Come, breathe some clean spring air, feel your sap rise… revitalise, replenish your energy … a short break, a weekend, a relaxing week in a cosy Devon cottage with wood burner.
Yes, we’re blooming early again in The South Hams, spring is here in our lovely South Devon seaside valley.
Snowdrops light fallen leaves, primroses peep through grass, hellebores ruffle their stamens in glory. Blue periwinkle, honeysuckle and rosebuds continue. Strolling up the lane today to feed the ducks and chickens (three hens and one duck laying now the light is longer), I caught the gold glint of aconite, pink campion above it.
Inspired, I walked to the orchard… last week, its pond was green with chickweed. Today, it bulged with fresh frogspawn, like black bubblewrap. The sheep have nibbled the reeds right back, the pond looks bald without its fringe.
Around the mill field spring and along the Gara Brook by Crownwheel Cottage‘s patio, hazel catkins dangle. Quack Cottage’s garden is full of pink and white heliotrope, snowdrops grace borders. Not long before the daffs are out. Rose Cottage still has pink osteospermum daisies in its sunny herbaceous border, viburnum rosettes flower above.
At dawn, about 7:15 now, the valley fills with hopeful birdsong. At dusk, it’s owls we hear.
Barleycorn Cottage News Barleycorn Cottage’s garden has a new look! The great oak on the bank has blown down, luckily, just missing the roof. John’s ‘green gym’ workouts have been hearty as he safely dismantles the tree. A new wildlife habitat in the brash pile along the leat, oak timber to season for projects and firewood. Sunsets ahead from Barleycorn Cottage’s verandah!
Email Christine or Jade with your short break or holiday dates. Or send us a booking form. We and the ducks would love to see you!
Writers at The Watermill
3 – 5 November 2017
At Watermill Cottages, Hansel nr Slapton, Dartmouth, Devon TQ6 0LN
Christine Cooke, writer, poet, blogger & co-owner of Watermill Cottages
Anne Rainbow aka RedPen Mentor & Scrivener Virgin.
Guest speaker is Belinda Seaward,
author of Hotel Juliet and The Beautiful Truth (John Murray).
Do you want to develop your writing voice? Are you a blocked writer?
Would you like to improve your writing, discover techniques to edit your work ready for feedback or print?
Or would you simply enjoy exploring your creativity alongside like-minded people in a stunning location with all your meals prepared? If so, then this weekend is for you.
With Christine, who lives in the beautiful Gara Valley, develop your voice in creative writing sessions. Then explore how nature and found materials inspire our creative process with a guided literary walk around the valley and writing in the wild.
By the fireside, share author Belinda Seaward’s story of how she developed her ideas into a finished draft and found a publisher. How do you get published? She’s happy to answer your questions.
Learn from Anne how to edit your writing to produce a professional, finished piece of work ready for feedback or for print. The weekend includes a one-to-one session with Anne giving you considered feedback on your writing that you submit earlier.
Imagine: a room of your own. In an atmospheric, comfy stone cottage by an historic 18thC former watermill and stream in 20 acres of south Devon’s AONB. Virtually untouched by the modern world, the coastal Gara Valley has a unique and inspirational literary history. Far from the madding crowd you’ll find yourself immersed in revitalising natural energy. It’s a full moon that weekend.
All your meals & refreshments are included, freeing you to be creative. Lunch & supper are home-cooked using locally grown organic standard ingredients. Breakfast is at your leisure in your cottage. Cake is baked by Emily of Queen Bee Cakes.
Accommodation, facilitation, tuition, speaker, food, refreshment, materials & log fires are included in the price of £475. There are just ten places. And you’re welcome to stay on to write or relax for the rest of the week at no extra cost on a self-catering basis.
To book your place or register your interest please email Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org
More information, testimonials & biographies at www.journeywords.co.uk/writingworkshops
August brings us sunshine and smiles in the stream… and it also brings us the results of nature going about her quiet business.
This week, a tale of two watery juveniles who met their death, a kingfisher and an otter.
Guests on holiday at Watermill Cottages found the body of a beautiful kingfisher. This year we’ve all been seeing them whizz up and down the stream, so fast, it seemed impossible that anything could stop them. Its body wasn’t damaged, just the tip of its beak was bent.
We stood amazed at the brilliance of its plumage, stroking its darting, iridescent, gleaming, turquoise-blue and gasping at the burnt orange contrast.
The same day, other guests found half a body of an otter at the edge of the stream in the valley. Again, they’ve been heard and seen all season. What would kill an otter? When we went to look, nature had taken over. The carcass was gone. Foxes, badgers, crows feasting as they tidied.
I rang Slapton Ley Field Centre and spoke to Nick Binnie, Reserve Officer, who gave me a fuller picture.
There were three likely causes of the otter death. Perhaps a juvenile otter had strayed into the territory of the Gara Brook otter family and had not picked up the scent of the spraint. Spraint is how otters mark their territory – they defend territory viciously.
Or it had died of illness. Or maybe a female otter had given birth to three kits. Nick said a female can only raise two kits to adulthood; if she attempts to raise three they all die. So she waits until they are juveniles, then decides which to abandon…. which is the weakest… This is the most likely cause of of our otter’s death.
Nick asked a few questions about the kingfisher. ‘Does it have a white tip to its beak? if it does, then it’s a juvenile.’ I looked. Yes, it did.
‘The problem is, as with human juveniles, they have a taste for speed but aren’t yet experienced enough to navigate fully so there’s more likelihood of them crashing into things like windows and dying.’
His other option, that perhaps a sparrow hawk had taken it and was disturbed before plucking it then dropped it, seemed unlikely as there were no wounds to the body.
