Christmas preparations are in full swing!

Ruby and I went on a great blast of a walk around the farm yesterday to gather holly, ivy and other greenery to start making the Christmas decorations. In the leat on the farm trail the holly was covered in plump, red berries, so we were in luck. I then spent a very happy hour making a wreath for our door (some of the gold spray actually went where it was meant to go!).  I’ve also got out the baskets and vases I will use for the cottage decorations .

holly-shrubWe checked out the Christmas trees too and they are looking good, so we will wait to the last minute to bring them into the cottages to ensure they are lovely and fresh.

For the first time in many years we will all be together for Christmas as all our children and their families are in Britain and shift patterns and work commitments fall in our favour, for once.  Our celebration feast will be on Christmas Eve.  As well as all the usual Christmas goodies it will also feature some vegetarian options, as some of our family are vegetarian and others prefer to eat less meat. I am having great fun reading through recipe books looking at ideas.  With the pudding, mincemeat and cake made and the turkey ordered I think I am on target – I just need to write some cards SOON!

I hope all your festive plans are going well.


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Try a spot of bird-watching from a tram!

If you’re looking for a fun day out during your Devon holiday why not take a trip on the Seaton Tramway? seaton-tramway2

Narrow gauge heritage trams operate between Seaton, Colyford and Colyton, through 3 miles of unspoilt countryside, in East Devon’s glorious Axe Valley.  You will be travelling alongside the River Axe estuary, through two nature reserves and will have an unrivalled view of the abundant wading bird life.  The coastal resort of Seaton is now a gateway town to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whilst the historic town of Colyton is described as “Devon’s Most Rebellious Town” for its part in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685.

seaton-tramway-maThis weekend (16th/17th December) is a particularly exciting opportunity for children or grandchildren to experience the Polar Express! Based on the best-selling book by Chris Van Allsburg and everyone’s favourite Christmas movie, this trip to the North Pole invites you to take part in the Polar Express experience by tram. Listen to and sing along with all the songs, be served hot chocolate and cookies by the dancing chefs and meet Santa and his happy bunch of elves. Each child receives a special gift from Santa and you’re welcome to wear your pyjamas on board just like the movie! Departures from Seaton Terminus, Seaton, Devon: 4.00pm, 4.30pm, 5.30pm, 6.00pm, 7.00pm & 7.30pm.  You should arrive 20 minutes prior to your trip. Fares From: Adult £19.95 Child (3-15) £15.95, under3s FREE 2+2 Family Ticket (including one child free) £55.85 when booked online. If you require wheelchair access please contact them before you book online. – See more at:

Seaton Tramway also boasts a gift shop, where you can buy books and DVDs, magnets, models, postcards, gifts & memorabilia.

If you’re looking for a unique gift idea, why not buy a tram driving experience?  The lucky recipient can become a Seaton Tram Driver for the day with one of the driving experience courses. The courses are very “hands-on”, giving you the chance to enjoy maximum time at the controls and drive in the same conditions as the staff drivers. The course also includes a guided tour of the Tramway’s HQ at Riverside Depot, giving the chance to see behind the scenes of our unique operation.  At the conclusion of the course, you receive a commemorative certificate and souvenir to remind you of a great day out.  Courses are available throughout the operating season except Bank Holidays.


Posted in AONB, Christmas, Retail, Uncategorized, Wildlife

RHS Rosemoor comes up trumps with a Tramper!

A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed a day out at RHS Rosemoor Gardens near Torrington with my mum, daughter, Kirsty, and her great friend, Mamoona.   Mum, aged eighty-four and a half, is off on another adventure very soon, travelling to several destinations including Sri Lanka, India and Singapore.  Not surprisingly, all her grandchildren have offered to carry her bag for her on her travels as they are so impressed with her itinerary!  The orchid gardens of Singapore are reputed to be very special and she would love to have a good look around them.

