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 just heard that our planning application has been approved allowing us to operate the yurt business, so we're now able to progress some repairs and improvements to the barn (as an R&R space for yurt guests), and get to grips with the logistics for building the yurt decks, the outdoor showers and compost toilets.
The barn is divided into two, with the older part (early 17th century we think) needing some serious work on levelling out the floor (it's currently about 3 different levels) and removing old, solid concrete walls - you can see them in the photo here. We've spent every spare weekend taking down old corrugated iron sheeting and hardboard to expose the beams which are, mostly, in pretty good condition. The builders - who start next week - will put some windows in the roof and in the side wall of the barn, as well as a new external door and a large internal door connecting to the other part of the barn, The big job will be laying new concrete flooring which will be polished so it should look good and be resistant to mud, wellies and stilleto heels!
The newer part of the barn (Georgian?) needs some bracing to stop the progress of a crack, as well as a new floor, door, windows and some sprucing up. Freddy had his 18th birthday party here last weekend, with table tennis, table football, hammock (plus 20 teenagers) and it worked well. We'll put WiFi in this part of the barn, as well as books, games and the table tennis etc. We think we can create a really good space here and longer term we'd like to be able to use both barns for rural courses, screening films and the like.
We took a break from stripping corrugated iron sheeting to visit the Hen Reedbeds nearby (on the estuary heading down towards Walberswick/ Southwold) in the hope of spotting the huge murmurations of starlings we saw regularly last autumn. If you look carefully at the photo above, you'll see a small grouping, but nothing more substantial this time.
It's a lovely spot to be in the late afternoon and there were fantastic reflections as the sun went down - the tide was out and all the waders were busy, with curlews calling across the marshes. We stood and watched a marsh harrier hunting for a while too. Bliss.
The past few weeks seem to have revolved around flora and fauna, judging by the current crop of photos. Despite the wet August and September, we've been having a good time working on the meadow, roping in gallant friends and encouraging them with copious amounts of food and drink.
And we've been visiting one of our favour local nurseries, Woottens of Wenhaston - if you don't already know them, they're definitely worth checking out. Woottens send out a fantastic weekly e-mail which, even though you know you don't need anything more for the garden, is always tempting. These dahlias were looking glorious when we went on a very wet day in August, after lunch with friends at the Queen's Head Inn, just up the road in Blyford.
That's where we saw this beautiful creature (I guess it's a hen, but that doesn't seem a sufficiently powerful description) strutting its stuff. The Queen's Head has pigs, geese, chickens and lots of vegetables dotted around outside, most of which find their way into the kitchen at some stage. They're supporting the current Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival - yet another good reason to head to our bit of Suffolk over the coming weeks.
And finally it was time to take the yurt down after a good season trying it out on friends and relations. The wood burning stove was a definite success, and we can't wait to get it up again next year complete with rugs and furniture which we'll be aiming to source or build/create over the winter months.
The strawberry plants are now bedded in to the long trough bought from Diss Auction Rooms a few weeks ago, freshly painted in a lovely British racing green (though applied to cast iron it feels more like an old steam engine). Here's hoping it's relatively rabbit proof.....
And we were really lucky to get this photo of one of "our" hares nibbling at the grass on Sunday morning! It's fantastic seeing them around. If they can't be bothered to run away, they simply hunker down and hope they won't be spotted. And it seems to work with Jet the dog, she simply pootles past without paying attention; it's only when they start running that she gets excited.
We are the proud owners of a really good crop of Desiree and King Edward spuds - they've done brilliantly in our newly dug bed in the garden. We're planning to plant International Kidney (like Jersey Royals) Anya (a salad potato) and Pink Fir Apple (a main crop which keeps) in the veggie bed in the yurt meadow. You can't beat the fun of ferreting around in the warm soil for new potatoes, and then there's the wonderful taste once they're freshly boiled with mint! We hope they will be popular with our first yurt guests, who we're hoping to entertain next summer if all goes well with the planning application.
