Managing the poultry at Devon Eco Holidays!

Devon Eco HolsOur blog photo shows Jim and wonderful Workawayer, Elle building a duckling run last May.  The ducklings and Mother Duck lasted in that run less than one day before they found a way out and ran from there to the ponds – just one day old! Three surviving ducks (three quarters wild mallard and just one quarter runner duck) are now fully grown and live wild on the ponds.

Now we are in the midst of the crackdown on all birds, including backyard flocks, being kept in and away from wild birds due to avian ‘flu. You’ll be pleased to know the chickens have settled into being confined to the fruit cage, although each day when we clean the coop and feed them, they ask for freedom!

Well as for those wild ducks, they stay on the pond  away from backyard flocks confined by regulations, hopefully until the end of this month.

How lucky we are here.  Recent guests said: “Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say a big thank you for another wonderful stay at Swallows Nest.”!


Posted in Member Farms, pets

Snowdrops abound!

It’s the start of the snowdrop season here at Fowlescombe.  It’s always so uplifting to see a carpet of these beautiful delicate flowers declaring spring is on its way!

Fowlescombe 2

Last year’s lambs are looking very happy and healthy.  The two cuties in the middle of the picture below have turned into spitting images of their Dad.  You would never guess their mother was a black Hebridean sheep!

Fowlescombe 1


Posted in gardens, Lambs, Member Farms, Sheep

A productive day of making Seville orange and lemon marmalade!

It’s that time of year again, when I set to making lots of pots of delicious marmalade for the guests to enjoy during their stay.Marmalade


Here’s a recipe from the BBC Good Food Guide:
  • 4 Seville orange
     (about 500g/1lb 2oz in total), scrubbed
  • 1.7l water
  • 1kg granulated sugar
  1. Halve the oranges and squeeze the juice into a large stainless-steel pan. Scoop the pips and pulp into a sieve over the pan and squeeze out as much juice as possible, then tie the pulp and pips in the muslin. Shred the remaining peel and pith, either by hand with a sharp knife or in a food processor (a food processor will give very fine flecks rather than strips of peel). Add the shredded peel and muslin bag to the pan along with the water. Leave to soak overnight. This helps to extract the maximum amount of pectin from the fruit pulp, which will give a better set. It also helps to soften the peel, which will reduce the amount of cooking needed.
  2. Put the pan over a medium heat, then bring up to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1½-2 hrs, until the peel has become very soft. (The cooking time will be affected by how thickly you have cut the peel.) To see if the peel is ready, pick out a thicker piece and press it between your thumb and finger. It should look slightly see-through and feel soft when you rub it.
  3. Carefully remove the muslin bag, allow to cool slightly, then, wearing the rubber gloves, squeeze out as much liquid as possible to extract the pectin from the fruit pulp. Discard the bag and weigh the simmered peel mixture. There should be between 775-800g; if less, then top up with water to 775g.
  4. Put 4 small plates in the freezer, ready to use when testing for setting point. Add the sugar to the pan, then put over a low heat. Warm gently so that the sugar dissolves completely, stirring occasionally. Do not boil, before the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Increase the heat and bring up to the boil but do not stir while the marmalade is boiling. After about 5 mins the marmalade will start to rise up the pan (it may drop back and then rise again) and larger bubbles will cover the surface. After 8-10 mins boiling, test for setting point. Times will vary according to the size of the pan – in a large pan this takes 7-8 mins, in other pans it may take 12-15 mins. As setting point can be easily missed it’s better to test too early than too late.
  6. To test the setting point: take the pan off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside. Take a plate from the freezer and spoon a little liquid onto the plate, then return to the freezer for 1 min. Push the marmalade along the plate with your finger. If setting point has been reached then the marmalade surface will wrinkle slightly and the marmalade won’t run back straight away. If it’s not at setting point, return to the heat and boil again for 2 mins before re-testing. Repeat until setting point is reached. If you have a sugar thermometer, setting point is reached at 105C, but it’s good to do the plate test as well.
  7. Leave the marmalade to stand for 10 mins or until starting to thicken. If there’s any scum on the surface, spoon it off. Transfer the marmalade to sterilised jars. Cover with a wax disc (wax side down) and seal. When cold, label the jars and store in a cool, dark cupboard. The marmalade should keep for up to a year.
Posted in Uncategorized

Suggestions for your Valentine’s getaway…….