Sadly, her legs get tired more quickly than they used to and she was not sure if she would be able to get all the way around so we decided she should try out one of the Tramper mobility scooters at Rosemoor gardens in preparation.  It was great fun and a huge success as we visited the whole garden – the wonderful cob-built wedding venue, Lady Anne’s garden, the arboretum and the walled vegetable garden which, all looked beautiful with the autumn leaf colour.  Apart from one short shower the afternoon was dry, clear and crisp and we were able to go so much further than we would otherwise have done if mum had been walking.

tramper-mobility-scooterNot only has it given mum the confidence for Singapore, but it has also opened up lots of possibilities locally, as we know there are Trampers at Woolacombe, Saunton, Heddon Valley and Wimbleball Reservoir and we intend to find out where else they can be hired.  So now she can access the countryside once more and we shall all enjoy some great family walks together over the months ahead.  Caroline and I will do some research and compile a list of accessible places with Trampers to hire so that it’s in the office ready for any of our cottage guests who might find it useful.


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A fantastic evening celebrating all things Devon!

I was invited to be guest speaker at the 7th annual Devon Tourism Awards last week.  Many years ago I won the award for best B&B in the Southwest, went through to the nationals and came runner up to Castle Howard in Yorkshire.  It was a fantastic boost to the business and I would recommend anyone to enter the awards.

devon-tourism-awardsJo Pavey (Olympian runner) was there to assist Judi Spiers in presenting the awards and about 320 people attended for a sumptuous meal at the Great Hall at Exeter University.  Seventy-five awards were presented to winners in categories as diverse as Glamping, Spa & Wellbeing, Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs and Attractions.

The National Marine Aquarium took the prestigious Winner of Winners award along with category awards for Sustainable Tourism, Access & Inclusivity and Venue & Business Tourism.

devon-tourism-awards2Attraction and experience Golds went to the Milky Way, Canonteign Falls, Reach Outdoors, the Old Kennels and the Ilsington Country House Spa. Food and drink Gold awards went to Home Farm Café, The Coach House at Kentisbury Grange and Millbrook Inn.

Thelma Hubert gallery took Gold for Access & Inclusivity, with Unique Devon Tours taking the top award for International Visitor Experience.  Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centres won an award for tourism information and the final award of the night went to Plymouth’s Armed Forces Day for Tourism Event of the Year.

devon-tourism-awardsChairman of the Awards Panel, David Fursdon, says: “I know how important the tourist industry is to Devon. The wonderful reputation that this very special County enjoys in this area depends on maintaining the highest standards and this year’s winners across a wide range of categories illustrate just that and personify one word; “Excellence”.”

Speaking after the awards were presented, Luke Hansford, Hoseasons Business Development Manager for Devon, said: “Tonight clearly belongs to our award winners, but the standard of entries was so high this year that each and every finalist on the shortlist deserves a huge pat on the back, not just for the passion and dedication they put into their own businesses, but also for the huge collective contribution they make to ensuring that Devon remains such a popular destination.”

Awards organizer Robin Barker was delighted by this year’s awards: “This year’s winners exemplify so much of what is great about Devon. Innovation, outstanding service and superb experiences. Many congratulations to everyone involved.”

Janet East

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Devon Farms’ East Devon team do lunch!

On Tuesday some of the East Devon ladies went for a trip to the Pig at Coombe.  We were given a tour of some of the rooms and gardens and then finished off with lunch in The Folly. east-devon-ladies-at-the-pig-3

We had a wonderful time and decided it was another fabulous venue to recommend to our guests.


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Mary… Oh My Goodness!

I love talking. In fact it is sometimes very hard to shut me up. Looking back through some of my early school reports there are, throughout the years, many comments such as “would do so much better if she could stop talking and listen”. How little they knew. Cast your eyes around any coffee shop, any street, any shop, in fact any private dining room or lounge and conversation is a thing of the past – everyone has their neck bent at a 45 degree angle, hands at 90 degrees from their waist up, and thumbs working ten to the dozen as technology has taken over their life. So eat your words my learned teachers… I now get paid to talk!

