Posted on January 1st, 2018 - Fiona
As 2017 closes and we look forward to the year ahead I like to take a little time out to see what we have achieved in the year and share some of our thoughts going forward. Every year seems to fly past quicker than the year before and it is only when I stop to look at all we have done that I realise why we are always so busy! New Year Resolutions scare me so I like to call them plans.
Building and Renovation
The big project for us has been bringing our latest holiday lodge to completion. We actually ran ahead of schedule and rented it out for the first time the week before May half term. Using everything we have learned to date on new builds, Polzeath is, without doubt, a cut above. The real highlight is the extra head room upstairs which we have used for a bespoke soft play room, a reading snug and still left ample of general play space which is filled with toys. If you have 1 or 2 preschool age children I can’t recommend this property enough at any time of the year.
In addition to the new lodge our maintenance program has continued as usual with Willow benefitting from a master bedroom make over and Heligan a new en-suite shower room.
Our lovely big old tractor was rusting beyond repair in the far play area. With the help of two tractors and a digger we finally managed to wave it goodbye. In its place my ambition to have a giant covered sand pit came to fruition. Thanks to the lovely play equipment folk at Big Game Hunters we furnished it with 8 shiny new play diggers which have been in constant use all season.
Our lambing season was a success with just one needing hand rearing this year. Friday (born on Good Friday) became everyone’s pet and even enjoyed the odd game on the x box in the evenings with my kids!
We began the year with a restraint on free ranging all our ducks and chickens. Farmer Nick spent all last Christmas building Chicken world to give luxury indoor living to our chickens. The chickens thrived in there over winter and we are now taking them indoors every year for the winter months. With ample daylight, nature toys and bespoke laying boxes they are safe from the fox and the weather.
New Animal fields
This winter has been remarkably mild and we were able to delay moving the animals onto hay. This was also helped by a cunning new fencing system from Farmer Nick which meant the goats and alpaca could free range the main tractor route around the lake in our low season. Treat foods for the animals, perfect strimming for us and very entertaining for the guests as the alpaca love to lead the feed run in the morning!
Marketing Success for Coombe Mill
I was thrilled to be a finalist and then actually win at the UK Blog Awards (UKBA) this year. The night of glitz and glamour unfortunately clashed with my triplets 13th birthday so I missed the big do in London was very grateful to fellow finalist and Cornish blogger Helena from Down side Up who collected my award for me.
Brit Mums Finalist
I was also honoured to be a finalist in the Brit Mums Blog Awards this year. This one I did get along to and had a wonderful couple of days catching up with old friends and new and learning plenty to take my blog forward again for another year.
Daily Express Feature on best family breaks
Thanks to a lovely review to the Daily Express from Clare Nicholas of Emmy’s Mummy and Harry’s Too Blog from her visits to Coombe Mill, we enjoyed a Daily Mail feature highlighting us as one of the best holidays for families with children and grandparents.
Facebook has been the focus of my social media this year and my page now has a following of nearly 6000 and a reach that peaked at over 10,000 a week. The review section has been a real win taking over from Trip Adviser as the main place for guests to leave comments. We have had some wonderful reviews with maximum star ratings. Thank you to everyone who has taken the trouble to write these, it is the best form of marketing I could hope for.
Personal highlights and events
2017 was the year I officially had 6 teenagers.
Alistair decided University just wasn’t for him and pulled out of Cardiff University studying Economics in his second year. He has returned home and joined our local holiday lodge builder to pursue what he really enjoys, working outdoors with his hands. He is now doing an apprenticeship with them in carpentry. I should have known when he spent so much time watching Grand Designs and working with the builders and Farmer Nick over the summer. It will be very handy to see him working here on our next lodge!
Felix passed his driving test within weeks of turning 17 and pulled some good grades in his AS level exams. He is applying for University next year after his A levels to study Business Management and Marketing. So far he has 2 unconditional offers and we are thrilled for him.
Theo is heading towards GCSE’s next summer and is still passionate about acting. He has joined the local amateur dramatics group where he is staring in Puss in Boots in February next year. He is now the tallest of us all at 6f 3″
The Triplets have just begun their GCSE subjects this year. Guy and Jed love their Rugby and play for the local town which keeps me driving all over Cornwall on Sundays for matches while Clio has kept up with her Ballet and Tap where she is now on grades 5 and 6.
Farmer Nick is still my jolly old farmer who likes nothing better than tinkering on the farm or working on our latest property project.
I turned 50 in the autumn and marked the occasion with a big party at our friendly village pub. All my family came along and I even have some teenage photos to share which have nicely updated the Family Page on our website and mug shots here.
Farmer Nick and I have also managed several short breaks away during the school holidays knowing we have 6 capable young adults who can keep the business going for us. This feels like a real milestone and one I plan to encourage next year. We also have Amber our onsite duty manager for when the older kids are not around or at school and college who is more than capable of overseeing the triplets and running the farm so finally it feels like we have some holiday time too.
New Year Plans for 2018
||We have begun with the first hole and hope to build this to 9 holes during the year.
|Playroom and link bedroom for Pencarrow
||Following the success of the conversion in Heligan Lodge, we plan to copy this in Pencarrow splitting the upstairs master bedroom to create a link bedroom and separate playroom.
|New Nature trail along the orchard
Farmer Nick created terracing along the orchard in the summer for ease of mowing and strimming. I plan to use the resulting space for a nature trail.
|Re plan the Welly Walk
||We talked about this last year and managed to add some bird feeders but it still needs more work. I like the idea of a Wonderland Walk.
||These need a freshen up with new trinkets and chippings and some pruning of the encroaching branches.
|Follow my own SEO advice from Brit Mums.
||We need to continue to improve our Google ranking for our farm holidays as we are still heavily dependent on repeat bookings which make up half of our turnover.
|New Farm Map
||Our current farm map on the website is an outdated old areal photo. We plan to update this with a more illustrative map to help you find your way around our 30 acres.
|What to do with the last 2 riverside lodges?
