Family farm holidays in Cornwall magical for children, toddlers and babies.
Coombe Mill Blog
"Tales from the farmers wife" shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.
Happy New Year to you all. We hope 2021 brings us a better year and that for our guests at Coombe Mill you have a year with less restrictions to travel. Have you thought about a 2021 staycation for your family? Read on to hear our plans and the big changes ahead.
At the end of last year Coombe Mill changed hands. Fiona and Nick who owned Coombe Mill for over 18 years have decided to put their feet up and retire and have passed over the reins to us – Anya, Emma, Millie, Sam and Sienna.
A bit about us
Emma and I are both ex – secondary school teachers and as a family have a love for the outdoors. We have moved down to Cornwall from Bovingdon in Hertfordshire where we lived for over 10 years but wanted to escape the rat race and have a slower pace of life.
The start of our journey has been a challenging one due to more Covid lockdowns but we were able to welcome a few guests from Tier 1 and 2 for the Christmas week.
Latest on the farm
We have turned on the lights in the indoor chicken shed and are feeding the chickens more food in the hope that we get some eggs in the next few days.
In the local area
Exploring the local area has been like our own little staycation. As a family we have discovered a number of child friendly walks. These will be added into the welcome pack in each lodge for you to enjoy.
We are looking forward to developing Coombe Mill in our style. Rest assured we will keep you up to date with our plans and changes throughout the year on our Instagram and Facebook pages. First up is a brilliant wooden swing down near the river and the fairy garden. This has already been fully tested by our children and proved a big success.
Arrranging your next staycation
The Christmas decorations are now down and we are fully in the driving seat. Why not beat the January blues and look at a staycation here this year. Emma and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming year. Our children are keen to find new playmates.
What a surreal summer that was. July and August came and went in a blur of glorious busy days for us. It is wonderful to be open again and we had everything crossed that we would see the critical two summer months through without the need for a second lockdown. Yippee we did it, if you stayed hopefully you’ll agree that the careful balance of social distancing and the farm activities you love came together to make a memorable holiday. September holiday dates look like they will continue as August left off so we must be doing something right!
Social distancing to suit you
Besides the new self showing in and feed run modifications mentioned last month, social distancing is very much at your discretion. With 30 acres of outdoor freedom here, there is always a quiet corner, a time to visit our purpose built play areas alone or enjoy the wonders of nature here.
Speaking of social distancing, we have new plaques up through the orchard. It is now the “Wisdom Walk” and perfect for a thoughtful stroll. You can even stop to pick an apples, cherries, plums and blackberries along the way!
I mentioned at the start that September holiday dates were going fast. This is also true of October and all school holiday dates into 2021. If you are thinking to get away and visit us please do think ahead and book up. Currently we still have availability for summer 2021 at 2020 prices (held from 2019). This won’t last so it really does pay to plan ahead!
On the farm
The Piglets, born in July, are growing up fast and gaining weight by the day. They can no longer squeeze under the gate to free range and are competing for mum for the daily food rations.
A new baby Guinea Pig
After an evening of much commotion and squabbling in the guinea pig house my suspicions were confirmed and we have a new baby. This new baby spent much of August hiding in the lock away house with Mum guarding the entrance, but is now beginning to venture out and mix with the others. As the smallest and cuties she is the target of every Childs affections.
All the other animals are making the most of the last of the summer days and fresh grass growth fattening themselves up for the winter ahead.
Wishing you a happy and safe September. For everyone with children starting, changing or returning to school, I hope it all goes well settling in and some form of normality will return to all our lives.
I wasn’t going to post this month, after all, who wants to hear from me when you are worrying about day to day life under the strange lockdown rules we all find ourselves affected by. But then I decided, those who don’t want to hear can pass on by, and for those who want to keep up with news from the farm here it is. I make no secret of the fact spring is my favourite time of year here, I am simply sad that we are spending it alone.
Your Holiday this year.
If you are holidaying with us this year please don’t worry, we have been in regular contact with everyone as their holidays have approached. The first wave affected in March and April have had more than their fair share of correspondence from me as we have grappled with a fast changing list of rules and regulations. I think we finally have a formula going forward that should work for everyone. Essentially hold tight if you haven’t yet heard from us, you will from the time your balance is due. In essence we are delaying the time to pay balances till we know if your holiday will take place this year. If the government is still banning all holidays, then we are offering to move your holiday, up to 12 months ahead. If you choose to cancel your money will be lost unless the ban is lifted and your week re-lets. Don’t worry you will all be emailed.
