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!

The Woodland Shower!

The two-person woodland shower is now up and running, and Nick and I have been doing our best to test it out regularly to ensure that it works perfectly for our guests! There's nothing quite like standing beneath hot running water with the sun shining (maybe it will again, one day....) with the goldfinches flitting about the trees. We can definitely recommend it! And knowing that the hot water comes from the solar thermal (which is working very efficiently) makes it doubly satisfying somehow! Both yurts are now fully furnished and ready to receive our first guests at the beginning of July and we're really looking forward to having them lived in.

We were really fortunate to have a feature on the Guardian Travel website (check it out here http://bit.ly/jGe4gE ) that picked us as one of the top 10 new UK holiday places, focusing on our new yurts and our proximity to the National Cycle Route and the bikes we are making available for guests who fancy some "soft cycling" exploring the surrounding countryside and coast. We're planning to put together some itineraries, which will range from some gentle 6 mile trips (which will get you to the Locks Inn at Geldeston for a river swim or a drink/lunch) as well as some slightly longer trips to Southwold and the wonderful walks and beaches at Dunwich and the nearby RSPB reserve at Minsmere. And of course we'll need to check out the various routes ourselves, which we'll enjoy! The ferry service has been restored from Beccles (by the lido) to the Locks Inn at Geldeston, with scope for carrying bikes too if there's space which we want to try out next time it's sunny!

Barn Owl Yurt

As recommended by guardian.co.uk

Ten great new UK holidays for 2011

From cattle ranching to cycling for softies, and staying in a smuggler's house to wild camping, we've rounded up some of the best new things to do and places to stay in the UK

Check out our listing at http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/jun/13/uk-whats-new-holidays-accommodation

Ivy Grange Farm

Getting ready to open!

Nick, Freddy and I spent a very busy bank holiday weekend painting the Old Cowshed, which will house the toilets, showers, basins and washing up area.  We're taking a bit of an inspired guess about its former use (and to be honest, all that remains of the old cowshed, if that's what is was, are very occasional bits of the foundations) and it's certainly far removed now from an old farm building!  The solar thermal system for heating the water was commissioned on Friday and the plumber starts work on installing the showers, toilets etc next week.  It's all beginning to take shape now and we really feel like we're on the home run - the builders have been working on the barn and the out-buildings since early December, and are beginning to feel like family!  We had a great time with them a few weeks ago with an impromptu clay pigeon shoot in the field.

And the Mongolian yurt is up at last - we all have bulging muscles to prove it!  Having not rained for several months, we had a downpour in the middle of a critical bit - the sheep's wool felt was on the roof, the poles were popping out (it's an occupational hazard during the process of putting it up!) and lovely Peter our builder wanted to discuss options for improving the drive!  It soon dried out once we'd lit the fire and had a couple of windy days, but we all smelt of damp wool and yak hair for some days after.  

We've started work on making the woodland shower area fun - with wonderfully tall foxgloves (moved from the farmhouse garden where they grow like weeds) and ox-eye daisies and we've got some good chunks of tree trunk to dot around and a rustic bench made by Alvaro (a great combination of a couple of planks of decking set into some of our willow tree trunks).  We're hoping to grow some roses and honeysuckle around the willow fencing too.  The plumber will connect it all up this week and we can't wait to test it out for ourselves!  

The strawberries are ripening early and are really juicy, big, fat, sweet and red!  They seem to have withstood the drought better than the blueberries, which are looking rather sorry for themselves.  The first of the new potatoes will be ready in a couple of weeks - I'm trying out International Kidney (Jersey Royals) for the first time and am impatient to start unearthing them.  We've also got Anyas (salad) and Pink Fir Apple potatoes growing, both of which have a delicious nutty flavour to them and are great simply dug out, cleaned up, put in a pot and enjoyed with plenty of butter!  It's beginning to be my favourite time of the year as everything starts being ready to harvest.  I've had to look - but not eat - the asparagus; it won't be ready to start cutting till next year.  All but one of the crowns has come up which is good, and my judicious watering and a couple of good downpours in the past week will all have helped.  

