What do we mean by sustainable tourism?
Old Oak Barn was renovated and restored in 2005 when we finally got planning permission to convert the old milking parlour into accommodation for 4. We believe the impact of visitors does not damage the local environment rather it benefits the local economy and we also believe that we as tourism partners behave responsibly in encouraging people to come and stay in the barn causing minimal disruption to the beautiful valley we live in plus further afield in Carmarthenshire itself.
We promote the local culture and heritage of this beautiful county in many ways. Going on a “Local Distinctiveness ” course with the Carmarthenshire Tourism Association in 2014 encouraged me to put together a diverse information pack for visitors which details much of interest historically and culturally locally. Visitors often ask for advice on where to go if they have a particular interest or even researching their family roots and if I don’t know the answer to their question I find it out for them. The blog I keep going on this website promotes local attractions as well as local museums, beauty spots and places of cultural significance and visitors refer to it while staying here or plan their visits before coming drawing on information on it. This way of communicating with visitors has seen the range and nature of enquiries and bookings develop. I see this as significant in promoting Old Oak Barn as a truly sustainable holiday cottage.
All building work was carried out very thoughtfully and wherever possible we used locally sourced materials. Nearly all the timber came from our own managed woodlands which we have owned for nearly 30 years here at Cwmpalis. Some of the extra stone needed for the building of the large south facing patio was actually dug from the ground in the woods where we have a small quarry. We used sheep wool from the sheep which graze here to insulate the shed which houses the biomass boiler. We reused the original slate tiles and sourced second hand ones too. Wikipedia says “Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.” But we think the nature of the building should be considered too. Without doubt when we decide on new fittings and fixtures we consider their source. For example oil free paints are used for the outside paintwork. Cotton bedlinen and curtains, wool cushions and carpets were chosen and we support local shops whenever possible when replacing anything in the barn.
Having visitors here has made us consider the impact they may have on the environment.
- Plastic, paper, cardboard, tins and bottles are all sorted and recycled.
- Appropriate food scraps are given to the chickens.
- Other vegetable and organic waste is composted.
- Clean and clear water from a well fed spring on our land supplies Old Oak Barn and the farmhouse.
- New LED light fittings are used to replace old ones and LED, halogen and energy saving lightbulbs are used.
- Water based non VOC paints (no oil) are chosen including for outside paintwork.
- A carbon neutral bio mass wood boiler installed in 2012 burns timber from our managed woods and heats the barn including all water used. Energy consumption is carefully monitored, reviewed and managed.
- There is no mains drainage here – a septic tank was installed to meet the needs of the visitors in Old Oak Barn.
- Rain water is collected from the barn roof and used to water the many hundreds of flowers grown here. We usually put at least 3 vases of freshly cut flowers for visitors to enjoy on their arrival all year round.
- Bicycles can be stored in the lockup shed adjacent to the barn and bus timetables are available. On occasion we have collected visitors who use public transport but in reality 99% of our visitors bring their own car.
- All visitors are signposted to the excellent shops, butchers, restaurants and pubs in the local area.
- We use eco friendly and biodegradable cleaning products sourced from an organic farm.
- We offer a “Quiz” for children which is lots of fun and most questions are to do with the local wildlife, birds, flowers, trees and insects which they may see here at Old Oak Barn and some are designed to stimulate an interest in the Welsh language. In addition a few common phrases and words are translated in Welsh in our info folder which is enjoyed by visitors of all ages. Indirectly these extras impact very positively.
Overall we do not just pay lip service to being sustainable and caring for our planet – for us it is a way of life. Jerry’s 40 year career has been on farmland and in woods throughout West Wales. Over the years we have replanted almost a million trees in West Wales including several thousand here at Old Oak Barn. Careful consideration is always given to the future of our farm and woodlands and comes under the Better Woods for Wales scheme. In 2016 we anticipate reentering Glastir Woodland Scheme when it starts up again but in any circumstances all timber operations are properly managed and evaluated. Plans continue to plant many more trees in the future too! We also set aside a small acreage of land as a wild and natural habitat. Finally, we support a local charity which supports disaffected teenagers and young people with learning difficulties and disabilities who weekly base themselves in another woodland off site who learn about the value of and work in native woodlands.