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All the latest news from our beautiful coastal holiday homes

Folletts get GOLD

The Folletts at Beer won Bronze and Gold at the Visit Devon Tourism Awards 2018 last week.

Little did we think when we purchased our three cottages in the quintessentially British fishing village of Beer, that three and a half years later we would win Bronze in the Self Catering Property of the Year award, and Helen would win Gold in a special award of Customer Service Superstar which was announced on the night.

We think the judges were impressed by our free dog sitting service and the addition of our wonderful complimentary use of the beach hut. The way we have integrated into the village we think made a difference – I lead the Beer Coastal Community team – a volunteer group that exists to ensure Beer continues to be a wonderful place for people to live, work, visit and holiday. This team have recently been awarded a grant from the Government’s Coastal Community Fund to further enhance the village.

We both also supported the village in Channel 4’s Village of the Year competition where Beer won the best village in the South West region to make it to the national finals.

In our press release I said that we were thrilled with both awards –

“Barry and I are delighted to have won the Bronze award for Devon’s Self Catering Property of the Year. It’s particularly pleasing considering we’ve only been in business for a short time. Winning Gold for Customer Service was amazing – to win an award which is all about how you treat people is the icing on the cake! We’re so lucky to live and work in beautiful Beer and East Devon, right on the Jurassic Coast and the South West Coast Path”.

All of the winners can be found on the Devon Tourism Award website.

Press Release

A record number of East Devon attractions and accommodation providers have made it to the final in the South West Tourism Awards. The Award recognises outstanding businesses, who provide a high level of service to tourists visiting the South West. The 2018 Devon awards had over 160 entries, higher than any previous year.

Businesses in East Devon who have made it to the final include:
The Follett’s at Beer holiday cottages, Andrew Hayes Holiday Park, Seaton Wetlands (owned and managed by East Devon District Council’s Countryside service) and the Donkey Sanctuary.
All of the finalists will be judged by an independent panel ahead of the awards ceremony which takes place on Thursday 22 November at previous winner, Higher Bullen, North Devon.

Helen Follett from the Follett’s at Beer holiday cottages said: ‘’Barry and I are very proud and delighted to be finalists in two categories – Self Catering property of the Year and Customer Service Superstar. We are so lucky to live and work in beautiful East Devon and the unspoilt fishing village of Beer. We are looking forward to the awards dinner in November and celebrating with the best of Devon Tourism businesses”.

Clare Mackenney from Andrewhayes Holiday Park said: ‘’Making it to the finals of these awards is great news for Andrewshayes Holiday Park. We are proud to be helping put our beautiful part of Devon on the map and to encourage new visitors to the area.’’

James Chubb, Countryside team leader, said: ‘’This is the first time Seaton Wetlands has entered the South West Tourism Awards, and to have made it into the final in the small attraction of the year category is fantastic! To receive bronze, silver or gold will be a wonderful achievement for all the staff and volunteers who help to make the site such a special place for visitors and wildlife.’’

All of the finalists can be found on the South West Tourism Award website: http://www.devontourismawards.org.uk/page/44/2018-winners–highly-commended.htm
Results from the awards will be published on this website, as well as on the South West Tourism Awards social media. Individual finalists including @FollettsAtBeer @andrewshayesA35 and @wildeastdevon will be posting live from the awards.

‘Mike’s Week’

This week of the year is always a sad one for me as it’s around this time that my Dad passed away and it’s also Remembrance Sunday soon. However it’s also the time I feel grateful that positive changes were made in my life as a result of the very saddest times. Grief actually gave me the wake up call I needed to be brave enough to wave goodbye to the corporate London life I lived, to live and work in wonderful East Devon and beautiful Beer.

Today we have another family arriving to stay in The Boat Shed for ‘Mike’s Week’. Barry and I launched this last year and it’s where we host a family who have been chosen by the Macmillan Hospice in Christchurch for a free holiday. This week allows a person who is very sick to create lasting memories with their loved ones. We’re proud to continue to support the work of this hospice who took such great care of my Dad when he had terminal cancer. They are not linked to the national Macmillan charity and rely on fundraising efforts to continue their good work.