So now we know…
… yet In animal classification, ‘Halcyon’ is the genus for kingfishers. A word that also means ‘happy, joyful, carefree’, as in the halcyon days of childhood. It comes from the Greek word for a bird which in legend is linked to the kingfisher.
The legend says that the bird nested on the sea in winter, which it calmed in order to lay its eggs on a floating nest. It meant that the ancients expected two weeks of calm weather around the winter solstice. This is why we use ‘halcyon’ as a term for peace or calmness as well as joyful and carefree.
I can see why a bird of such beauty inspired legends and words. It seems apt that it lived in our beautiful, peaceful and carefree valley.
A grand old man, Harry is 14 and has spent every Whit week holiday for nine years at Watermill Cottages.
And although his back legs are not too steady these days, and though sleep is almost, not quite, but almost, more important than food – he is a Labrador after all – he always goes for his morning and evening amble down to the stream to cool his paws, sniff the air and catch the breeze.
He loves scents and knows them well here, he’s at home in Barleycorn Cottage where he’s stayed every year for nine years. It matters, as his eyes don’t see too well now. His nose tells him who we all are!
As you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Harry needs help getting out of the stream. Out for him is always up on to the grass. It most certainly is NOT up a plank of wood, onto a flat rock and then onto the lawn.
‘Honestly, who do they think I am!’ gruffed Harry, as he deftly removed a burnt sausage from beside the bbq.
|The Times recommends Watermill Cottages
The Times, to our delighted surprise, recommended us in its Travel Doctor column on Saturday May 23 2015.
Watermill Cottages’ 20 acres of rural coastal retreat near Slapton Sands beach in South Devon’s AONB is perfect for families of all ages and sizes with plenty of dogs!
It was in the Weekend Section, which Andy at Strete General Stores had luckily held for us on Sunday morning.
The Times quoted prices for May half-term 2016 for Rose, Quack and Barleycorn Cottages – the same price as 2015 – prices and availability for 2015 are on this link.
For 2016 prices and availability please call us on 01803 770219 or email email@example.com
Word has got out!
April the first and it’s not a joke – this morning two bright yellow ducklings for Dark Green Duck, the first of the spring at Watermill Cottages. Mrs Duckel, the grey and white duck, looks on from her own nest – she has three weeks to go.
Field with a View
We’ve recently added a six acre meadow for your enjoyment at Watermill Cottages – it’s at the top of the lane and has stunning views over Start Bay to the lighthouse at Start Point. It’s great for sunsets (and eclipses)..
We’re planning a campfire place and rustic seating so it’ll be the perfect spot for family picnics and sundowners, never mind watercolours, photography, kite-flying (it catches the breeze), and rolling down the slope. It’s a healthy stroll with the delight of walking down hill home to your cottage.
Sheep Report Matilda is thriving (still on bottles), here she is with the cuckoo lamb from last year and Jesse the friendly Jacob ram who eats from your hand
|Cuckoo lamb, Jesse ram and Matilda
Matilda’s mum only has half a working udder so we’re bottle feeding
Matilda twice a day at Watermill Cottages smallholding and teaching her to eat lamb food… She comes
running and bouncing when you call her name… why does bottle feeding a
lamb make everyone so happy!
Teaching Matilda to eat solids is not easy – she is easily distracted and likes to jump for joy… the Belted Galloways, last year’s calves, are not impressed… Matilda was born in mid-February, she’s thriving we’re happy to report. She’s in the sheep shed at the moment but shall soon be in the field next to the kitchen garden, behind Barleycorn Cottage, where there’s plenty of fresh grass for a growing lamb and her mum.
|checking out the ‘Hentrance’
|John’s mobile hen house …
A New Year and a new move for the chickens at Watermill Cottages …
John has spent a few winter weeks in his workshop happily building a new mobile home for the hens.
Yesterday they took a first look round.
It’s compact, warm, easy to clean (detachable roof and rear nesting boxes with lid), has light-sensitive door closing, and best of all, it’s on wheels.
The plan is to involve the hens in weeding and prepping the kitchen garden.
We’ll move them over the lane and use electric fencing to keep them safe from fabulous and very friendly Mr Fox as they weed, fertilise and dig over some of the ground.
Happy faces all round (except for Mr F) and scrummy eggs and veg too.
Welcome to our newest arrival, a happy healthy little white bull calf born ten days ago.
Mum and calf doing well in this long fabulous Devon summer sunshine at Watermill Cottages rural coastal retreat.
Now, what shall we call him? Any ideas?
‘There are ducklings all over the lawn, quick come and help’ so we ran to the rescue ith buckets, fishing nets, wellies and anything we could find…
A mallard had nested in a clump of pampas grass by the bridge,and her ducklings were leggily darting down the bank into the stream and being washed away. they pooled in the eddies by the lawn, ran to the grass then back into th stream as we approached them.
The flow under the bridge was too strong for them to swim back upstream to their mum who called them to join her and the few duckling who’d entered the river well above the bridge.
We collected ten of them and put them in an open-topped box where we hoped thier mum might join them and encourage them out. She didn’t. So John rigged up the poultry heat lamp in the chickenarium he built for hen chicks last year and we made a warm nesting box at one end with a dog-bowl pool and food at the other. They were there for a week before the whole construction was sodden –
mallards ducklings love to splash!
They’re now in the dog kennel with a heat lamp and a large baking tray pool in the sunshine – it doesn’t matter how wet everything there gets. We crush corn and pellets for them, give them grass too. They are thriving! And very fast.
A few more weeks of heat lamps and they can join the muscovies and ducklings. So far so good….
It’s spring at Watermill Cottages!