted it all in to one year:
|With every property now having it’s own washing machine and tumble drier, we turned the old laundry room into a boot room with wetsuits, wellies and farm overalls to borrow.
||A games room was created out of two former rental lodges. This has been really popular with older children and provided a great base for wet weather craft days for me as well as a perfect party room for our seasonal events.
|We introduced new deer to our herd from a city farm in Crystal Palace. ‘The Londoners’ as they have become known are very friendly and have been a joy on the morning feed run as they come so close for their cornflakes.
||Behind the scenes Nick has refurbished the Feed Run trailer and re-painted the ever popular train. Speaking of trains, thanks to Amber, our duty manager, we borrowed her family steam train “Poppy” for Christmas Eve giving our famous Santa Express ride real authenticity.
|The website moved from blog Engine to WordPress midyear. This involved a tremendous effort behind the scene, but as it largely went unnoticed to our users, I count this as a successful step. My main incentive to change was to increase the scope of the ever growing Coombe Mill Blog.
The Coombe Mill Blog
An Award Win
My highlight this year was winning Reader’s Choice in the BIBs awards. I had a wonderful time at Brit Mums Live catching up with blogging friends; to win an award too was just the best feeling. Planning for success certainly didn’t include this but it has been the best confidence boost for me.
A High Rank
Finishing the year ranked 12 in TOTS was another milestone for me. I dropped right out of the top 100 when I switched blogging platforms midyear and never imagined I could shoot back up. I would dearly love to be a helpful blogger and share how I did this, but the honest truth is I have no idea. I just do my thing and wait and see what number rolls round on my side bar each month.
I entered into the Odeon UK Blog Awards in December and have just found out I am a finalist in the Parenting category. Now I have a dilemma, do I go to the awards in London, on my triplets 13th birthday, or demonstrate good parenting and stay in Cornwall?
|My children are growing up too fast and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Alistair started Cardiff University this year studying Economics. Felix did well in his GCSE’s and has moved to ‘A level’ college. Theo is into his GCSE courses and has taken a shine to drama and the Triplets all brought home good reports in their first year at Secondary school. Family photos still elude me, but I do like this one from Christmas day on the beach. Excuse Guy and I in a separate photo, we were in the sea while the others walked to the headland.
Planning for success in 2017
As last year, I am not going to set myself targets that are too stretching and my only measured planning for success goals are business ones. That said, working at full tilt is my style and I’m sure there will be more achieved than I’ve set out here. For My Blog, if I manage anything close to what I achieved in 2016 I will be delighted. As for the children, if they try their best at school, respect one another and enjoy life that is all I ask.
Business Goals for 2017
The bird flu scare has had us bring all our birds into two old aviaries. These really aren’t ideal for long periods indoors so Nick has begun work on some serious animal shelters on the side of his work barn, ‘The Aircraft Hanger’ as I call it. They will have concrete floors that could be used for any animals that need to be brought indoors in time.
Planning for success is no walk in the park, but I hope to make our family business a little stronger again by the end of the year, keep my blog thriving and above all support my family at all times. I hope you can follow our journey and see a path to fulfilling your own dreams for the year ahead.
Posted on June 26th, 2016 - Fiona
No more airing your dirty laundry in public!
Long ago our new boot room was a laundry room and a hive of activity here on the farm. A meeting point for parents as washing machines whirled and tumble driers spun at the end of a day on the farm. However the room has looked very sad and unloved for the past 12 months since we decommissioned all our remaining riverside lodges. The cottages and Scandinavian lodges all have their own washing machines and tumble driers which much more convenient for our guests than carrying washing out to an onsite laundry.
Pondering a new use for the laundry
It has taken us a long time to work out how best to use the space. It was always going to be a big job to make all the electrics safe in the room after the machines were removed, but as the log cabin stands in a prime spot in the middle of the Coombe Mill estate we were keen to come up with a new use that would be beneficial to our holiday guests.
- We considered a games room, but found a better space for this
- We thought of moving our storage room here to make it more convenient for our cleaners, but decided the steps weren’t ideal with heavy Henry Hoovers and log baskets.
- Finally we agreed the area currently most cramped was the borrow room. This space was impossible to keep tidy with everything from welly boots to dressing up clothes fighting for space.
The games, toys and dressing up clothes all moved over to a spare corner of the new Games Room. Now you can see the books clearly and collect a game without them all toppling down on you.