There’s so much research around as to why holidays are so important for people and it’s been proved that taking a holiday is good for your health. Here are the 8 benefits of taking a holiday –

Reduces stress, increases creativity, boosts emotional stability, makes confidence soar, improves your intelligence, improves low moods and helps you fight cold and infection.

This week we’re proud to welcome and host this family and we hope that this time away gives them a change of scenery and the chance to be together to create long and lasting memories.

 

DGT – Devon’s Got Talent

Forget BGT – there’s an array of talent in Devon in the tourism industry! A few weeks ago the Devon Tourism Awards finalists were announced http://www.devontourismawards.org.uk/page/44/2018-winners–highly-commended.htm and The Folletts are shortlisted in TWO categories – Self Catering Property of the Year and Customer Service Superstar. Barry and I are super excited and will hear whether we’ve won Bronze, Silver or Gold at the awards ceremony on 22 November. We know that we are very lucky to live and work in East Devon and our part of Devon did really well in many of the categories. In fact lots of the places we recommend to our guests are also included in the finalists list – The Donkey Sanctuary, Seaton Wetlands and Stuart Line Cruises to name just a few.

This is the second time this year we’ve been recognised, having been a finalist in the Customer Service category for the Devon and Cornwall Venus awards. For the awards dinner Barry will need to press his DJ and I’ll have to dig out my long red dress again. I purchased this for the Venus awards in the Red Cross shop in Seaton for the grand price of £9.50 so I’m pleased it will have another outing this year. I also had a curly hair blow dry and that cost more than the dress!

We entered the awards as it’s been over three years since we became holiday cottage owners, and a key part of the process is that each entrant receives detailed feedback after the awards. I’m really looking forward to receiving ours as I’m sure there’s areas of improvement and suggestions that we can get to grips with. We’re up against some very strong competition in our category; Bidwell Farm Cottages and the Millbrook Estate – congratulations to them as well. In just five weeks time we’ll know the outcome………

A walking centre

Beer Head

Being based on the South West Coast Path is a big draw for our holiday makers. Every inch of its 630 miles is stunning coast line and Barry and I can vouch for that as we’re in the process of walking all of it! So far we’ve walked from Minehead to Tintagel (we’ve walked the whole of the North Devon coastline).

We really are blessed to be located in a Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the walks around us are wonderful. Sidmouth Walking Festival starts on Monday and there is a walk for everyone during the week – from completing the whole of the East Devon Way, to a couple of mile walks that all can enjoy.

The Beer Coastal Community Team that I chair produced new walking leaflets for the village that have proved very popular. These cover circular local walks from Beer to Blackbury Camp, Axmouth, Branscombe and Colyton. The two South West Coast Path walks are Beer to Sidmouth, an 8 hour challenging cliff and valley walk and Beer to Lyme Regis, around 7 hours passing through the undercliff formed by a great landslip in the 19th century.

If you are a walker you know that there is no such thing as bad weather only the wrong clothes. Although I think you might get a little waterlogged if you were out in today’s downpour! I can guarantee if you love walking you won’t be disappointed with Beer. The village is a centre for great walks – come and see for yourself!

Tourist Tax – wish you weren’t here?

Regatta week has just ended and as usual it was a great week to be in Beer. On Thursday I was called by Radio Devon to comment on a tourist tax being suggested by the Devon and Cornwall Police Constable Shaun Sawyer. He said that due to the massive increase in visitors in the summer the police are under increased pressure to keep the counties safe. It was also suggested that our local doctors and the NHS in general can’t cope with the increase demand.

My immediate view was that it was unfair to introduce another tax on small tourism businesses who already operate to very tight margins. The cost of doing business is only going one way (up). In addition our small village was super busy last week and there wasn’t a police presence in sight! I also was of the view that it might stop people visiting if they had to pay. After all I thought tourism was good for our country and good for our economy.

Then I heard Bob and Joan who were on just before me. They are off to Wales today to stay in a holiday cottage and they had to pay a £2 green tax. This green tax apparently goes towards the water bill for the property they are staying in. My research shows that Wales were going to introduce a tourism tax however these plans were recently shelved as there was large opposition that it would damage the economy. Tourism is worth around £2.8 billion to the Welsh economy.

