Our beautiful, solid cabin in the woods
WE DID IT! Five years, quite a lot of money, sweat and some tears, and we are OPEN! In 2011 we bought a pretty and private small piece of woodland here in West Devon. After enjoying it ourselves for a year, and watching the groundswell of interest in staycations and glamping (I know, those words make me feel a little queasy too), we looked at our work, looked at our site, looked at our skills and thought “We can do that – and we can do it damn well”.
Mezzanine bed with chunky ladders, table and solar light.
And so, after an eighteen month planning “journey”, permission was granted for Devon Dens, six, off-grid mobile structures – cabins and wagons – with a workshop and office, communal space, reed bed system for dealing with grey water, compost toilets, poly tunnel, raised beds and pond. Cue small celebration, then the realisation that the hard work was yet to begin.
The next two years were spent counting pennies and building up Barrel Top Wagons, then we started to see an opportunity, a window during which the ground works could be done. Plans were made, digger drivers arranged, stone chosen, a team assembled, and in June this year it began. Of course, it then rained heavily for several weeks, but the boys ploughed on. Car parks appeared, terraces were created, reed beds were planted (strangely, an emotional milestone), the pond dug and lined, dry stone walls laid and the cabin that had been made to go to The Royal Cornwall show (made from timber grown only fifteen miles away) was assembled on site.
It is a fact within BTW’s that Ben is the visionary. He understands the industry, knows what designs will and won’t work, can apply lateral thinking and look at things from a practical perspective. And so it was with Devon Dens. Of course, I had contributed. The plans were a combination of ideas from us both (and others) and I have my uses. But the vision is most definitely him. So, when this, the first stage of the vision was realised, the day the team left site, with a cabin up, ground works all done, compost toilet in place, I have to say I was truly speechless. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought it would look so ….. Wonderful. Unique. Appealing. Smart. Tidy. And ready for me to do my bit…
Games, jigsaws, books, guitar…
The next month or so was spent getting the site and cabin ready for guests. We are keen to stay one step sideways from the glamping hoo-ha (and after a visit from Canopy & Stars, who suggest the market is crowded with lots of sub-standard, generic offerings, this would seem wise) It’s wonderful, but ours is a very different beast. A boutique, fluffy offering, it ain’t (you won’t find any bunting here…). We like to think this is grown up camping for the clever crowd. Jigsaws, really good books, interesting magazines about the environment, games, a box full of writing things – cards, notebooks, stamps – a guitar with a How To Play book. Lots of maps of the wonderful walks that surround us through the deep, Devon lanes. We want people to come and explore, to enjoy the peace and quiet, to read, to walk, to rest. Guests are likely to arrive by car but once there, stay close. Switch off. Visit the local bird hide. Walk the three miles to the pub. Be hardy. Submerge yourself in this glorious countryside. Learn to play the guitar. Write that letter….
Six weeks after our first guests and we are proud and delighted. All taste is subjective, and hell, WE think what we’ve created is fantastic, but we’re not the ones paying to come and stay there. Luckily, all of our guests have agreed.
“Absolutely brilliant” “Truly beautiful” “Heaven” “The real deal”
… Hoorah! Hospitality in the UK can be a mixed bag. I don’t believe Michelin starred restaurants costing the same as a small car are the only places that can provide us with quality experiences. For me, it’s simple – it’s all about the love. Give me a plate of beans on toast with a jolly smile in a warm and welcoming cafe and I’m happy. We won’t ever rest on our laurels and we will always put the love in. As the guests who are there currently said… “Good grief! You’ve thought of EVERYTHING!”
The reed beds complete with native reeds and irises
In two weeks, the poly tunnel will go up, meaning next year we will offer our own produce to guests. There’ll be raised beds with veg and flowers. An eye-watering amount has been spent on wildflower and high pollen mixes. There will hopefully be bee hives. The pond will be colonised by then (there’s already dragon and damsel flies) and the reeds will have shot up, creating habitats for a host of beasties. The spruce are slowly being taken out in places (not behind the cabin – they offer great year round screening), to be replaced with birch, alder and chestnut, and the remaining structures will be added as and when we have time – winter 2016/17 looking probable. For now, we’re happy and our guests are happy, and that is a measure of success in our eyes…
If you would like to stay in a beautiful, solid cabin in pretty and private woods in Devon, take a look at our listing on Last Minute Cottages which has details, availability and prices. You have the place entirely to yourself currently – total seclusion and privacy. If you would like to book after reading this, quote BLOG and we will supply a basket of logs for free. Look forward to seeing you down the woods….