If you are not yet part of our Facebook group I strongly recommend you join, it is where all the information goes first and there are some great ideas coming back from those in there too.
The Lockdown Feed run with just me and Farmer Nick
Someone in our Facebook group suggested that it would be lovely if we could live stream on Facebook or Instagram from the farm, sadly our WiFi doesn’t extent to the farm and mobile data in the valley is very limited. However I record a morning animal feed and upload it to Facebook which frankly blew me away in popularity. It will now hopefully be the first of many while this situation lasts. The kids and Nick are already bored of me filming them everywhere about their daily chores!
While Nick has been busy on the farm, I have been snowed under trying to keep pace with questions coming in from phone, email and all forms of social media concerning your holidays. Hopefully we now have it sorted. I’d like to say a huge thank you to many of our regular guests who went out of their way to say some lovely things in the face of a few tricky public messages. These are hard times for us all and no one wants to get back to normal and open the farm to visitors again more than we do.
Spring on the Farm
We now have 3 sets of twin lambs. Our best ever lambing season and no one here, it’s like nature is laughing at us. The dry weather arrived just in times for our lambs and all are yet to experience rain. We had a very near miss with one of our first twins were some walkers with a dog scared it onto our lake. Thankfully they told us straight away and Clio and I rushed over. I grabbed a stick to beat back the brambles it was trying to paddle through but the poor lamb was losing strength, Clio took the only option left and jumped in, scoped him up and handed him to me on the bank. We were just in time as he was giving up with his brave doggy paddle.
I do like a happy ending, after a worrying morning on our patio wrapped in towels he was up and about and taken back to Mum. We had a worrying 24 hours of him being accepted back but all ended well and they are a lovely family unit again. We should have 8 ewes still to lamb before the end of May.
We sadly lost our mature stag to a stomach abscess in February and were worried for the future of the heard. However we have a wild fallow deer running round the perimeter of the fields. We have named him Norman, and hope that by feeding him daily we will be able to attract him inside the gate at some point without letting our girls out.
Sally has gone to her boyfriend
Sally is currently away with her boyfriend so it is just piglet with us on the farm for now. We are hopeful for piglets in July. Fingers crossed we will be open again then and that you’ll be able to meet them.
Goosey Goosey Gander
Our goose is happily sitting on a clutch of eggs. We’ve yet to see if they come to anything, she as already rejected one. Last year both she and the turkey took turns to sit on the eggs, only one hatched, it was a goose, but we had to wait to the end to see who the mother was. This year we have moved the turkeys, hopefully now we will have at least one of each.
Finally, just before the virus lockdown took a grip, I had a lovely couple of days up in Birmingham for the annual Small Business Event run by Theo Paphitis. It is something I go to each year having won the award back in 2012. This year was as inspiring as ever with guest speaker and fellow Dragon’s Den member Sara Davies. I am full of enthusiasm to carry us through the next 12 months, though much of it for now is preparation for when you can finally visit us again.
What’s Not on in April!
Unusually I’m not going to add an events section for April as we all know too well there are no events taking place. That said I hope you have all stocked up on Easter Eggs and can manage an Easter egg hunt around your house or garden. I am really going to miss the annual Coombe Mill Easter Egg hunt this year followed by the junk model river sailing. Fingers crossed it will all be possible again soon. For now I’m leaving you with a beautiful photo from Bodmin Moor. This is within cycling range for me, always open, and an hour of solitude and exercise I value most days.
We were lucky enough to be offered Nick’s cousin’s summer flat for our summer holiday with the triplets in Greece. Vouliagmeni is one of the desirable suburbs of Athens down by the coast and popular with Athenians for beach days and holidays. The flat was just one block inland from the beautifully maintained private Vouliagmeni beach and needless to say we spent quite a bit of time here during our week away.
A Gramable Underpass
The beach may have been just a few minutes walk, but it involved crossing the main coastal dual carrigway road and I didn’t trust the kids to look the right way for oncoming traffic. Thankfully there was also a subway which to the kids delight was covered in Graffiti and in their words was “gramable” for their Instagram profiles so they were happy to cross this way and we were happy for them to come and go from the flat on this basis.
