This week we’re continuing our lockdown lookabout from our family friendly holiday cottages in Devon, only this time we’re not going anywhere. We’re staying right here at Stonehayes Farm, because sometimes it’s good to appreciate what’s on your doorstep and with 15 acres of unspoilt countryside we’ve got a lot to be grateful for. This time of year it’s absolutely beautiful – even more so with the glorious weather we’re having, plenty of daylight hours, blue skies, blazing hot sunshine. Come and see….
We’re only about a mile and a half from the quiet East Devon town of Honiton, but once you drive up the high-hedged narrow lanes to Stonehayes Farm it really does feel like you’re right out in the sticks. This time of year those hedgerows are a feast for the eyes, brimming over with wild flowers and grasses; cow parsley seems to positively billow, amongst it the vivid pink of campions, the twining lilacy-purple of common vetch, pure white stitchwort and silky yellow buttercups. It makes you smile, it’s like a colourful riot of flowers all vying for their space in the hedges, but my, it’s a wonderful sight! These lanes are quiet so the chances of meeting another car is slim, most days all we hear is the occasional tractor chugging up the hill, so it’s safe enough to go for a wander, which we do sometimes and when we do, we always take the time to stop and stare; we stop at field gates that give you a sudden wide open vista across the valley, at old wooden stiles tucked away in the dappled sunlight beneath the trees. By jove, we’re lucky!
If you carry on up the lane you’ll get to Dumpdon Hill, an Iron Age hillfort that’s owned by the National Trust. The views out over the Otter Valley are incredible, just miles and miles of fields and hills dotted with small copses and farmsteads – a wide open landscape that seems to roll on and on to reach the sky – and guess what? You can see Stonehayes Farm and our Devon holiday cottages from up there! A few weeks ago it was a picture and a half at Dumpdon, with a carpet of bluebells on the floor of the beech woods and their light scent drifting on the spring air. It was tantalising, that’s what it was. There’s actually a car park up there, not a big one by any means but you can drive up, get out and stretch your legs and explore the ramparts. It’s got to be one of the best things in the world, to just take the time to be at one with nature, to enjoy the peace and the beauty of it all.
Mother Nature’s been pretty busy at Stonehayes Farm too; the trees are all in full leaf, a myriad shades of green, and as in the lanes, the hedgerows are full of flowers. What we really notice is the birdsong, it just never seems to stop, other than at night! The dawn chorus gets going at about 4.30 this time of year, at first light, and if you’re mad enough to be up and about that early, good for you; you can sit outside and listen to it in all it’s glory, the songs and calls of what seems like a hundred voices. The early risers are chaffinches, wrens and robins, and of course, you can’t miss the melodic song of the blackbirds; the wood pigeons usually start cooing too, and the rooks join in with their cawing and croaking, then later on other birds join in. Then it’s just constant chirruping and twittering all day until the blackbirds and thrushes round it all up in the evening. Ah, we love it!
The fields are so lush and green right now, it’s all we can do to stop ourselves skipping through them – you know, in long white floaty dresses with a basket on our arms, like in the old Cadbury’s Flake adverts! You can wander down to the River Luv and idle an afternoon away paddling and seeing what you can find in the water; there’s a lot of life there and if you take a jam jar you might even catch a minnow or two, but not for long, you must put them back. Take a picnic and spread your rug, lounge on cushions and make yourselves at home whilst you tuck into salad sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and chicken drumsticks – all washed down with lashings of lemonade of course. Ah, we joke, but honestly, that’s what it’s like at Stonehayes Farm, you can come here and have a good old fashioned holiday, just like they did in the Enid Blyton books.
Even though we have five family friendly holiday cottages here, there’s still plenty of room for everyone. Sometimes families make friends and the children play together, which is lovely, and the little ones are always squealing with delight, scrambling about on the wooden forts in the play area, or boinging about on the trampoline. If you prefer to have your own space you can take yourselves off and find a field to do your own thing – play rounders or French cricket, fly a kite, do handstands and cartwheels; sometimes it’s good to join in with the kids – watch them and you’ll soon see their default is happy. That’s exactly what we want at Stonehayes Farm, because it’s our big happy and we want it to be yours too.
So yes, it’s a beautiful English spring, but one like no other and that’s terribly sad. It’s very discombobulating to say the least, but hopefully, one day soon we can all start returning to somewhere near normal. We all need something to look forward to whether it’s later this year, next year, or even the year after; keep positive, hold on to your dreams, keep your family close and most of all, stay safe and well. We’ll see you down here one day and we can’t wait.