A New Year brings reflection doesn’t it? Well lockdown did the same for me last year. I came out of the first one with a realisation that my journeys to and from Devon were wearing me out. For those twelve bizarre weeks, even though none of us would have chosen for it to happen, I enjoyed being a bit less of a nomad. Plus my daughter Lauren is now in Wales and her two-year-old makes me yearn to be with them more.
Then, early summer, a friend said, ‘why don’t you put The Court up as a holiday let because whole families could come, even if you can’t have strangers together?’ So I did. Retreats For You became a holiday let, including on Cottages.com. However, more rule changes meant smaller groups and people didn’t really want such a big place. So it’s been devoid of visitors for most of the last four months.
At least it means it’s stayed in really good nick. When you think of what I’ve done over the years since I took over, it’s quite a long list!* Having refurbished the house completely now, there’s not a lot more easy stuff I can do.
And a grade 2 listed thatched property in the middle of a remote North Devon village suits a lot of people, but it doesn’t suit many others… writers on a budget who find that last leg of the journey, a £45 taxi ride one way, 50 minutes from Exeter, is just a little too much of a stretch. Feedback from surveys shows that en suites are ‘de rigueur’ nowadays too.
So I’ve made the decision to aim for one retreat a month, and to look around for other locations to run them, as well as Devon. Several of our tutors are excited by that prospect and we have started looking around for suitable locations where I can transport the ethos of Retreats For You and all the trappings people have come to know and love as well as delicious home-cooked food so you don’t have to do anything other than get away and write.
As you may have seen in a previous update, Daisy dog is no longer residing, but has gone to live with my brother in Kent. He has a seven-year-old daughter and a puppy so Daisy is happy as Larry with constant company and sleeping most of the day in the lounge!
It’s been all change this year that’s for sure. Some of you may know I work weekends in London and have done throughout, and I bought myself a little flat just over the balcony from my mum, which will be much better in years to come.
I toyed with the idea of selling the business as it is (if you know somebody tell him to get in touch) but for now this is my plan.
And I love running the retreats and enjoy that part of my life. So let’s see what happens! After all, this time last year we never could’ve predicted what lay in store.
Keep in touch with the usual email address [email protected] retreatsforyou.co.uk
Debbie (and an ever diminishing team!)
*What I’ve done with Retreats For You since I moved in, in November 2016:
– repainted inside and out
– finished the workshop and transformed it into a studio.
– Added a summerhouse with power to the bottom of the garden
– removed the trees too close to the house, that were causing problems
– necessary refurbishment‘s like new oil tank, new central heating controls (it’s warm now!) Overhauled the fire extinguishers & maintenance plan, insulated the loft above the larder, revamped the larder, replaced the tumble dryer plus new washing machine, second freezer, second fridge; all new appliances, crockery and cutlery et cetera in kitchen; all new mattresses, high-quality Egyptian cotton bedding, new fluffy towels, new dressing gowns, new bedroom lamps, rugs, bedside tables, some new desks, some new chairs in rooms; two Sealy Posturepedic mattresses; installed three phase electricity supply and new fuse boxes, some rewiring; new outside tap to water garden at side of house and many plants and pots installed throughout; strengthened the barn gate at the back, new key safe and locks throughout; repaired broken window frames, replaced rotten woodwork; revamped surround of the back door completely with wooden cladding. Repaired and painted door to outside barn, and added nonslip strips to the ancient stone steps; replaced gate to garden and log store door.
– Revamped the chimney and changed the sitting room fire to an elegant, easy-to-control wood burner
– brand-new kitchen
– re-grouted and sealed the ancient kitchen floor
– brand-new bath/shower upstairs
– created a proper eaves cupboard for storage, opposite the bathroom
– 2 brand-new ensuite shower rooms built – in room five, the end room, and room three, the corner room. Plus Heated water in sink in biggest bedroom; part boarded the loft and repaired inside thatch and roof slats where needed
– A shed/garden supplies store built in undercroft by the barn. Room under the barn, proper floor created and lined; all new garden furniture. Lazy spa portable heated hot tub; Removed old chicken run and wire across to wall and created new fencing at bottom of garden.
– Installed sky and better broadband; huge TV in studio and mini home gym; little library, sofas and chairs.
– All new furniture in the lounge, 2 comfy sofas and a sofa bed; quaint Tiffany lamps to match the decor.
– pretty light blue paintwork to outside windows and around ornate front door porch hood
– mini milk & juice fridge and tea/coffee/cake area in dining room now, not in corner of kitchen; changed to self-service breakfast at time convenient to you, still including home-made yoghurt, bread, boiled eggs if you want, and the usual local butters, delicious jams, fruit, cereals et cetera.
– installed new security systems including spotlight cameras and ring doorbell, plus Alexa speaker
– it’s now a fully equipped six bedroom, three reception, guest house with garden and outside barn/studio with potential for conversion. (7th bedroom potential in barn).
– have just had the house valued and it is £620,000 as a going concern for holiday let or guest house/B&B with part time tea room already established, The Court website & social media would be included. Please enquire if interested.