I talk to wonderful groups all over Devon and into neighbouring Counties, such as W.I’s, University of the 3rd Age (U3A), Probus Clubs and many more, my topic being the Trials and Tribulations of running a small rural farm and Bed and Breakfast – an amusing tale even though I say it myself. But there is a serious message to my talk – the critical need to ensure the survival of small farms such as ours (only 45 acres), as they are so important to local communities, to agriculture itself, and to education. When we first moved to Yellingham Farm there were 4 or 5 small farms like us – not any more. They are all slowly disappearing.

jacob-sheepI was preparing to get myself ready for a talk to a wonderful group of elderly people when one of my rather “special” female B and B guests was most intrigued to hear more about my talking exploits. Mary was a vibrant large, well proportioned lady, in her late 20’s, some 6ft tall, who was dressed to the nines, made up with lipstick brighter than the colour of my blood, eye lashes so long and black they could have brushed my dog, and foundation that would have supported a new house! That’s without a fake tan that my Samoan friend would be proud of.  I thought I could talk but she was good competition for me chatting away in her wonderful northern accent. But there was something very kind about Mary. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was there under the surface. I liked her – a lot. Any rate, I was packing up all my beautiful woollen goods produced from my flock of Jacob sheep which I take to show my audience as part of my talk when Mary burst in.  I really couldn’t believe that this out and out city girl had any interest at all about me talking to a group of elderly women, but seriously, she couldn’t stop asking me questions. She honestly didn’t believe such events took place. Her life, as she explained was shopping, television, more shopping, Ibiza, gin and clubbing – she wasn’t at all ashamed about that – it was her way of life and she loved it.

What happened next was a complete surprise.

“Janet, when is your talk?”

“Tomorrow morning”

“Can I come with you?”

I truly couldn’t believe what I was hearing and to be honest I am not sure it would be her scene, in fact I was slightly concerned about the reaction of my audience to this rather vivacious, lady. To hell with it.

“Mary, I would be delighted if you came along, I am sure you will love the morning”.

Oh my goodness, what had I just signed up to? I rang the organiser and said I had a “friend” who was staying and would she mind if I brought her along for the morning. The reply was a definite yes and she was sure all the members would be delighted to share their morning with her as well. My mind told me otherwise. I didn’t sleep, what an earth would Mary wear?

It was about 10 o’clock that evening when Mary and her husband returned home and by the sounds of things they had had a great night out. But the peace didn’t last long and dear husband must have upset dear Mary. Boy did she give him some tongue pie! All went silent fairly quickly as I’m sure, from my brief knowledge of this strong woman, he knew when he was beaten. Maybe after such a good night out, she might be so tired, oversleep and I would go off to my talk relaxed and smiling.

The morning came and as I thought, Mary did not make an early breakfast. I told her we had to leave by 10 o’clock as the meeting was at 11.00 and I like to be on time. She was nowhere to be seen. I had to go. I bundled everything into my old white Daihatsu and off I set. In some ways I was disappointed as even though I was not at all sure about the response she might get, I genuinely thought she wanted to come with me.

I had driven about 4 miles when my mobile went off. It was Edward.

“Mary has just flown down the stairs at break neck speed, nearly fell as she’s wearing 6 inch heels and is ready to come with you”

I could tell he was smiling. I said I didn’t have time to turn around and was about to put the phone down when there was some urgency in his voice.

“She is ready and really, sincerely wants to come”.

