Swallowtail Hill offers unusual accommodation on a farm in the depths of the country and we want all of our guests to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience when they stay with us. We also want our guests to know that they are staying at a place which we have done our utmost to manage in as sustainable a way as possible. This is what we’ve done and how. We hope you find it interesting and that perhaps it inspires you to believe that sustainable living does not need to be a hardship.
The natural environment
Starting with the farm, 31 of its 40 acres are within something called the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme. This is awarded by Natural England and is quite rare for farms this size. The remaining 9 acres – one field – is managed similarly but is simply excluded from the scheme and its associated grant in case we ever needed to cultivate food crops. Over 20 years we have developed a small but unique landscape – it has been described as one of the finest conservation areas in south east England. To quote Plantlife International’s then Species Recovery Officer, Dominic Price ‘you won’t see wild flower meadows like this within 100 miles’. Possibly an exaggeration but nonetheless an indication of his enthusiasm for the multitude of grass and flower species discovered here.
We have created 9 acres of traditional flower meadow and are converting a further 8; 5 acres are managed as tussocky grassland to encourage invertebrates and small mammals; a further 9 acres are down to standard hay; no chemicals are used except sparingly and by spot spraying to remove invasive weeds; we have put in nine ponds, two scrapes, one dewpond, and three reed-beds; 8 acres of woodland is managed by rotational coppicing; there is an unusual area of bog; and a small stand of alder, which is left wild. Hedgerows have been planted, and now laid, around most of the fields, providing green lanes along the outside edges, and a dense habitat for wildlife; some years ago 100 bird boxes were put up along with two owl boxes, with the result that the bird population is strong. There is consequently an abundance of wildlife of all kinds.
Our calculations show that we are carbon positive, so you can be sure that the emissions you are responsible for are neutralised while you are here. While we continue to buy our electricity (from Good Energy, so entirely from renewables), we have a 14 panel solar PV installation on a barn roof, and transmit directly to the grid some 3,500 KWh a year. Summer hot water is supplied by another solar array on the farmhouse roof. The loft spaces are insulated with sheep’s wool. Winter heating and hot water is provided by our own timber, from the wood on our land. The woodland and the pasture themselves, especially permanent pasture, act as very effective carbon sinks.
The glamping business has been designed to be as sustainable as possible. The site itself is entirely off-grid; you heat your cabin with a log burner using wood from our own coppice. Your showers are also log fired. You also have use of butane for cooking which is low in emissions. You can also cook outside on a log fired fire pit. If you use charcoal we supply English provenanced charcoal from sustainable sources.
Grey water from your site is either directed into a reed bed, or drained through a CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology) approved design Trench Arch. We provide you with eco-friendly, biodegradable products and ask that you do not use anything else.
Your lavatory is a composting one, which, used correctly, has absolutely no impact on watercourses, but provides fine compost for the land.
You are also supplied with a compost bin for all food waste, which, meat included, is moved to the dual purpose hot composters in the farmhouse garden. You also have a set of recycling bins. We do all the recycling. We ask you to take home any non-recyclable or non-compostable rubbish – mainly nappies. Very little waste therefore goes to landfill.
The supply to your cabin or cottage is metered, and serviced directly from the mains. We ask you to use water considerately when showering and washing up.
We source almost everything locally (including most of the materials for the construction of the units). Some is grown or made on the farm (eggs, vegetables, and preserves). All contractors are local businesses, including those who carry out work on the farm (hedging, ditching, hay harvesting).
Wherever possible we also ensure that the goods and services we use are organic, ethical, fair-trade and are supplied by businesses with comprehensive sustainability programmes.
Transport is not easy to manage since we are a long way from main roads and rail lines. However, we do encourage you to come by train and bus; we offer bicycles on-site; and we do not allow guest’s vehicles anywhere other than in the farmyard to park.
We continually strive to improve our record on sustainability. To that end we monitor our activity in all areas in order to identify areas for improvement. Where relevant we will identify targets and timeframes for improvement.
Other than the company’s two owners/directors it is currently too small to employ staff. Where we use occasional freelance help we make staff aware of our goals and our policy, its aims and reasons for being.
We do quite a lot with the local community. Sarah runs a Forest School at the farm and attendees are children from four local schools (Beckley, Northiam, Peasmarsh and Iden). Up to 15 children at a time spend 5 hours on site engaged in woodland craft activities, linked to their school curriculum, but with an emphasis on nature and conservation. We also run a Wild Woodland Club once a month on a Saturday open to any children in the area.
We also run guided nature walks for special interest groups, and indeed for interested glampers. Mainly this involves touring the farm and explaining conservation methodology and the results – wild flowers, coppiced woodland, hedgerows and ponds.
We also host groups of the disadvantaged – Rother Green Gyms are regular attendees, as are groups from mental health charity Rethink.
We both give talks locally on conservation and sustainability – to church groups and the WI for instance.
So far as employees are concerned, we pay our occasional workers well above the minimum wage, whether they are working on the farm or directly for the glamping business.
Finally, a large part of the conservation work we carry out is funded by our business.
Green Tourism Business Scheme
We have joined the Green Tourism Business Scheme as an indicator of our sustainable practises and business ethos.