Swallowtail Hill offers unusual accommodation on a farm in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty 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 that is managed 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 – sustainable living does not need to be a hardship.
The natural environment
Starting with the farm, 22 of its 50 acres are within something called the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme. This is awarded by Natural England and is quite rare for farms our size. 9 acres – one field – are managed similarly but is simply excluded from the scheme and its associated grant in case we ever needed to cultivate food crops. The other 19 acres are woodland.
Over 25 years we have developed a unique landscape – it has been described as one of the finest conservation areas in south east England. To quote Plantlife International’s former 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 17 acres of traditional flower meadow and are converting all the remainder. No chemicals are used except occasionally and only by spot spraying to remove invasive weeds; we have put in 12 ponds, one dewpond, and three reed-beds. Our woodland is split into three – 8 acres are traditional chestnut coppice with standard oaks, managed by rotational coppicing. One acre is an unusual area of boggy ground with alder, willow and birch which is left wild. 10 acres are semi natural ancient woodland with towering oaks. Several hundred metres of hedgerow have been planted, and now laid, around most of the fields, providing green lanes along the outside edges, and a dense habitat for wildlife; we have always had very many bird boxes around the farm including 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. We also have a 36-panel ground mounted solar array in the garden, with batteries, and an air source heat pump, so the house is effectively wholly off-grid. Summer hot water is supplied by another solar array on the farmhouse roof. The loft spaces are insulated with sheep’s wool. Logs for the wood burning stove are sourced from our own woodland.
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 mostly off-grid except for very low draw supply to three of the cabins; you heat your cabin with a log burner using wood from our own coppice. 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. Depending on your accommodation your loo is either a composting one, which, used correctly, has absolutely no impact on watercourses, but provides fine compost for the land; or a flushing loo that is linked to a water treatment system and biodigests waste and returns clean water safely into nearby ditches. 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 offer the hot tubs as an optional extra to guests in order not to waste water. The tubs are not chemically treated and require freshly filling for each guest, a fill is 1000 litres which is as much as 4 households would use in one day.
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; and we do not allow guest’s vehicles anywhere other than in the farmyard to park. We have an electric charging point for guests who have electric visitors and may require charging during their stay – we charge for this service.
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. Our staff are aware of our goals and our policy, its aims and reasons for being.
We do quite a lot with the local community. Sarah is Forest School trained and runs ad hoc sessions for kid who holiday on the farm – woodland craft activities with an emphasis on nature and conservation. We also run guided nature walks for special interest groups, and indeed for interested guests. Mainly this involves touring the farm and explaining conservation methodology and the results – wildflowers, coppiced woodland, hedgerows and ponds. We also host charities and support groups wanting to enjoy an afternoon of respite in the countryside. We both give talks on conservation and sustainability. So far as employees are concerned, we pay our occasional workers a good 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.
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