Escape to the Country

Four and a half years ago, my family and I upped sticks and moved halfway across the country from suburban Surrey to rural Mid-Devon. It was our escape from the rat-race, following our dream of a country-upbringing for our two children, an opportunity for a new income meaning my husband needn’t travel abroad for work as frequently, and (hopefully) a more relaxed lifestyle for us surrounded by nature and fresh air.

We had fallen in love with a secluded farmstead in a hidden valley on the edge of the Blackdown Hills, which has not only four holiday cottages but also four glamping yurts plus communal spaces including an indoor pool, games room and conservatory at the cottage complex and a party barn at the yurts.

Having never run such a business before, let alone two, it was certainly a steep learning curve. We hadn’t twigged quite how much work would be required, both physically (and financially!) to get the properties up to a standard we were happy with, but also mentally – getting to grips with new booking software, learning how to market on social media, editing two websites, keeping accounts, and dealing with customers and staff, all alongside getting used to a new area. Our adventure has certainly been a journey of self-discovery, both of us having to draw on our reserves of resilience and creativity.

Last year we started to reap the rewards of our hard work when we won Bronze for our glamping business in the Devon Tourism Awards. Fingers crossed we can go one or even two better in this year’s awards!

Although lockdown has inevitably affected our business as we were unable to open until early July, in some ways it was a blessing in disguise.

We were able to take our foot off the pedal and enjoy the peace and tranquility of our stunning location at the most beautiful time of year when everything is blossoming with the warmth of Spring. We didn’t completely down tools but nor did we have the stress of a March deadline to open when the weather is often against us.

Instead, we took our time during April, May and June, refurbishing yurts, building new camp kitchens, sanding and staining every piece of wood we could lay our hands on, re-pointing patios – all things we find very hard to do during our usual maintenance window of November to February due to the cold and wet. We also finally created a vegetable garden and refurbished the greenhouse, both things we had wanted to do since first arriving but hadn’t had time.

We very much hope that we and the UK tourism industry in general can weather this storm and that our bookings may even be stronger for it in the future. If you’d like to come and visit our rural idyll for a holiday in 2021 or beyond do take a look at our websites: www.halsbeerfarm.co.uk and
www.blackdownyurts.co.uk.