Yurts and Coronavirus
First of all we should stay that our thoughts are with all our lovely guests and we are hoping that you and your families are keeping safe and well. We continue to be open for short breaks and holidays throughout the year and are monitoring government announcements on a daily basis and will keep this blog as well as our FaceBook page updated with where we're at. We've been in touch with our April guests to offer to move their breaks to later in the year for anyone who would prefer that and will contact May guests within the next week or so, once we see how things are looking. In the meantime if you have any questions do please give us a call on 07802 456087. We have put measures in place to minimise the risk of catching Coronavirus, with a new paper towel dispenser installed and a stack of 10,000 paper towels to go with it; we have a good stock of bars of soap, information about hand-washing (though everyone must be familiar with the routine by now), a huge stack of tea-towels and appropriate laundry baskets and bins dotted around. We are also blessed with plenty of fresh air and, of course, each yurt has their own cooking facilities and equipment for cooking at the yurt, in addition to the shared facilities. We're also expecting a surge in the use of the (heated) woodland showers this year, so they are freshly serviced and all ready to go. We've been heartened by the responses from many of our returning guests, who are happy with the cleanliness and standards of hygiene at the yurts and tell us that they are very much looking forward to their Easter breaks, and we look forward to welcoming many returning and new guests this year. With a heartfelt thanks for your continuing support in these difficult times, and best wishes to you all. And, we have to stay, after a good amount of winter rain the flowers are looking fabulous!
We've been enjoying the still unseasonably warm autumn - fireworks on the beach at Aldeburgh to mark the switching on of the Christmas lights; lunches on the lawn (mushrooms on toast with lots of garlic); picking what must surely be the last of the marigolds; transplanting some summer fruiting raspberry canes into the bed in the meadow, to complement the autumn raspberries (which are fruiting nicely at the moment!) and a fabulous view of a murmuration of starlings on a Suffolk Wildlife Trust event at Hen Reedbeds in the last weekend of November. Of course, we're doing it all in the interests of research, so that we know what we can recommend to our yurt guests when they come to visit at any time of the year!
We've been enjoying sorting out the veggie beds in the meadow - the asparagus bed is now nicely mulched and manured ready for the spring, the autumn onions are in, with red clover as a green manure to be dug in when spring arrives; the raspberry canes are very happy in their nicely mulched bed where the sweetcorn were growing in the summer. There's just one bed to finish off and then it's all ready for next year! We're planning to have a good range of things growing throughout the year for people who stay to pick and enjoy (all included in the price)! And this year we had great success with peppers (as well as more cherry tomatoes than you could shake a stick at).
And, of course, now it's turning cooler it's the perfect excuse for baking bread rolls (if one were needed)!
We're now looking ahead to our next season and wizzed down to Somerset to collect the new Lapwing yurt - complete with soft green lining and sheep's felt for warmth throughout the season. Paul King at Woodland Yurts, who made the yurt, is also the author of The Complete Yurt Handbook and you can see more about what he's up to here http://www.woodlandyurts.co.uk/
The late autumn heatwave saw us squeezing in a few more "last of the summer swims" at Walberswick, along with plenty of others. We were lucky enough to spot a kingfisher on the river as well as a little egret. The kingfisher was far too quick to get a picture of, but the egret was far more obliging.
We managed to get some work in too; we've converted the vegetable bed in the field into a raised bed and the first red onions are in there and should be ready to lift next June (lifting onions is one of the easiest gardening tasks). We were keen to put red onions in as they're great for using raw in salads in summer if you don't fancy cooking; we'll be planning more delights (I spent today mulching the asparagus bed - the first spears should be ready for harvesting in late spring). If you have any special requests, do let us know.
We're working on some courses for next year and again, if there's anything you'd like to do, please shout. We might do something on building a bread/pizza oven, as we're keen to have one on site and we're also planning something around night-time activities including a night walk lead by writer and travel journalist Dixe Wills.
You can follow our progress over the autumn and winter by subscribing to the RSS feed for the blog (click on the button above) and by following us on Twitter (@ivygrangefarmyu) for updates on all sorts of things including the arrival of the fieldfares and on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002514607980
We've finally closed our doors for the year - and what a great time we've had. Lots of fantastic guests and it's been a delight to see them all enjoying all the things there are to do locally, as well as just relaxing on the decking and watching the sunset! We've had some fans of Roger Deakin's Waterlog book who've been tracking down the various wild swimming spots; others who've spent happy days crabbing at Walberswick and many have enjoyed discovering the excellent local food and drink, whether fresh fish straight from the boats at Southwold quay or the delights of St Peter's Brewery.
It's time now to think about next year and we have just placed an order for our 3rd yurt. This one will be similar to Barn Owl in design, though a bit bigger and with sheep's wool felt so that it will be cosy at the cooler ends of the season - next year we're planning to be open from Easter through to October. We'll post photos as soon as we have them.
