Follow the Folletts

All the latest news from our beautiful coastal holiday homes

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!

RAOK

Diana quote

I’ve been on the receiving end of some Random Acts of Kindness recently; those little gestures that people make; unsolicited, spontaneous and very kind.

My guests checked into The Seaside Inn last weekend and forgot their dog lead. I was going into Seaton anyway so I offered to pick one up. We don’t have a dog (not yet anyway……I want a female black Labrador but this blog is not about that!). I went into the hardware store to ask if they sold them (they didn’t) and a woman in the queue turned round and said you can have my one if you can’t find one to buy. She lives in Beer and went on to tell me that there is a pet shop in Seaton. She was so thoughtful and kind. It turned out that I found the pet shop and managed to purchase one anyway.

It’s true that one good turn deserves another as a day later I was at the cash till and a lady was struggling to make sense of it. She was getting quite agitated so I offered to help. We got her money out and her thank you was so effusive that I felt good for the rest of the day. I even offered to let someone go in front of me at the Co-Op queue as I could see they were in a hurry (I’m very British in that I do love a queue).

The recent snowfalls in East Devon (the first for about 10 years) have meant that lots of people couldn’t get about especially as it’s very hilly here. I saw so many offers of help to people on the local Facebook forums that made me feel so good about where we are living. A community that really looks out for others.

In fact I’ve realised that these RAOK go on all the time and usually they are unnoticed. Some people are just genuinely kind and will do anything for anyone. There are some people who are always listening out for ways to help others and the world is a better place for them.

Reflection – is that me?

Me

At St. Michaels church in Beer this morning the vicar talked about reflection. He started with a question – do you recognise yourself when you look in the mirror? This struck a chord with me as a few months ago I realised that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognise the face looking back at me. This wasn’t some spiritual moment but one of getting older and not realising that I actually look like I actually look!

I wonder when it happened? I know I stopped dyeing my hair in April 2016 as I was finishing work in the August. I’m now really embracing the ‘salt and pepper’ look but various other things have occurred to me –

1. When I fill out a form I’m ticking the 45 – 50 age box and that won’t be for much longer……..
2. When I was in London at Christmas two people gave up their seat for me on the tube.
3. My left hip joint and right knee ache and I prefer going to the Physio rather than for a massage.
4. My Mum bought me a foot filer for my 48th birthday and I was very pleased with it.
5. I don’t care and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to carry and use my fan in public for hot flushes.
6. I have come to accept that on occasions my brain is just not linked to what I’m saying.
7. I just don’t worry about stuff that I can’t control or influence.

The vicar also asked about what other people see when they look at you? This was a more difficult question. Many people will see a woman hurtling towards middle age (or actually in it!) but I don’t feel like that. I’ve got more energy now than I did in my 20’s despite the few aches and pains. I do yoga five days a week and am walking The South West Coast Path.

So whilst I may not recognise my reflection in the mirror I feel fitter. I think this period of my life is one of the best, despite the heartache I went through when those close to me passed away. I’m embracing points 1 to 7 above.

I wonder what you reflect on as you get older?

The BIG day and The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation

Wedding

The shy little girl I met when she was 9 has transformed into this beautiful young woman who I’m so proud of. I read the other day that someone said of their step daughter ‘She’s my daughter, I just didn’t know her when she was born’ which I thought was just lovely. I don’t mind admitting that as she made her way into the barn I got totally emotional.

It seems appropriate to talk about weddings on Valentine’s Day. Alexandra and Simon’s wedding on the 4th February at Park House in West Sussex was simply stunning. They chose a winter wedding as the 4th was when they met five years ago. Alex was hoping for snow but in the end got one of those perfectly freezing but sunny days.

Barry was such a proud FOB (father of the bride) and did a great job of making our guests laugh and at times cry, and Simon’s groom speech was a triumph. Their wedding cake, made up of 5 cheeses with two adorable bunny rabbits on top was so different and the evening guests appreciated it with lots of different crackers and chutneys. I’m just glad Alex seems to have got over her obsession with Eeyore otherwise it would have been topped with donkeys! The added surprise of a sax player and bongo drummer playing along to the evening disco was superb.

This week we have Emma Tanner staying in The Boat Shed. Emma had her wedding arranged for her by The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation who are based in Devon. She married Jamie in May 2016 but unfortunately he passed away soon after. Her story and Naomi’s can be found in this video –

I first heard about TWWWF when I moved to Beer and donated my own wedding dress to them. It was being stored in my wardrobe and I just thought it would be lovely if the dress could be used for some good.

Naomi has been shortlisted for the Mother of the Year category for the Venus Awards for Devon and Cornwall for her amazing work so please do vote for her. Last year I heard that Emma was organising a fundraising dinner for the charity so I contacted her to give her a weeks holiday with us as an auction prize. It raised £500 and the lovely people who bought it then donated it back to Emma so she could enjoy a holiday away, which is how she came to be staying with us this week. Emma has also been nominated for an award as Fundraiser of the Year for TWWWF.

In my view these two woman are an inspiration and I’m in awe of them. I will be thinking of them both this Valentine’s Day.

 

At your service

beach hut

What can I do for you today?

Having just returned from my own holiday in India it feels appropriate to quote Mahatma Gandhi –

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”.

This totally sums up my job as Chief Holidaymaker. It’s fast becoming my attitude towards life. Not just in my business; if I’m asked a favour or to help out in the village I always try to say yes.

I’ve often been on the receiving end of incredible customer service. Twice I was wowed by the same company; Belmond. After my father passed away my Mum and I took a trip on the Orient Express to Venice. In Venice we were staying at The Cipriani and they came to do the check in actually on the train in our cabin. Whilst they were fiddling with paperwork I said to my Mum ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch Murder on the Orient Express this evening after dinner’.

When we arrived at The Cipriani we were told that we had been upgraded to a lagoon view. We walked into this amazing room and there waiting for us on the table was a bottle of wine, nibbles and a copy of Murder on the Orient Express! What a memory.

The second time Belmond wowed me was when Barry and I got married in Rio. We weren’t staying at The Copacabana Palace but we went there in our wedding attire and asked if we could have a drink in their bar. We were escorted to the bar where a man was playing the piano and ordered a glass of champagne. We had the bar to ourselves and with the pianist playing soft melodies it’s a lovely memory.

When Barry went to pay, the barman said ‘Congratulations, the champagne is on us’. We didn’t know but the man who took us to the bar was the Operations Director. When we left he was still in the lobby so we thanked him for his generosity given that we weren’t guests of the hotel. He said ‘you’re welcome, and maybe if you come back to Rio, you’ll think of staying here’. We haven’t gone back to Rio yet however when we do I’d loved to stay there, even if it’s just for a couple of nights!

With these wonderful memories you can be sure I’m always thinking of how I can make our guests stay more magical. That’s why it’s so great to be a semi-finalist in the Venus awards for Devon and Cornwall. As I live sandwiched between our holiday cottages before I open my front door I smile as that’s when I’m on stage hoping to help our holidaymakers create wonderful memories of staying at The Folletts at Beer.