to living sustainably and to sustainable tourism

Green, Sustainable, Environmentally-friendly Holidays

Watermill Cottages is happily situated in 20 acres of South Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty South Devon (AONB) whose purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the South Hams landscape.

Platinum Level Green Leaders on Trip Advisor since 2014 we celebrate the wildness of the secret Gara Valley near Slapton and Dartmouth. Come and explore a range of habitats  protected by Natural England: ancient grasslands, wetlands, woods, cricket bat willows, old tracks and green lanes. And of course, the Gara Brook itself which runs through the valley and is great for playing in. At Watermill Cottages look for otters, dormice, the rare cirl bunting, glowworms in July, kingfishers, dippers, yellow wagtails on the stream, trout and eels in the stream.  Bee-friendly gardens welcome butterflies too.

As custodians of the beautiful, secret Gara Valley, whose Gara Brook runs through Watermill Cottages down the valley to Slapton Ley, the coastal National Nature Reserve, we work closely with Slapton Field Centre which manages Slapton Ley.  The Field Centre tests the water weekly at Watermill Cottages to monitor the precious habitat here. The largest natural freshwater lake in the South West, Slapton Ley is separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bank along which the main road runs between Strete and Torcross. Take a walk here and enjoy lake and coast views over Start Bay.  Slapton Ley offers diverse habitats attracting many rare native and migrating birds, as well as otters. 

South Devon and the South Hams are renowned for stunning landscapes and so attract many visitors.  This can put a strain on the local environment. However, Watermill Cottages is committed to reducing ours and our guests’ impact on this beautiful coast and countryside; to living sustainably; and to environmentally friendly tourism, minimising our damage to the environment. We encourage recycling in our recycling centre (with guides to what goes where), composting, being aware of energy use.  Come and enjoy a holiday close to nature where rewilding is not a trend, it’s a way of life. To treading gently, leaving only footprints… … at Watermill Cottages.

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. The water turbine provides electricity for our home, the office, laundry and Barleycorn Cottage. What we can’t use on site we return to the grid, so energy used in the other four cottages is offset.  ‘Homegrown’ electricity charges our hybrid car for local journeys. In summer 2020, it will charge a fully electric car.

We offer free electric car charging for guests.
In the courtyard is the PodPoint, a car charging point, so you may charge your electric or hybrid car too with ‘homegrown’ electricity generated by the water turbine.

Read John’s blog on on our replacement water turbine installation and electricity generation for more information.

At Watermill Cottages 100% of the electricity used is from renewable resources.

Land Management

All logs for your cottage woodburner (each cottage has one) are harvested from the valley around you.  You can’t get more local than that!  The woodland is coppiced on an eight year rotation to harvest logs which are seasoned and prepared for you here.  All logs are included in the cottage rental.

Watermill Cottages’ 20 acres holds sensitive eco-systems like meadows, hedgerows, woodlands, ancient grasslands, marshland, reed-beds and the stream itself, offering diverse habitats that support rich and varied wildlife.  It’s a rare and wild habitat with diverse wildlife – come and see for yourself!

Watermill Cottages is on a working small-holding with 20 acres of land around the cottages and up and down the Gara Valley.  Jolly Farm (Jade and Ollie) graze their sheep and cattle here, raising slow-grown, soy-free animals as part of Jolly Farm’s larger farming enterprise. The native breed, organic standard livestock help with conservation grazing and keeping this historically working land in balance with nature. Though not registered organic, they follow organic principles in farming and small-holding. The land here in the Gara Valley is part of a Stewardship Scheme run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which supports us in mantaining environmentally beneficial land management practices.

Christine keeps chickens and ducks for eggs and meat, and sells eggs to guests. She grows veg and fruit in a productive kitchen garden, polytunnel and small orchard, and she and John press apples for juice and cider in autumn.


We’re happy to point you in the right direction to buy locally-produced food from nearby farms – helping you protect Devon’s rural landscapes and iconic farmland by supporting local producers.

South 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. There are plenty of restuarant, cafe and pub recommendations in the cottage information folders, including those that are dog-friendly.

Here, we sell home-grown meat from Jade and Ollie’s farm, Jolly Farm.  It’s slowly grown, grass-fed, organic standard meat, raised here in the valley or close by. We also offer delicious jams and chutneys homemade by a lady in Strete village from produce grown in her garden or foraged locally. If the hens are feeling up to it, we sell eggs from our flock and sometimes duck eggs.


We encourage you to recycle as much as is possible whilst here 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 which in turn feeds the kitchen garden.


We manage water use carefully, and have a septic tank plus onsite treatment systems to deal with sewerage.  Waste water is pumped uphill and filtered through the land before it enters the stream, which is quality tested every week.

Waste water is treated on-site so we are very careful about what goes into it.  We encourage guests to think about what they are putting down the plug hole too.  All five cottages are equipped with gorgeous liquid soap in each bathroom and kitchen – it’s hand-made for us by HomeScents and is made from 100% natural sustainably-sourced British ingredients. It’s also 100% bio-degradable.  The washing-up liquid and cleaning products supplied in the cottages are environmentally friendly and our cleaners use environmentally friendly cleaning products. We air dry where possible aided by a heat exchanger.


Watermill Cottages enjoys close links with the local community, with the villages of Slapton and Strete and Slapton Ley Field Centre.  Active villages, both have great dog friendly pubs.  In Strete, The King’s Arms has a beer garden with amazing sea views, it’s a 40 minute walk from here.  Slapton has The Queen’s Arms with sunny beer garden, and The Tower Inn, a gastro pub going back to medieval times. There’s a wealth of individual shops and restaurants for you to enjoy, from the award-winning Slapton Community Village Shop to farm shops and the picturesque towns of Dartmouth, Salcombe, Kingsbridge and Totnes.

We welcome special needs groups, charities and international school groups to enjoy the cottages off season at a discounted rate.

We live gently here and love sharing this beautiful wild valley.  We’re happy to discuss any of our sustainable choices, to learn more and journey deeper into self-sufficient living.

Watermill Cottages
Higher North Mill, Hansel, Nr. Slapton
Dartmouth TQ6 0LN