Nick and I have been continuing to enjoy the delights of the locality - we celebrated our wedding anniversary at Baileys of Beccles. By day it's a fabulous Deli and in the evening it offers a Spanish inspired menu and smart dining. We ate really well (the strawberry soup comes highly recommended) and then cycled home through the dark lanes which felt very romantic!
Our neighbours at Valley Farm took us for a trip round the village in their Victoriana trap, pulled by Mouse. It was a great treat - a wonderful way to see the countryside and the lanes are wonderfully quiet. I felt as though I had been transported to a Jane Austen novel and was sorry when we were dropped back at the gate. Valley Farm are offering a range of local trips - the longer one via Spexhall Church would be lovely, it's very pretty round there - and we're already looking for an excuse to go out again. If you have ever thought about a horse drawn trip round quiet country lanes, this is definitely something for you to try!
We'll be thinking about residential courses for next year - if there's anything you're particularly interested in (or anything you feel you could teach!), do let us know. We're thinking about bird watching, painting, singing and building a pizza oven - watch this space!
We're having a glorious summer - full for most of July and for the whole of August, which has been very satisfying for a new venture like ours! Great guests and a real mix, some with children, some coming for a romantic get-away, some with bikes strapped to the roof rack and a few by train. The woodland shower has proved a huge hit with all of them - from six-year old Seth who "hates showers but loves the woodland shower" to those who've been enjoying candle-lit showers in the dusk.
The camp fires have proved popular too and the tripod with cookpot for cooking over an open fire has now been christened, with very favourable reviews. The new potatoes are disappearing fast from the field - we're about to move on to the salad potatoes and after that there's some pink fir apple potatoes (delicious) to try. The sweetcorn is beginning to ripen and the yellow cherry tomatoes are doing well too - there's been enough sunshine despite some cloudy days.
Nick and I have been having a holiday too during the first couple of weeks of August, and have had a great time - there's masses to do locally and the weather has been remarkably good. So we've enjoyed late afternoon swims on the beach at Walberswick, an afternoon canoeing down the Waveney complete with kingfisher sighting, several river swims at one of Roger Deakin's wild swimming spots at Geldeston by the Locks Inn (which has great local cider and good food too) and cycle rides round "The Saints" - a collection of villages just to the north west of us, which includes St Peter's Brewery (their beer has very wide distribution now and comes in distinctively shaped bottles). St Peter's is situated in a 15th century moated Abbey and has a good bar with very good food as well as a restaurant. You can sit out by the moat and relax in the sun whilst trying their summer ale - grapefruit - which I can recommend, along with the home-made fish-cakes on the lunchtime menu. And of course we've been walking down by the estuary at Blythburgh and the Hen Reedbeds, where there's masses of gulls, geese, oyster catchers, waders of various types (I've never been strong on identification) and curlews.
We managed to combine several of our favourite activities with a day spent cycling to Beccles, a trip on the newly restored Big Dog Ferry (with bikes safely stowed on board) to the Locks Inn at Geldeston, a picnic bought from Bailey's at Beccles (nominated for the East Anglian Good Food Awards) by the moorings and then an afternoon swim, followed by glass of cider whilst doing the crossword and a ride back across the fields and through the quiet lanes of The Saints back home.
It's been a lot of long hours over the past weeks (and months) but we finally had our open day for Westhall residents and businesses, followed by our first guests! The local paper ran a really nice piece with photos - front page and inside page - though Nick complains that he didn't know the photographer was coming, so didn't look his best. You can judge for yourself.
We had a great turn-out of local people on the Sunday before we opened - it was a gloriously hot day and Nick and I spent the afternoon conducting tours of the yurts and chatting to people in the coolness of the barn, where we had teas and elderflower cordial on the go. It was good to meet so many people and we were pleased that Tony (from Tony's Stores) came along; he told me he will be celebrating 60 years of running the shop this summer and is planning a party. Of course we meant to take lots of photos (there's nothing quite like photos with people in them) but were far too busy in the end. But we did take some of the barn before everyone arrived - finished now except for the final stage of insulating the walls, which is now a job for next year. Crockfords have made a great job of it and have been a delight to have around. We've now got the table tennis and table football set up in there, as well as books, maps, arm-chairs and a huge table (it came with the house and looks as though it used to be a billiard table) and pew (courtesy of Diss Auctions) as well as practical things like a fridge freezer and kettle, toaster etc.
We've now welcomed our first two sets of guests and so far, so good - we've found the reason for the slight leak in the Mongolian yurt which is now fixed (canvas flaps need to sit on top of the sheep's felt, rather than underneath - ask us if you're really interested) and we've now got some time to turn to things that have been neglected in the house and garden over the past 8 months, with a couple of new fruit and vegetable beds planned. And also some R&R - we had a good meander round the Bungay Antiques Street Fair at the weekend - masses of different things on sale there, with lots of the stalls being run by people who do it as a hobby, which felt great and also meant there were some good bargains to be had.