At Watermill Cottages, we are also custodians of part of the beautiful, secluded Gara Valley, whose Gara Brook runs through our land and down into Slapton Ley, the National Nature Reserve. As the largest natural freshwater lake in the South West, separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bank, it provides range of habitats including wetlands, woodlands, reedbeds and shingle banks. It is managed by the Field Study Council from Slapton Field Centre. and The stretch of the Gara that runs through our gardens are tested weekly for water quality and a site used by PhD Field Studies students to monitor the precious habitat we have here.
The beauty of South Devon attracts many visitors and as such puts a strain on the local environment. As an accommodation provider, we are committed to reducing our and our guests’ impact on this beautiful place.
We are committed to living sustainably and to sustainable tourism, minimising our damage to the environment. To treading gently, leaving only footprints
What we are doing to help:
The single biggest commitment we have made to sustainable living is to install a micro-hydro generation scheme on site. Currently the water turbine provides electricity for our main house, the office, laundry and Barleycorn Cottage. Plus we send excess back to the grid, so energy used in our other cottages can be offset. We use 'homegrown' electricity to charge our electric hybrid 4WD car which powers our local journeys.
Read John's blog on on our replacement water turbine installation and electricity generation for more information
We coppice our woodland on an eight year rotation and harvest all logs for the woodburners in the cottages from our land.
Our land holds sensitive eco-systems, including marshland, reed-beds, meadows, hedgerows, woodlands, ancient grasslands and the stream, offering diverse habitats that support rich and varied wildlife. We are proud to be the home of many wild animals, birds and insects.
We own 20 acres of land around the cottages and up and down the valley and although we are not registered organic, we follow organic principles on our working small-holding. Our land is part of an Stewardship Scheme run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The scheme supports us to carry out environmentally beneficial management practices on our land.
We keep chickens and ducks for eggs and meat plus we keep sheep and cattle in the valley and produce grass-fed lamb and beef for sale (pork occasionally, our first beef in July 2014 was Aberdeen Angus and Devon Red. In 2015 we're adding conservation grass grazed Galloway). The livestock help with conservation grazing and keeping our historically working land in balance with nature. We also have a productive kitchen garden, poly tunnel and small orchard, and we sell surplus vegetables, eggs and apple juice.
We can point you in the right direction to buy locally-produced food from local farms, helping you to protect Devon’s rural beauty and iconic farmland by supporting local producers. Devon is a hive of activity when it comes to abundant crops turned into delicious food. Stokeley Barton Farm Shop sells a great choice of local produce, including a fantastic local butcher - if you want to know which field your meat grew up in just ask Paul.
All the local pubs and restaurants support local producers with The Start Bay Inn having a sustainably caught fish policy for their award-winning fish and chips.
We encourage our guests to recycle as much of their waste as is possible in South Devon. We take all glass, light bulbs, batteries, cans, plastic, paper, cardboard, tetra-packs and scrap metal to recycling centres plus we have an onsite composting system that in turn feeds the kitchen garden.
We try not to waste valuable water here, and have septic tank systems to deal with our sewerage. Waste water is pumped uphill and filtered through the land before it enters the stream, which is quality tested every week.
As our waste water is treated on-site we are very careful about what goes into it. We use 100% biodegradable products for cleaning and encourage guests to think about what they are putting down the plug hole. We supply all the cottages with a gorgeous liquid soap, hand-made by HomeScents, which is 100% bio-degradable and made from 100% natural sustainably-sourced British ingredients. We only use environmentally friendly cleaning products and air dry all of our linen. We're helped by a heat exchanger in our laundry.
We have close links with our community and there's a wealth of individual shops and restaurants locally for guests to enjoy. We are connected to a Community Supported Agriculture Schemes in Totnes where our manager Jade runs a community livestock farm with local people to educate the local community about responsible food choices. She also runs a pig-share scheme at School Farm on the Dartington Hall Estate.
We live gently in this beautiful Devon Valley, love to share this special place with guests and are happy to discuss any of our sustainable choices with you. We're always keen to learn more and journey deeper into Self-Sufficientish Living.