DIY SOS to create a boot room
Farmer Nick took professional help in making all the electrics in the new boot room safe before getting the family team involved in painting, cleaning and re-flooring.
With a clean fresh room we began to plan our displays. I was keen to hang the wetsuits rather than have them all jumbled in a bucket and create a hanging wall rather like in the utility room of Tree Roots Cottage for farm overalls. There was also the question of what to do with wet items.
Nick used old sections of roof from the play barn which he cut to size, glossed, hung with pegs for the overalls.
For wet items he plumbed in an old shower tray with one of the roof panel boards above and attached a hanging rail. This made a perfect place for wet wetsuits to hang or farm overalls to dry. With a tap right outside our vision was taking shape.
Finally with all the remaining items carried over I wasn’t happy with the clutter still in buckets on the floor. Nick put up shelves for me for the wellington boots. Now it was possible to clearly see sizes and pairs just at a glance.
Badminton rackets and cricket / rounders sets were hung on more pegs along with baby carriers.
Finally we removed the old Laundry sign and added a shiny new one so everyone would know what was inside.
Our boot room makeover complete
At last we have a boot room to be proud of. One that could really be used without undertaking a giant hunt in the hope of emerging with the item you needed and a separate games room with everything from scrabble to ping pong.
Swapping soap powder and dirty laundry woes for beach tips and the best farm puddle gear seems a much better way to socialise on holiday.
Posted on May 21st, 2016 - Fiona
Researching what you value
I have been looking to make a few improvements to the website and as part of this Nick and I undertook some valuable market research in East Sussex. We met with a group of Mums and Dads last week. One of the findings coming out was a desire to capture more of what we offer in an initial glance at the homepage. As part of this I was out taking property photos this week and rather fell in love with this photo from the front of our old Cornish Longhouse: Millers House.
A focus on Millers House
All the summer colours are bursting forth and I thought it was worth a close up on the wisteria growing around the windows at the far end.
With 2 lovely photos on this one property I decided to turn my weekly photos into a focus on this lovely Cornish Longhouse.
The cottage is one of two remaining original buildings at Coombe Mill; the other being Water Mill. They date back to the 16th Century when Coombe Mill was a working market farm and most likely a Mill using water from the River Camel that flows through the grounds.
Inside Millers House we have kept all the period features whilst converting the old Cornish Longhouse into a luxury family cottage with 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. What is now a fully equipped kitchen was most likely the hub of the house with its huge inglenook fireplace.
The giant hallway with old beams and the original front doorway was most likely used for animals with sleeping space above. Now it makes a grand entrance way with ample toys stored in the under stairs area.
To the back of the cottage we have landscaped the originals moorland scrub to make a family friendly outdoor patio and garden all enclosed to be safe for little visitors.
More about our Cornish Longhouse
If you fancy staying in this old style cottage you can find more about it on our website page for Millers House.
Posted on March 27th, 2016 - Fiona
Converting Riverside lodges
After the success of our play barn make over with a whole new soft play centre for under 5’s, we were keen to create a wet weather day equivalent for older children too. This is something we had wanted to do for a long time but the perfect location has only just been realised. Last year we gained planning permission to turn all our remaining riverside lodges in to the contemporary Scandinavian style of Trevarno, so popular with our holiday guests. One by one the old riverside lodges are being converted, Camel became our reception and shop, Ottery the Gym and now having sold the contents of the remaining lodges at our charity sale in aid of the village Playground, we had Deer and DeLank offering a large space that would be perfect as a games room.
Creating the Games Room
Deer and DeLank were semi detached, and whilst they were tiny as 2 bedroom lodges, when stripped of their internal walls the space began to transform. I must say as partition walls came down scattering debris around and leaving wiring and sockets dangling, I wondered if we had bitten off more than we could chew with this project.
Having teenage boys comes into its own on projects like this and they worked after school and weekends to help their Dad make everything safe with a huge bonfire for all the old timbers they had knocked down. Finally we had a blank canvas to work on, well almost since the carpet had gaps and a ghastly multicolour effect from room and property divides and the wiring needed some serious attention.