Interestingly many European cities have introduced a bed tax. This is where a couple of Euros is added to your hotel bill each night to help support local services. This money could be injected into the emergency services to help pay for the increased presence of visitors.

I’m now conflicted in my view. Bob and Joan were very much in favour of a tourism tax to help the local services in Devon and Cornwall. Their view was that it’s only £2 for the week and given that they are paying for accommodation this is a small price to add on.

What do you think?

Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail

I’m sure I bore people when I keep telling them how beautiful Beer village is. I’m always saying there is no place more beautiful in the whole world, however…….stop press……I’ve now been to the Lake District. OMG! How stunning are the Lakes? Really you can’t compare them to Beer, but if you’ve never been, put them on your bucket list.

We were up there for my cousin’s wedding and stayed in the village of Askham near Ullswater Lake. We did Airbnb and had a lovely cottage. Of course we were blessed with the most amazing weather and I’m told that we saw the Lakes at their best as it can often be misty.

For Christmas last year Mum gave Barry and I National Trust membership and we’ve been making great use of it. Our first visit was to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home. Now there was a woman before her time. After being rejected by many publishers she actually published The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself before Warne and Co agreed to take it on. Her financial success led her to purchase thousands of acres in the Lake District in order that the land did not get sold to developers.

I grew up on her stories, as well as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven (another blog to follow on this subject). I once tried seven times to make a small plaster cast model of Jemima Puddleduck as her neck kept breaking off as I pushed the mould out. Try, try, try again! I was determined to get it out whole and paint it. I must admit though I can’t like Peter Rabbit now as I have so many wild rabbits in the garden at Garlands and they are quickly munching their way through all our plants. They are so tame now that even my claps and running at them at great speed isn’t frightening them away.

We also visited the gallery of her work in a very pretty village called Hawkeshead and had tea at Wray Castle where she once spent a holiday. A trip on the steam boat from Ambleside to Bowness on Windermere and several long drives over craggy passes (one actually called The Struggles) ensured for an amazing staycation.

So, if you’re not coming to Beer this year (and why not – we only have one week left – 18th August in The Beach House), and you’re still thinking of a holiday destination, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to the Lakes. AND just after junction 38 of the M6 there is the best service station ever – a model of how every UK service station should be. There’s also a sister site on the M5 in Gloucestershire. Google Tebay services!

A night landing site for Devon Air Ambulance

ambulance

The Devon Air Ambulance landed in our little village of Beer three times in 2017. When you think we only have 1,300 people living here I think that’s quite a high number. Twice it was needed for locals and once for a tourist who had injured themselves. Given that our nearest hospital – The Royal Devon in Exeter is a good 45 minute drive away, the Air Ambulance is very important for us.

Beer Parish Council invited all the locals to a talk last month from the Air Ambulance about establishing a night landing site. Seaton and Colyton are also in the process of having one. To set one up costs about £6,000 with a government grant covering half the money, so our village has to raise the other £3,000. Our night landing site is going to be at Beer Football Club and the majority of the expense is for installing flood lights so that the team can land safely.

As I would have expected we’ve gone into overdrive and already have achieved a great sum but more is needed. We’re doing what we do best – a quiz night in Osborne’s wine bar on the 5th July and a bingo night in the Mariner’s Hall on the 6th July with some fantastic raffle prizes. We’ve also set up a Facebook page to publicise the fund raising.

The wonderful thing about the Air Ambulance is that you aren’t just taken to the hospital in Exeter. We learnt from the talk that you are taken to the hospital that is best suited to your needs. For example, if you have a problem with your heart you might be taken to Derriford in Plymouth to their heart surgeons, or a child might be taken to the Bristol Children’s Hospital, where incidentally my cousin works. All direct as the crow (or ambulance) flies and a lot quicker than by road!

In 2017 these angels in the sky attended to 990 patients, 12% of which were children. Their combined flying time was 720 hours and interestingly 23% of patients were known to live outside of Devon. This is a vital service for locals and our visitors and I know we’ll make that £3,000 and probably more with the focus and effort that Beer residents put in.

Such a worthwhile cause – they are there when it maters most.

