We are still waiting with baited breath for the annual return of the swallows to the camp. Every year since we built the stable block in 2008, has seen the arrival in the first week of April of flocks of swallows to the yard. They are amazing creatures that make a journey to Africa for the winter and then journey back to breed in the UK each spring. However we have had a very settled period of dry weather with very light winds and I am really hoping that this has delayed their return. Last year there were several nests in our stables and each nest had up to 3 broods during the summer months. The swallows are tiny birds but nevertheless noisy and I love hearing their chattering as they build their nests and feed their young. Fingers crossed they return soon !
We are very fortunate to be in a beautiful picturesque part of South Devon where the number of cases of coronavirus have been very small. We are currently preparing the camp and putting up our yurts once again and we have had a lovely surge in bookings over the past couple of weeks. Everyone is keen to book a break to have something to look forward to especially with the unlikely prospect of any foreign holidays. The picture above was taken very recently by a local man, Alan Letcher who is highly respected for his wildlife photography and particularly kingfisher pictures.
Yesterday Boris Johnson announced his roadmap for the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions. We are so happy to say we are going to be able to reopen from the 12th April partially. We have 2 kitchen an 2 bathroom areas so we will only be taking bookings for our shepherds hut and one of our yurts during the time from 12th April until the 17th May when we intend to reopen fully. This is such positive news that the vaccination programme is working and the numbers of cases and deaths have been reducing in response to the government measures. We will be very happy to be welcoming back all our guests particularly with the rise in popularity of staycations. We are hoping for some lovely spring weather now, and some warmer temperatures. We are also looking forward like most people to being able to see our family and friends. My husband and one of my sons have already had their vaccines and I am hopeful that I will be receiving mine in the next cohort. Its so lovely to have some positive news now as this winter and lockdown has seemed to be very long!
So we have been in yet another lockdown since the beginning of January with the pandemic accelerating in the UK, however we have still been taking some bookings for the summer months. We are happy to reassure our guests that we will give refunds if we are unable to reopen due to any lockdown restrictions. January has been a cold and wet month in Devon with even some snow falling which is quite unusual for our camp. We are relatively near to the coast and hence why its quite unusual for us to see any snow and for it to actually lay on the ground. There are now some lovely signs of spring with plenty of snowdrops and primroses emerging and we are delighted to have a new broadband connection using microwaves and a mast. The previous broadband connection was on old copper phone lines, and was virtually like dial up, however since our new connection was established a few days ago its very promising that we will have some excellent speeds bringing us into the 21st century!!!
November the 5th is usually the time for bonfires and fireworks, however 2020 has been a very unusual year and we find ourselves in the grip of a second wave of Coronavirus. The government have quite rightly decided to advise another lockdown and we have sadly had to postpone all our bookings in our shepherds hut for the next 4 weeks until the 3rd December 2020. Our yurts are now taken down for the winter and will be put back up around Easter 2021 all being well. We are very hopeful that these current measures will ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed and we hope all our guests will stay safe and adhere to the rules. Whilst we are unable to accept guests at present we are really happy to take bookings for 2021 when we are hoping that the pandemic will be under control and a vaccine may be available. So if you fancy booking early to beat the rush and would like to stay in 2021, please give me a call or email and we can get your staycation holiday booked in.
The summer has flown by since our reopening at the beginning of July. We have had around 700 guests over the summer months and we have been lucky that everyone has embraced social distancing and our stringent cleaning regimes. Last weekend we managed to deconstruct 3 of our 4 yurts and put them away safely for next season. The shepherds hut however is still fully booked until November and some lovely guests have been enjoying the mild October weather and enjoying the spectacular colours developing in our trees. We have over the past years planted around 800 trees at the camp, all British native species and this has in turn attracted some interesting wildlife, bats, birds, butterflies and moths, insects and amphibians. The covid pandemic is entering into its second wave and we are wondering how this will affect the local people, the economy and really hope that our guests will stay safe, and adhere to the rules. Fortunately rural Devon has been relatively unscathed by the virus, however we are not taking this for granted and have our own QR code which our guests are asked to scan on arrival. This will assist in the governments track and trace initiative. October has been a beautiful month, with light frosts and some misty cool mornings.