Hosting a birthday party
We had a deadline in our minds to make the room safe by and that was Nick’s birthday. I had invited 18 friends, more than we could sensibly sit in our kitchen, and the new games room was beginning to look like the obvious answer. We restored one of the cookers to the kitchen area and laid new carpet on the morning of the party. With twinkle lights tacked round the edge of the room from the Christmas decoration store and garden tables cleaned up, we pulled off a wonderful Greek Taverna night.
Fitting out the Games Room
After a huge clean up from the party it was onward with the games room plan. We bought a pool table which was ridiculously heavy to lift and manoeuvre through the little lodge doors, brought the table tennis across from the craft tent and still had room for table football. All was complete just in time for half term.
A base for Activity Hour
With the tent now missing the ping pong table, which doubled up as a craft table, it seemed only sensible to move activity hour into the games room too. We enjoyed our first session in here making Valentine’s crafts and heading out on to the farm for a treasure hunt. I have now moved all my craft supplies into the locked kitchen area and kept the cooker in there too which is going to be really handy for cooking and baking.
Finally I had been after a chalk board but it just wasn’t practical in the tent, here I had the perfect space and Nick made me one which I’m thrilled with. I’ll share how to do this in April’s Trash2Treasure. I’m so excited about the possibilities ahead for activity hour for the summer season.
Now I feel we have something to offer all ages here on the farm in all weather, if you are looking to come and stay please take a look at our availability as we would love to welcome you for a family holiday. We hope to start work on one of the new lodges this autumn which will be next door, but not too close to the new games room and available to rent from next spring. In the mean time I have a large empty tent and I’m looking for inspiration on how best to use it; any ideas?
Posted on March 20th, 2016 - Fiona
All Change for Honeysuckle and Willow Cottages
Honeysuckle and Willow cottages are loved by those who stay regularly for their space and layout but never as popular as some of our other cottages and Scandinavian Lodges. There location since the Pirate boat and Train came along is perfect, tucked away at the end of the estate get river fronting with fun activities just outside the door. If I am honest these pet free cottages still need more updating from their 80’s origins. We have changed a lot by way of lighting and soft furnishings, including 6ft supersized beds, but it is the expensive stuff that is going to make a difference from here on in.
To us one of the key issues had been the fire place. The 80’s style fake concrete hood over the old wood burner was both ineffective and ugly. Much of the heat was taken straight up the chimney, which for a large cottage relying on night storage heating and eclectic heaters was far from ideal. Furthermore the flue took a sharp turn through to the bedroom before joining the chimney making starting the fire with a good draw tricky. Many times we would have guests asking for help to get the fire going with plumes of smoke coming out into the living room. This was of no benefit to anyone and we knew it needed addressing. We took advantage of our winter shut down period to knock out the old concrete monstrosity. It was a messy job to say the least.
The concrete lintels themselves holding up the fake hood was relocated in our Den building zone making a perfect fire surround to the kids campfire.
Meanwhile I had the best job of choosing the style of the new wood burners. As ever I turned to Facebook with my shortlist and the contemporary look of the stylish wood burner from Kernow Fires won.
The Challenge of fitting a New Wood Burner
It took 4 days of work in the end for the men from Kernow Fires to fit each new wood burner as it was quite complex with the chimney angle.
However as is so often the case one job led to another. Removing the old concrete hood revealed a more serious problem on the south west facing side of Willow. This is the end of our land with stunning views across the neighbouring farmer’s sheep field.
The weather can beat against this side of the house and the recent wet winter saw the pointing fail. Damp was seeping into the internal walls. Faced with the prospect of another few thousand pounds on top of the cost of the wood burners, my handyman set about repointing the whole wall himself. He has never tried pointing in his life so I was super impressed to see how well he did it. It did take 2 weeks to complete and hours of diligent work so I can see why having a professional in would cost so much, however I was delighted with the result of Nick’s efforts and I think he actually found it quite therapeutic!
This left one final task, we had days of a dehumidifier and heaters in the living room to dry out the wall before we could repaint. We were working on it right up to the day the guests arrived for February half term, but thankfully with a roaring fire lit on their arrival and plenty of heat coming from each new wood burner to warm the room, both Honeysuckle and Willow looked transformed.
There are still changes I want to make in here in time, I’d like to update the kitchens again and rethink the fake beams downstairs, but for now each new wood burner has made a huge visual and practical difference for the 2016 season. With fun features like the play den and whirlpool bathroom, hopefully these spacious cottages will continue to provide a happy base for a working farm family holiday with us.