Tomorrow we leave for host number five after a week here at Windy Ridge, near Ivybridge, Devon. Link to the website is Camping & Caravanning CL site website but worth looking at for the amazing views of the camping field and location information about the hosts.
The ‘farm’ is actually two farms – a bungalow sited with a herd of beef cattle which is still worked as a farm, along with the camping field, some chickens, some sheep and a dog. And the old farmhouse – a stunning 9 bedroom, grade 2 listed building two fields away from the bungalow along with various barns, sheds, out buildings, yards and gardens. The original farm, within living memory was a thriving business for two families, providing dairy, meat, chickens, pigs, cattle as well as all the fruit and veg grown in the kitchen garden and orchards, a B&B business run from farmhouse. Sadly as the original farmers have retired due to age / ill health and farming has gone into decline the farmhouse is now falling apart and the farming here now is just beef cattle.
We have been camped in Willow in the field, enjoying hook up and water – if you are ever in need of a campsite in this very gorgeous part of the country I highly recommend it. Bargain price of just £10 per night, stunning views, great warm welcome and near to lots of attractions. We have loved the view out of our window with stunning sunrise, sunsets, hot air balloons drifting past and the edge of Dartmoor, the sea and various twinkling town and village lights spread out below us, not to mention the sort of patchwork fields on hills I used to draw as a child.
We have been so well looked after here, with endless cups of tea and coffee, huge lunches, even more massive dinners followed by proper puddings and cake twice a day for morning and afternoon tea. The food has been gorgeous, proper farmhouse fayre with home baking using the farm eggs, fabulous cooking using the farm beef and all our washing done for us. Dragon and Star have been truly indulged and between the dogs, cows and chickens have had all their farming dreams catered for.
The hosts have once again been the highlight of the week though. Generous, interesting, knowledgable people with stories to tell, skills to share and patience to teach us. We have loved spending time with this family – famers for generations who grew up in this area, are a close knit family with interesting lives they are only too happy to share with us. It’s been a fab place to spend a week and our only regret is not having longer here really as I know we have barely scratched the surface of what we could have learnt here given a (much) longer stay. I feel we have been given an excellent taster of what their lifestyle involves, been useful to have around in terms of the small amount of stuff we have done and had our appetites whetted even more for something similar ourselves one day.
Bad: sad to see so many farm buildings, barns and sheds which are not being used any more, both the farmhouse here and the neighbouring farms too.
Good: The food! We have had so much lovely beef and cakes.
Learnt: That lots of farms are land scattered around that have to be driven to rather than all fields around the farmhouse.
Bad: A dead calf here on our last day. It had been poorly and died today which made me feel sad.
Good: Made friends with calves and cows. I didn’t know you could interact with cows so much. I loved stroking them and talking to them.
Learnt: That dogs can play football! Kim the sheepdog here is excellent at football.
Bad: It made me sad to see a beautiful and once productive farmhouse, buildings and land that within such close living memory was a thriving farm now going to ruin and not being used any more, despite knowledge still being here.
Good: The food and hospitality. We have been so well looked after by Denise, Glyn and Joan. The food was excellent and we really enjoyed getting to know everyone here.
Learnt: Lots about the process of farming, how knowledge is handed down through generations, how busy and productive farming people are and how much community feeling there is within farming with people helping neighbours, sharing and so on.
Bad: A week has not been long enough. We have barely scratched the surface of what we could learn here. We have had a flavour of the level of experience we could have had, how many different things we could learn both as practical skills and as sitting talking and working alongside this family and it worries me that a week, or even two weeks, in many of our potential hosts may not be enough. We will not be around long enough to learn skills quickly enough to be useful so may not get shown things.
Good: I got to milk a cow!
Learnt: That our dreams of this sort of lifestyle are feasible. It has been really heartening to be taken seriously in our ideas and know that the sort of model we have in our heads as our dream is a possible one that we could maybe make work. I’ve also learnt that being flexible, adaptable and able to bring diverse skills (which I think the four of us possess) and make your land and livestock work for you in various different ways is a realistic idea.