We love Devon and with Valentines Day approaching we thought we’d share our top romantic ideas with you!

Wild artichokes Kingsbridge
1. Beach strolls
There are plenty of beaches, sheltered coves or romantic clifftop walks to choose from. Walk along the sandy shore of Bigbury on Sea and head over to Burgh Island at low tide.  Follow the coast path from Mill Bay to Gara Rock, where you can settle down in the relaxed ambience of Gara Rock, kick back and enjoy a drink or bite to eat while soaking up the panoramic views across the sea. Try a bit of beachcombing at Lannacombe (great for sea glass) or Blackpool Sands.

2. Natural Beauty
South Devon is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Get out and explore the coast, Dartmoor, strolls along the Dart or the River Avon.

3. Time to Feast
There is so much choice when it comes to dining out in South Devon.  Book a table at Wild Artichokes in Kingsbridge where chef Jane Baxter and her team will cook up a generous feast of flavours and dishes for you (please note this is served at sharing tables with fellow diners). We would also recommend The Beachhouse at South Milton, The Laughing Monk in Strete, The Milbrook Inn at South Pool, Rockfish in Dartmouth or The Cricket Inn at Beesands.

4. Take the train
Step back in time and hop on the steam railway from Buckfastleigh to Totnes.  The seven mile route runs along the stunning valley of the River Dart to the historic town of Totnes.

5. Visit Greenway House
Take the little ferry from Dittisham or travel up the river from Dartmouth to Greenway House, home of author Agatha Christie. A fascinating family home with extensive woodland walks in the grounds and along the river.

6. Explore the towns
Wander around the towns of Salcombe or Dartmouth.  Both have a mix of unique shops, boutiques and cafes, and offer lovely views across the water.  Head to Kingsbridge to explore the mix of antiques and shops selling quirky vintage bits and bobs.

7. Sunset at Start Point
We can’t think of anywhere more romantic to watch the sunset go down than over Start Point lighthouse as it beams out over Start Bay.Start point lighthouse

The Trap House and Linhay at Beeson Farm both have log burners for you to snuggle up in front of. The Linhay also has a four poster bed and whirlpool bath.
Check out our special offers or get in touch.  We would love to welcome you to Beeson Farm.




Posted in AONB, Beach, Boats, Ferry, Member Farms, Pubs, Restaurants, Retail, Shopping, walks, Wildlife

A new website for Hele Payne Farm – a truly family affair!


Over a year ago I read an article in a marketing magazine advising that all websites should be updated every 3 years.  This made me question my own website, which had been in place for 8 years, and my grown up children advised me it was looking rather ‘sad’!  So I was spurred into action – a new website was needed.

DSC_7546We are a traditional, mixed family farm which is run by three generations of the Maynard family, so everyone gradually became involved.

First of all I felt we needed some really good photos.  As the saying goes, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’.  We are located on a beef and sheep farm in the scenic Culm Valley, so we wanted to capture the snow covered fields in the winter, lambs frolicking in the fields in the spring, our cattle grazing in the summer pastures and the stunning autumn colours.  So every family member was involved snapping a good image when they saw it.  We even had a friend pop in with their drone to get some aerial shots.hele payne farm-20 (500x375) (1)

My daughter, Hayley, is an Industrial Designer, so she volunteered to design a suitable logo.  There was lots of discussion over whether we should have a sheep or cow.  Eventually the cow won the day.  Then we moved on to a suitable colour pallet and fonts, deciding on gentle calming country colours.

My eldest daughter, Katie, is in marketing, so she took on the design of the actual website.  She worked very hard sorting out the navigation, page layouts and selection of photos (We had so many we couldn’t use them all!).  Next came the text and it is actually quite hard to think of everything a potential guest might like to know.  We have tried, but if you think of anything else just let us know and we can add it!  One of the hardest decisions was what attractions to add in the ‘Out and About’ section, as there are so many wonderful places to visit in Devon to suit all ages, the choice is endless.  We faced the same problem when we wanted to highlight places to eat, as Devon is a haven for scrumptious local food.