He told me to stay where I was and he would bring Mary to meet me. The minutes ticked past and I was far from happy. I was going to be late. Edward’s green Volvo came flying up the hill to the pub where I had parked. I can’t say he screeched to a halt but it wasn’t far off. I cannot describe my next thoughts. Oh my goodness. I didn’t know you could buy such clothes. I thought we are going to look like a party trick walking into a village Hall. I was dressed in a cream skirt (knee length), a smart navy and cream polka dot blouse (done up at the neck, definitely no cleavage on show), a navy woollen jacket and navy court shoes – traditionally classic in style. I don’t think what Mary was wearing fitted into any style whatsoever – plain and simply Mary Style. red-stillettosShe wore a bright red, tight fitting mini skirt, a white see-through skimpy blouse showing masses of cleavage and red stiletto heeled shoes with black fishnet tights. Her makeup matched entirely and her outfit was completed with huge gold hoop earrings and more makeup than is for sale in Debenhams. Let’s hope there aren’t any men in the audience otherwise I can see the ambulance being required! She climbed out of Edward’s car, tottered over to mine, jumped in the truck, smiled the most beautiful smile and said,

“What you waiting for? Let’s go. Foot on the gas girl or we’ll be late!”

I too was now smiling. She was so excited and that excitement transferred itself to me. I knew it was going to be OK.

wool_tiesWe arrived just on time and Mary burst out of the truck, helped me in with my goods and more or less stole the show from the minute we walked into the hall. After the talk was over, she clapped the loudest and gave me a wolf whistle – the first time that has ever happened! I watched Mary afterwards totally embrace all of the members of every age, she chatted, she made them laugh, but, importantly she listened. She genuinely cared about these people and their lives. It was a very special moment for me.

On the way home, Mary was unusually quiet and thoughtful. When we arrived home, we sat and had a cup of tea and I listened whilst she described what the morning meant for her. She honestly didn’t realise such wonderful events happened and how for many it was the highlight of their month, how really lonely some people are. I think that afternoon might have made a real impact on my new friend – there is a lot more to life then she imagined and she was definitely a different person who left Yellingham Farm to the one who arrived 3 days earlier.

Janet East

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Come along to the Hatherleigh Carnival!

april-2016-393This carnival is a very big, annual event in the Hatherleigh/Okehampton area.  It is a long established tradition that the leading frame is 12 torches, representing the 12 months of the year.   In the afternoon is a very well supported childrens’ Fancy Dress Competition and the people of Hatherleigh have great skill in creating wonderful crepe paper tableaux born out of years of practice.   Aptly, in the year we are celebrating the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, Hatherleigh has its own Queen Elizabeth – local resident 16 year old Elizabeth Hutton.  The Prince & Princess this year are brother and sister, Guy, aged 4 and 7 year old Heidi Flowers.    april-2016-395
For full details see  or find it on Facebook. 
Stay self catering nearby at, only 1 mile from Okehampton and a straight 7 mile run into Hatherleigh town. 
Enjoy Hatherleigh Carnival!
Ruth Maile
01837 52303
077 69 81 9996
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Get your scones here! (but eat them the Devon way!)

When my guests arrive after a stressful journey, what cheers them up the most is the surprise of a home-baked cream tea that I have prepared for them.  Of course I tell them which way round they have to put their cream and jam – imagine they’re using the cream instead of butter and then put the jam on the top of that – as I don’t want them doing it the Cornish way!  I am often asked for my recipe, so here it is:

Devon Scones


450g (1 lb) self-raising flour, plus a little extra to dust

4 tsp baking powder

90g (3 oz) butter at room temperature

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 eggs

300ml (10 fl oz) milk

(Makes about 14 scones)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C (180*C fan/400*F/Gas 6). Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a food processor and mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Next add the sugar and mix gently.
  2. Break the egg into a measuring jug and beat with a fork, then pour in enough of the milk to make just over 300ml (10 fl oz) in the measuring jug. Beat the egg and milk mixture together.
  3. Switch the processor on and gradually pour in the milk and egg mixture, leaving a couple of tablespoons in the jug for glazing. Mix until combined – the mixture should be slightly sticky.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, then roll it out until it is 1.5cm thick. Using a 7cm scone cutter, cut out as many scones as you can.  Re-roll the dough and cut out some more scones until it is all used up.
  5. Put the scones on a sheet of baking paper and brush the tops with the remaining milk and egg mixture so they turn golden in the oven.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they are lightly golden. I always cook mine in the Aga for that perfect country taste but if you haven’t got one they are also successful in an electric or gas oven at the same temperatures.