All the woodchip is down around the barn, so we've got a good sheltered space for table tennis or just relaxing on an easy chair with a book.  It's a real suntrap in front of the barn and we've planted up a couple of big pots with a fig and a quince, both of which should be happy.  We've got bush tomatoes in old oak troughs as well as a good range of herbs which hopefully will be safe from the rabbits!

The Mongolian Yurt - happy in the field!

Spring and progress on all fronts

Building work and landscaping has moved on apace aided by the glorious spring weather.  We've put up the decking for the Mongolian yurt and Nick has finished the brick-built bar-b-q and gas cooker stand which is looking great.  

We had working parties of friends up over Easter, battling cow parsley in one of the copses and they did fantastic work.  We've cleared the pond and created a natural fence/hedge around the boundary which should be good for insects and our hedgehog family over winter.  

The builders are doing brilliant work on the barn and our same working parties spent a good couple of days shifting various types of woodchip to provide a new soft surface in place of the thick old concrete that used to surround the barn and stables behind.  The solar thermal evacuated tubes are now in place for the hot water and we're hoping to have the new woodland shower constructed within the next month (though we could have made good use of it in April).  We'll have this as well as some more conventional showers in the building behind the barn.  

The wonderful (though dry) March and April have sped the progress of the vegetable and fruit beds in the field - the asparagus is beginning to shoot; it's in its first year so we can't cut it this year, but next year it should be perfect by late April/early May.  The strawberries are loving their new home in the long cattle trough we bought at the Diss auction and are promising great things for July, as are the blueberries.  The new potatoes (International Kidney, which if we were in the Channel Islands would be called Jersey Royals) are shooting up and hoping for a decent rainfall one day.  And we've now got the sweetcorn in - fenced off (hopefully successfully) from interested rabbits.

Our friend Alvaro made a couple of benches and a table from some of our willow tree logs which have recognised that spring is in the air and are greening up nicely.  

We've enjoyed watching the hares and red legged partridge scuttling about and the trees have been full of birdsong.  The moorhens produced six chicks which we hope will survive to adulthood and the great spotted woodpeckers have been working hard on a next inside the trunk of one of the willow trees, so we're hoping for good things there too.  

Nick's finishing touches to the bar-b-q


We had a great time at the RSPB Reserve at Minsmere - beautiful December light and marsh and hen harriers  Plenty of people had spotted the waxwings on the berries, but we not us, sadly, though we did see a water rail, creeping out from behind the reeds, which was fun.  The resident ponies blend beautifully with the winter colours.

And from there, we wandered down to the beach which is glorious in winter. The dead tree trunk was a similar bleached colour to the ponies and reeds, and looked sculptural just lying on the shingle. 

But back to work, and this is the completed trench arch which will take away the "grey" water from the showers and washing-up.  We're now in the process of back-filling the trench with soil and will cover it over with woodchip to create a pathway through the wooded area.  The arch is in a "U" shape - it doubles back on itself and is a good 40m long, so it required some fairly hefty digging and clearing of shrubs to get it in.  It's great to have - it feels like our first solid piece of infrastructure for the yurts and we're looking forward to following up with the "jungle" showers and the loo in this wooded area. 

The builders are getting on well inside the barn, despite many freezing days which disrupted the schedule for laying the concrete floor.  But it's now all in place, and they start on the roof soon - a new plywood ceiling with masses of insulation behind it, with the tiles going back on top.  

And this is the big piece of machinery that has been working outside to uproot the ancient, broken, concrete slabs from around the barn!  We're planning to replace the concrete with a membrane covered by a thick layer of woodchip, courtesy of some of our own trees, as well as a plentiful supply from our neighbours. 

Since the snow has melted, we've been seeing the barn owl hunting over the field most days.  It's a beautiful bird, and we're lucky that our part of North East Suffolk is one of the places where the numbers are beginning to improve. 

Nick is doing his bit to encourage the barn owl to nest in the small copse at the end of the field, which is where he/she likes to sit and survey the food possibilities.  It would be great to have the box occupied.  We've been clearing out all the smaller nesting boxes and putting them up again, and already the birds are beginning to check them out

The RSPB Reserve at Minsmere