We aim to create great yurt holidays with a low carbon footprint at the same time ensuring a fun and enjoyable experience for our guests; we think of this as "treading softly" - you'll see what we mean if you come to stay. Iit's not about preaching but recognising the beauty of our surroundings and trying to do our small bit to keep things that way.
What does this mean in reality?
Wildlife: there is an abundance of wildlife around and we try to manage the yurt field and our own garden (5 acres in total) to encourage diversity. This means that we do things bit by bit rather than all at once, so for instance, half the hedge will be cut one year and half the next, to ensure that the farmland birds have what they need in order to nest and feed their young. Our hedges are ancient and provide a perfect habitat for the farmland and foraging birds which are under threat elsewhere - expect to hear skylarks and yellowhammers as well as song thrushes and the more usual tits, wrens and blackbirds. The grass gets cut right at the end of the season and throughout the year provides a good habitat for field voles which is just what barn owls like to eat; we have put up a barn owl nesting box and we're hopeful! Our pond (currently safely fenced off) provides a haven for moorhens and ducks and we plan to develop it to encourage a wider range of wildlife. Bats use the fields at dusk and sometimes the barn, so the lighting is kept low so as not to disturb them and we have a bat nesting box on one of our ash tree; watch out too for hares, deer and hedgehogs. We're members of the newly created Suffolk Wildlife Trust Nature Network and are learning all the time, so we love to get your input and hear about what you've seen during your stay.
Food miles: Through our “Dig Your Own” vegetable and fruit beds in the yurt field, we aim to keep food miles as well as packaging down to a minimum. We plant the beds up each year with a range of things we feel work well for outdoor cooking and eating straight from the bush; we always aim to have a range of herbs and salad leaves available, whether that's rocket or nasturtium leaves and flowers or more conventional lettuce, and have raspberries, strawberries and blueberries dotted around the site; beetroot is a particular favourite of ours, not least because it is so easy to grow and great fun to roast on the campfire. We don't use chemicals anywhere in the garden or field and follow an organic and permaculture approach to our growing. There's a great tradition of "sales from the gate" in Westhall and the surrounding villages, so you can generally buy great free range eggs for a fraction of supermarket prices as well as whatever surplus produce happens to be in season. We also sell our own garden produce at the front gate, so you shouldn't go short.
Energy: We use solar thermal panels to heat the water for showers (including the woodland shower) and washing up (supplemented by an immersion heater for grey days) and will have solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the safari kitchen by the spring. These will help to feed the immersion heater for hot water as well as feeding electricity back into the grid. All the lights in the barn are LED which means they use very little electricity and we make use of solar lights throughout the site (which look beautiful in the evening too).
Water: this is an important resource in East Anglia, where our rainfall is 24% below the national average. You'll see water butts dotted around which we use for all the produce that grows in the fields as well as the tubs around the barn. In the longer term to complement our conventional flushing loos we are hoping to build one or two composting toilets though these are still on our to do list at the moment until we've completed the "tree bogs" course!
Wood: we love seeing guests enjoying campfires, which for us are at the heart of a good outdoor camping experience. We try to keep the pile of campfire wood going from our own coppicing work through the winter and, when that runs low, top it up from old wooden window frames salvaged from the double-glazing firm in town. We try our best to de-nail everything that goes on to the pile and to ensure it's all in usable lengths. Wood for the wood-burners in the yurts comes from a local company which manages the supplies sustainably.
Reduce/Reuse/Recycle: We compost food remains in our wormery and compost bins (the "tiger worms" which do the work for us are plentiful by the height of summer - let us know if you'd like to take a look!) and try to dispose of as much as possible on site - cardboard or newspaper gets used on bonfires or the compost heap and bottles and jars in good condition get reused for home-made cordials, jams and jellies. You might spot that the raised beds around the place are made out of unconventional bits of wood - mostly salvaged from the restoration work to the barn, so they haven't travelled far! We actively encourage our guests to use the recycling bins for glass, tin, plastic etc and try to make it all as easy and painless as possible - it is your holiday, after all.
Transport: Our yurts are just 2 miles away from Brampton station and as we now have an hourly service on the London/Lowestoft line, we are keener than ever to encourage guests to consider coming by train. To make it even more appealing, we'll knock £10 off the cost of your yurt and collect and return you to the station. We have a supply of bikes for guests to use for local trips or further afield if you fancy and good undercover storage for those who want to bring their own bikes. We're located on National Cycle Route 1 and the lanes are very quiet, so it's easy and fun! We’ve got the local bike route maps, as well as OS maps of the area for you to borrow. The local bus passes the front gate - kids really enjoy sticking their hand out and jumping on board to head to Beccles or Halesworth.
Keeping it local: there’s a local store, Post Office and pub in the village of Westhall, just a mile and a bit down the road, and we’d encourage you to use these, or the local market towns of Halesworth, Bungay and Beccles, in order to support local producers and shops. There are some great shops around – Halesworth has one of our favourite shops, Focus, which sells a good range of health and organic food and vegetables as well as some great presents, and a good clothes/jewellery/hand-bag shop next door! Beccles and Bungay both have a good selection of food and other shops too (lots of gift and antique shops in Bungay) and are well worth a visit. You can get local fish from the country market in Halesworth on Wednesday morning or buy it straight off the boats down at Southwold Harbour, which is great fun!
Finally: we are focused on providing a great environment for you to enjoy a holiday in the beautiful countryside and trying to keep it that way for future generations. We welcome your thoughts, questions and feedback