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A window into the past at Smallicombe Farm…..

Any holidaymakers staying at Smallicombe Farm over the Halloween period need not have worried about being troubled by evil spirits!  A previous guest spotted some strange symbols carved into the wall of the inglenook fireplace and sent a link explaining what they represented and how they are now part of a UK wide study.

daisy-wheel-witch-markswitch-marksHistoric England is calling upon members of the public to help create a record of the ritual markings carved into buildings and which were once believed to ward off evil spirits.

The so-called ‘witches marks’ were often positioned near the entrances to buildings; famous examples include the house where Shakespeare was born and the Tower of London.  There are also markings at the Tithe Barn in Bradford-on-Avon, to help protect the crops from harm, and others have been found in caves, such as the Witches’ Chimney at Wookey Hole.

The symbols were thought to offer protection at a time when belief in witchcraft, and the supernatural, was widespread.

Now the heritage agency, Historic England, says that too little is known about them and they would like help from the public to catalogue examples.

The symbols, also known as apotropaic marks, can be found on medieval houses, churches and other buildings, most commonly from around 1550 to 1750.  They took many forms, but the most common type was the Daisy Wheel.   This looks like a flower and was drawn using a compass with a single endless line.  The belief was that this would confuse and entrap evil spirits before they could enter the building.  Sometimes the ‘witches marks’ took the form of letters, such as AM for Ave Maria, M for Mary or VV, for Virgin of Virgins, scratched into walls, engraved on wooden beams and etched into plaster-work to evoke the protective power of the Virgin Mary.

witch-marks-2The marks are a physical reminder of how our ancestors saw the world and can teach us about previously-held beliefs and common rituals, but they are easy to overlook.  The recorded evidence about where they appear, and what form they take, is thin.

If you have seen any and would like to take part in the survey go to:




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Two options for the ultimate 5th November experience!

The Sidbury Bonfire and Firework display has developed since its inception in 1997 into a major attraction in the East Devon calendar.  The committee of volunteers provide a spectacular event with the fireworks designed and fired by experienced professional pyrotechnic, Ed Rhodes.  There is a good supply of hot food, plenty of mulled wine and a specially constructed, novel bonfire to keep spectators warm.  The whole show is situated in the beautiful grounds of Sidbury Manor by kind permission of Sir John Cave, and also Alan Derryman, who farms the land.


If you’re more of an adrenalin junkie then perhaps you should head to the famous Otter Tar Barrels evening.  The Tar Barrel tradition is hundreds of years old. The exact origins are unknown but probably started after the gunpowder plot of 1605.  Various alternative reasons suggested for burning barrels have included fumigation of cottages and as a warning of the approach of the Spanish armada.

The West Country has a history of torchlight processions and burning barrels and Ottery was only one of the many towns and villages following an annual tradition containing barrels which were rolled in the streets on November 5th each year. Somewhere along the line someone decided rolling was tame and carrying barrels on your shoulders was far more appealing, and so the present tradition was born.  Now Ottery is the only town in the country carrying full sized, flaming tar barrels through the streets.ottery-tar-barrels

The procession of tableaux is also an old West Country tradition and is still a popular part of the winter months when most weekends will see a procession of brightly lit tableaux in a great many towns and villages.

However, the organisers are keen to warn people of the nature of the event:tar-barrels-warning

It is important that anyone intending to go to the Otter Tar Barrels event visits the website before attending so that they are properly informed of the guidelines and advice given out to the public –

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