 

Four Cross into Cornwall

cornwall sign

Last July Barry and I, with two friends, started to walk the South West Coast Path which starts in Minehead in Somerset and ends at South Haven Point, Dorset. We vowed to complete 1 week a year so it will take us 8 years to walk all 630 miles. Last week we started on week 2 and walked from Westward Ho! to Morwenstow, about 30 miles. Since we started we have walked a total of 117 miles!

We stayed in a holiday cottage in Bude which was an interesting experience as it was a bit of a Busman’s holiday. The cottage was booked through Cornish Horizons and we could not fault it. Of course we packed everything but the kitchen sink (you can if you are having a staycation and driving). I remember once when we were driving to Warners and Dad said that Mum had packed everything but the kitchen sink and my brother looking out of the window spotted a car and said ‘Dad, look! They did pack the kitchen sink!’ Sure enough a car overtook us with a sink on the roof rack (but I digress).

There were many highlights of the week –
– Barry showed off his early morning (and quite frankly any other time of the day) tea making skills.
– We enjoyed local fresh eggs with the date and name of the hen who laid them written on them.
– We remembered that our friends are really amazing cooks and ate Coq Au Vin, Chilli and Wild Garlic Risotto.
– We proved that you are never to old to host a sleepover when other friends joined us for a night!
– We ate out at the great local pubs and restaurants – the fish at Life’s A Beach was fantastic.
– I saw my first snake in the UK although at first I did say it was a big worm……
– We learnt what colour sweets we all eat first out of the packet – Maoams, Skittles, Smarties, Fruit Pastilles, Wine Gums, Jelly Babies, Liquorice Allsorts, Revels (I know – we went onto chocolates). I hasten to add we didn’t eat all these en-route.

The stretch we walked covered every category of walking, from parts being easy, to moderate, strenuous and our first severe section. And oh my was it severe. The ascent was 4,170ft which is a lot of steps up and down. I was really hoping for a welcome cup of tea in Welcome Mouth however it wasn’t to be! On the last day we reached a milestone as we walked into Cornwall. We can now say we’ve walked along the whole of the North Devon coast. A glass of bubbly in the bath back at the cottage was my reward. I only hope the cleaners don’t judge us by the number of bottles in the recycling at the end of the week.

Next stop – Morwenstow to Tintagel in August; the walk continues…….

Healing Greek style

Epidaurus

When my son was 4 my grandmother gave him a set of paperback children’s history books. There were three of them on the ancient Romans, Egyptians and Greeks. This started Josh’s love of history and I think it’s one of the reasons he’s doing a history degree currently.

He’s always wanted to see the ancient historical sites of Greece and last week we were lucky to travel round these. One of our favourite visits was to Epidaurus which was known throughout the Greek world as a healing sanctuary and for its theatre, which is once again in use today. The Asclepieion was the most celebrated healing centre of the Classical world, the place where all people went in the hope of being cured.

The ancient Greeks believed what Hippocrates said – you are what you eat. At the sanctuary they only ate what was in season. They also undertook therapy. Hippocrates told his therapists ‘you cannot heal anyone if they are not ready to leave behind that which is making them sick’. So thousands of years ago people knew that the body and soul were linked, and the sanctuary focused on the inside to make it stronger, and encouraged people to rest which they believed was the key to healing.

We heard so many mythical stories to the ancient Greeks during our week. Aphrodite, the god of beauty had two sons; Hypnos and Thanatos. At the sanctuary Hypnos would help to heal people by hypnotherapy. If they couldn’t be healed it’s said that Aphrodite would send her other son Thanatos, who was a god of death, to let them die in their sleep as she didn’t want anyone to suffer and be ugly.

Theatre and the arts were also considered important for healing. The theatre was designed in the 4th century B.C. and when full seats up to 15,000 people. As it did in the time of the ancient Greeks, the theatre is still marvelled for its exceptional acoustics, which permit almost perfect hearing of spoken words from the stage floor to all spectators, regardless of their seating. We tested this as Josh and I climbed up to the very top and one of our fellow passengers recited some poetry from the bottom. We could hear him clearly!

The lessons that can be learned from the 4th century are still relevant today. It was a privilege to spend time in the sites. If you’re thinking of travelling abroad this summer (obviously after you’ve had your Staycation at The Folletts) head to Greece!