Since we reopened at the beginning of July we have been totally inundated with requests for bookings. This is brilliant from a business perspective and we have already welcomed some lovely guests for their staycation. Our newCovid measures seem to be easy to follow for our guests and our new app delivering our welcome pack by text and email has been well received. If you are planning or thinking about coming to stay with us then please ask for your welcome pack - it will be automatically be sent to you once you have booked, but if you would like more information before booking we are happy to send this over to you. In the meantime the weather has been great, with lovely warm sunshine, perfect for evening camp fires, star watching and comet watching, with a comet named Neowise in our skies during the clear nights this summer. Swallows have fledged and are busily learning how to fly - what amazing aerial acrobats they are.
The camp has been closed since the 23rd March 2020 due to the corona virus pandemic. But good news is on the horizon and we are eagerly waiting news from Boris Johnson the prime minister about the reopening date. We are optimistically anticipating that we will be able to reopen from the beginning of July and we are now accepting bookings once again. Its already getting very busy with lots of guests booking in for their staycation. We have been busily making some changes to the camp so we can accommodate the best practices for cleaning and hygiene regimes. We have added an outside sink and kitchen area to our canopied area on the field. We have added hot water to all the hand basins and we have added an additional shower. We have touchless soap dispensers and paper hand towels too. Its been quite tricky to judge what measures we should be putting in place, as there has been no clear guidance from the government as yet. However we feel that we have made the best choices on all the information we have. Also its really easy to socially distance in a 3 acre meadow! Other changes are the introduction of a welcome book via an app, and a new way to find our site by using another innovative app called what3words. Check out the details on the page about directions. Looking forward now to meeting up with guests - hope the weather stays as gorgeous as it has been for the last 3 months!!!
So I realised that its been a while since I updated my blog on this website, and so much seems to have happened in a very short time space. We started with a very very wet February with rain virtually every day with storms and some minor flooding in our lake field. Followed by March and the pandemic arriving, a virus called Covid-19 from afar bringing sickness, death and misery to many and eventually on the 23rd March the government ordering a complete lockdown - everyone to stop socialising and to stay away from all our friends and family. This was rather shocking and of course disappointing as we had spent the best part of a fortnight preparing our fields, rolling, harrowing and putting up our yurts ready for what was going to be a very busy Easter period. However move on one month, and all our guests have been postponed by us until the lockdown is over, and we are all waiting patiently following the social distancing rules and shielding the vulnerable in our household. Our guests have been lovely and very understanding, and have accepted that we are offering alternative dates in the future once lockdown is over. In the meantime the camp is looking lovely in the spring sunshine, with lovely warm days, cooler evenings, lots of star watching and great weather. We have also spent time tending our allotment, growing veg, fruit and flowers, and also hatched 14 adorable little chicks in our incubator. Their father Solo is very fertile and their mothers were a combination of ex commerical layers and a few old girls from previous successful broods. The chicks are doing really well and amazingly it only takes around 16 - 20 weeks for them to become fully grown adult birds. We are still accepting bookings for late summer, and of course in 2021.
Happy New Year to all our guests - old and new. I realised that I have not updated my blog since November, which is due to being very busy. The winter months are quieter as our yurts are taken down and stored in the barn and then put back on their bases for the Easter holidays. However our lovely little shepherds hut has been very popular through the Christmas and New Year period and guests enjoy sole use of the facilities during this period. The weather once again has been very mild with plenty of rain and wind and our fields are looking a little muddy. Horses are notorius for poaching the fields and our 4 old horses are wintering well as the warm temperatures are welcomed by our geriatrics. Our lake has been overflowing and the resident swan is still on the lake. The ducks have been getting frisky with each other and there are small signs of spring in the flora and fauna. Lots of people have been making bookings this past week and we look forward to welcoming them in the coming months. Last year was a bumper year with around 1000 people staying with us in 2019. Lets hope 2020 will continue to be as popular! Last night we had the first full moon of the year - coupled with a partial lunar eclipse and a clear night a spectacular sight to see. Living in a rural location is wonderful for star gazing!
Liz Jeffery - owner of Hemsford Yurt camp