Speaking of which.... the local press took an active interest in our application, and gave us front page status in the Beccles and Bungay Journal! We were rather taken aback. Fortunately it's a very positive piece, and we've since spoken to the journalists and invited them to come along once we've got the yurts up and are ready to roll, all being well (that's not us in the photo, by the way).
We saw our front page news splash when we returned from a marathon trip to Wales to collect our Monglian yurt. Some of the key pieces are loaded on the back of the tractor trailer here. We were lucky to have a window of good sunny weather, which meant that the layers of felt and the thick canvas cover weren't quite as wet as they might have been. We've been drying them in the barn. Whilst we were packing our yurt, we took photos of one of the others that was still up, so we can remember how it's all supposed to look when we next put it up!
And this is what it should look like once we've re-assembled it next spring! The yurts come from Hidden Valley Yurts in Llanishen, who import them from Mongolia and have their own successful yurt campsite. They've got a really interesting business model going, and some lovely alpacas. There's a link to them on our site if you want to see more.
It's been a busy few weeks, with the fun, heat and mayhem of Latitude followed by serious work on planning and building regulations during a damp August!
Latitude is just a few miles from Ivy Grange Farm, and Nick and I worked out a great cycle route through the quiet lanes, and pedalled over each day, taking advantage of our comfy bed by night (wimps, I know). With just one puncture, we did pretty well. It was our first Latitude, and we had a great time: Tom Jones; Florence and the Machine; Sadler's Wells; the local Hightide Theatre group and the fab new contemporary art prize, the place was buzzing.
It's official - these are horse mushrooms, and they taste yummy, especially in an omlette made from our neighbour's bantam eggs. Highly recommended!
The prototype hammock has arrived and after a lengthy period of assembly, Nick is taking a well earned rest during one of the occasional bursts of sunshine. Our friends have been enjoying it so much over the summer that we're planning to have one by each of the yurts.
The auction rooms in Diss are a fantastic resource for essential farmyard goods! We spent a productive day bidding and returned home (courtesy of a flatbed lorry) with galvanised tubs which will become water butts, a couple of lovely benches/pews, a cast iron table, a chapel door (don't ask) as well as half a dozen troughs (including a slate one which is too heavy to move) which will be turned into raised beds (bunny-proof, hopefully) for more blueberries, strawberries, beans as well as herbs. Another 40 sacks of horse manure arrived at the weekend, which joined the pile for rotting down over winter. Roll on next year's Horticultural Show!
August is a great time of year for combine harvester fans! I love the look of oil seed rape as it's being harvested.
And finally, time for some R&R by the fire pit.
The grass in the field is being cut, with our very own hay bales to follow shortly. With no rain for the past couple of weeks, the process was very dusty, but lovely to see the shapes the tractor makes while avoiding our willow beds and elders. The hay is being cut by, and going to, the cattle farmer just round the corner, which feels good and local. The local birds of prey were out as soon as the tractor had finished...
And this is how it looks now it's finished (before being turned) with the lovely lines of drying grass/hay that I remember from childhood. The grass ridges proved to be great hiding places for the red legged partridge and her 9 chicks as they made their way up the lane. Our attempt to seed yellow rattle seed in the field didn't work, so once the hay is baled, we'll dig up some of the plentiful daisies from the goose paddock and transplant them into the field. There are good wide margins round the edge of the field, with plenty of vetch (and in spring lots of cowslips and primroses), which we'll hope to encourage further into the field. And we've spotted lots of lovely red field poppies locally, so it'll be time for a seed collection outing soon.
Nick and I emptied an old water trough and shifted it so that it's positioned close to the yurt pitches at the top of the field, in a spot with plenty of sun. It is now filled with ericaceous compost and 4 different varieties of blueberries, the first of which is already in fruit. We've covered it with a thick woodchip mulch from the leylandii, which hopefully will help to keep the blueberries nicely moist throughout the summer months. Our plan is to move some of the raspberry canes across to the field from the garden, so that throughout the summer there will be a good range of blueberries and raspberries available to yurt guests, as well as the blackberries we planted in the hedgerows over the winter.