We still have the shell of 2 of our old riverside lodges waiting for a good use. We have already created a Gym, reception and Games room and boot room, what would you like to see next?
Come and Join us
We are set for another busy year and that really excites me. If you fancy coming and seeing how we are progressing there is nothing like a holiday planned to lift the January blues. Whether it is school holiday week or a cheeky weekend break, we’d love to welcome you to experience the magic of the farm.
Happy New Year and may all your new year wishes come true.
Posted on December 30th, 2017 - Fiona
We are right in the middle of the festive period and I hope it is a happy one for you and your families. Here on the Farm the children have been enjoying plenty of fun each day out feeding the animals and making new friends. Between Christmas wrapping paper and New Year fireworks keeping the animals safe and well is our priority. This year has delivered more than the average rainfall and some strong winds for Cornwall; this is the worst conditions for our animals who cope with the cold so much better than the wet. Never the less Farmer Nick has been providing plenty of hay and treats and all the animal shelters have survived the winds – so far! On the sunnier days the beauty of the farm shines through and it feels as though animals and nature alike uncurl to appreciate the winter sunlight. We will be busy with crafts, partying and fireworks with our guests again tomorrow for New Year’s Eve, but rest assured it will all be away from the animals that will be tucked up with plenty of hay whatever the weather throws our way.
A few Festive Farm Fun Photos
First hold of a chicken and looking confident.
Rudolf having a well earned festive breakfast after his hectic Christmas schedule!
Our alpaca are becoming more friendly by the day and taking a shine to spiced Christmas apples!
Festive farm fun from afar, watching the children on the morning farm ride from across the lake.
Our cheeky ponies sticking their heads into the trailer in search of apples.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year
Posted on December 22nd, 2017 - Fiona
Whatever 2017 has held for you I hope you have a fun family festive season.
Ditch the stress, embrace a child’s eye view and remember nothing matters more than being around those you love.
Embrace some family time outdoors between the movies and festive food remembering that outdoor kids are healthy kids.
From all of us here at Coombe Mill Holidays we wish you health and happiness this Christmas time.
Thank you for supporting my blog in 2017, for all the lovely comments and shares on my posts, for joining in with Country Kids (which returns for the new year here on the 6th January) and for helping me win the UKBA 2017 and reach the BIBs finals.
Posted on December 18th, 2017 - Fiona
Here at Coombe Mill we do love a book that is easy to follow, captures kids’ imaginations and has a good morale to it. When I heard that Nicola J. Rowley has a new book out I knew instantly it would be one we would enjoy. Following on from her success with James and the Amazing Gift, James and the Birthday Balloon sees the lovable James out on a new adventure to make everyone around him smile. For your chance to win this delightful book and put a smile on your child’s face read on.
James is off to his best friend’s birthday party and the day is full of excitement and happiness, until the birthday girl, James’s best friend Ruby, has a fall. With a friend like James even a trip to hospital can end in the whole hospital smiling.
What we thought
The story is every bit as touching as I have come to expect from Nicola and beautifully illustrated. It only takes a few minutes to read cover to cover making it an excellent uplifting bedtime story. I was especially happy to see that James’s friend Ruby lived on a farm; this will make it very popular and relevant for our holiday guests.
As with the last book my only reservation is that for £7.99 I’d like to have seen this as a hard back and bigger to maximise the impact of the beautiful illustrations and keep the condition of the book for longer for reading over and over again. That said there are a couple of extra’s in the price we love:
A little Extra
Nicola lives in Surrey and likes to support local charities. For every copy sold a donation is made to the Evelina London Children’s Hospital which provides care and life saving treatment for children in south London and beyond.
In addition there is a QR code to scan on your mobile at the end of the book to give you a free audio book of James and the Birthday Balloon read by every child’s TV hero Dr Ranj.
Win your signed copy of James and the Birthday Balloon with Coombe Mill
If you fancy a copy of this delightful book signed by the author with a personalized message inside why not enter to win. We will be picking 3 lucky winners. Simply follow the instructions below. Good luck to all taking part.
James and the Birthday Balloon
We were sent our copy of the book for the purpose of this review, however all thoughts and opinions here are my own.
Posted on December 16th, 2017 - Fiona
So while the rest of the country enjoyed snow days off school we were welcoming spring here in Cornwall. Not a flake of snow in sight but the snowdrops are coming through and glistening in the winter sun here on the farm. I swear they come earlier and earlier each year. It was only late January this year I was marvelling over the last season of snowdrops. Needless to say I am not optimistic of seeing any snow again this winter in Cornwall, but I’ll make a bet we’ll hang onto the snowdrops till March. I think it is the lack of frost and extremes in temperature here that confuses nature’s cycle.
It isn’t just snowdrops; the early daffodils are out in the village too. Not just the odd one either, a whole bank of them waving in the wind. It all looks rather strange against the backdrop of Christmas lights but as spring is my favourite season these are a welcome sign of things to come.
The catkins are my other marker that spring is approaching. These are particular to certain trees and have put in an early pre Christmas appearance here on the farm. These are typically seen from late January onwards.
Which card has nature dealt you this week, snow or snowdrops?