There is everything you need at the beach for a day there without leaving if you are visiting from further away. You have to pay to enter but it is only a few Euros and so worth it. Once inside the sun loungers and umbrellas are free, the whole place is clean and litter free and there are many more facilities including cafes, loos and showers. With large open grass areas, flower boarders and even courts for ball games it is a very comfortable day in beautiful surroundings.
Vouliagmeni beach is very gently shelving with little wave typical of the Mediterranean. In early June the water temperature was perfectly warm and my kids spent hours in the sea just throwing a tennis ball to one another and keeping cool. There are lifeguards at either end of the beach for added safety.
Anyone for Bat Ball?
Their other great love became the Greek Bat Ball. After watching the locals all play we bought a set and had a go. It is so much harder than it looks and we were so obviously the clueless foreigners. The locals managed to keep rallies going for minutes while we only managed seconds. Jed is my naturally sporty one and he spent most of his time perfecting his technique on each one of us.
Not completely unplugged
The flat had no WiFi and very little mobile signal so the kids were truly unplugged most of the holiday. That said there was beach WiFi, all be it with a very limited signal strength, this kept the kids up to date with their friends at home via Snapchat from their sun loungers. After catching up on the chat there was always time for more swimming and a little siesta.
The Free Beaches
There are many free beaches in Vouliagmeni and all along the coast to Glenfada. Here you pay for the loungers and umbrellas or sat on the sand for free. However by the time you paid for our loungers and umbrella the price is much the same as the one we used. Most beaches were supported by tavernas, which we made a point of trying each night.
We all had a lovely relaxing week in Greece and were very grateful to Nick’s cousin for the use of their flat. We wouldn’t hesitate to go back, there are plenty of hotels in the area and it all felt so clean and safe. The beaches themselves are still not a patch on our Cornish beaches, but we can’t compete on water temperature and guaranteed sun and it was blissful to swim without a wetsuit; something I rarely do in Cornwall.
Tips for visiting Vouliagmeni Beach
Entrance price is 4 euro kids, students and OAPs. 6 euro adults. Payment is for a full day and their is no late admission discount. OAPs and students need to supply valid ID, even my 82 year old Mother in Law was not trusted at face value as being old!
Prices go up at the weekend (8 Euros for adults) and the beaches are overcrowded with Athenians as are the carparks and local streets. There are not enough sun loungers to go around on Saturday and Sunday, these days are best avoided.
Toilets and open showers are free
2 cafes stock drinks, ice creams and hot snacks. There is seating there or you can take away.
Across the road from the beach is a supermarket if you’d rather take in your own picnic
Bat ball courts are provided though they are very busy at weekends and any spare space is used.
The Beach has 2 Lifeguards all day.
Free beach wifi but very patchy to actually use as demand way outstrips supply.
The beach is litter Free with plenty of bins and staff to tidy each day. In fact this was true of all the beaches.
I do love the May half term, with longer evenings and warmer weather this is a perfect time for a week off school. While my eldest two boys have their heads in books for GCSEs and A levels I have been doing my best to create a quiet house for them by encouraging the younger children to be outdoors as much as possible.
Guy took my outdoor request very literally by creating an outdoor camp and spending days, nights and meal times there with his holiday friend!
We have been enjoying the best of the weather for half term too with day after day of blue skies and sunshine. For me this means a trip to the beach after the farm chores are complete. I was tempted to visit one of the quieter lesser known coves during half term, but the kids were keen to stick to their favourite, Polzeath.
No sooner had we set up base, than Jed was off into the water. He had packed a wet suit but couldn’t be bothered with the faff of struggling into it and disappeared in swim shorts to enjoy the moment.
I looked up from my sheltered sunbathing spot to see him jumping off the rocks. Somehow he looks so much more grown up than his 12 years.
Not to worry though, we could do it all again tomorrow.
I hope you have enjoyed your week and your children are refreshed for school. Best of luck to anyone with older children sitting exams like mine; they will soon have a wonderful long summer to compensate.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares life on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Emma and our children. Step into our beautiful 30 acres and experience nature close up with farming and educational crafts in stunning North Cornwall. Family, fun and adventure start here.