Cattle at Hele PayneWell, finally it is completed and we are delighted with the finished result.  We truly feel it expresses how proud we are of our corner of Devon and we love sharing it with the guests who decide to come and stay in our holiday cottage.

Have a look and I hope you like it –









Posted in Calves, Cows, Lambs, Member Farms, Pubs, Restaurants, Sheep, Wildlife

In search of the willow tit………

We were delighted to be contacted by the ‘Devon willow tit project’, an ambitious but much needed project, which has been developed in partnership by Devon Birds, Devon Wildlife Trust and Devon Biodiversity Records Centre. The willow tit (kleinschmidt) is in serious trouble, showing the greatest decline of all the species in the period 1995 to 2010, with the breeding range contracting considerably.  In order to establish the current distribution of the willow tit they are going to conduct surveys on the farm in January and possibly February and lots of other areas of Devon as well.

Willow-tit-257x257The habitat here at Little Comfort has been identified as a possible breeding site.  As they are not easy birds to identify accurately it will be done with sound recordings, as well as visually, as their call is very distinctive.  Roger and I think that we have identified them in the valley and on the bird table, but as identification is so difficult we are reluctant to say so with certainty.  It would be so good if all the hard work that Roger has carried out on the farm to enhance the wildlife habitat has provided a safe haven for these dear little birds.

Thank you to Devon Wildlife Trust for the photo of a willow tit being ringed as part of the project.

Links to more information:
Devon Wildlife Trust
Devon Birds
Devon Biodiversity Records Office


Posted in AONB, Member Farms, Wildlife

Spotlight on Buckfastleigh

Buckfastleigh is a small, but vibrant market town situated on the edge of Dartmoor National Park.  It is a wonderful mix of ancient and modern attractions surrounded by miles of prime Devon countryside, wild moorlands and hidden valleys to explore; a must-visit for Devon Farms’ guests.

Buckfast AbbeyThe town is medieval in origin, as is still evident in the original layout of the town, particularly in Fore Street.  However, by the seventeenth century most of the properties had been rebuilt.  During the Industrial Revolution it transformed from a sleepy market town, filled with pilgrims, to a hive of activity driven by woollen, paper and corn mills, as well as a tannery.  These were supported by the rivers Dart, Mardle and the Dean Burn – water being an essential natural resource used in the manufacturing of wool and other products. .

The name “Buckfast” means “stronghold” – traditionally a place where deer and buck were held, and “Leigh” would have been the pasture belonging to Buckfast – hence the meaning deer held in a pasture (buck-fast-leigh).

Visitors to the area are really spoilt for choice with so many attractions to see.  An extended stay in the area is a must if you want to get round all of them:

  • Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary
  • South Devon Railway – a heritage railway running steam engines between Totnes and Buckfastleigh
  • Pennywell Farm and wildlife centre
  • Buckfast Abbey – a Benedictine abbey established in 1018 by King Canute. Also the source of the famous Buckfast Tonic Wine
  • Dart Rock Climbing Centre
  • Buckfastleigh Open Air Pool

South Devon RailwayAnd a couple of pubs with great reviews!

  • The Valiant Soldier pub
  • The Tradesmans Arms, Scorriton

With 13 letters, Buckfastleigh is also one of the longest place names in England with no repeated letters!

Posted in Member Farms, Pubs

Try Becky Falls for a lovely day out…………

If you fancy a wonderful day out, surrounded by spectacular scenery, you can do no better than Becky Falls.  Voted Devon’s Top Beauty Spot, it is also recommended by the World Wildlife Fund as an Amazing Family Day Out.

There are a variety of colour coded trails to follow through beautiful woodland; blue for you and your children to take part in the Letterboxing activity (with a prize for every child), red for a more challenging walk and a visit to the stunning Main Falls, or follow the purple trail for rugged terrain and excitement.  The whole family, including your four-legged friend, is catered for.

becky-fallsAt weekends and during school holidays you can enjoy some very hands-on animal encounters and there are twice daily animal feeding sessions. There is also a gift shop and indoor children’s craft and reptile centre on site.

Once you’ve paid your entrance fee everything else is included. Open from 11 February to 29 October in 2017 it is well worth a visit!becky-falls-map

Posted in Uncategorized

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.


Posted in Uncategorized

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