We have always been passionate about the countryside and local environment in which we are lucky enough to live. Since establishing Old Oak Barn as a holiday cottage, open all year round for visitors to enjoy, we have constantly sought to look at the impact that it and our visitors may have on our environment.
We all know that sustainable tourism is much more than just being ‘green’. To be truly sustainable, we must think about the needs of our local rural environment and respect all wildlife, flora and fauna as well as think about the quality of life of local communities and local traditions and where possible contribute to local economic prosperity. We must consider how we manage all waste from the barn including water as well as recycling opportunities. We are sure we go the extra mile in encouraging our visitors to learn a little about the local culture and traditions and in showing them how we have looked after this valley for the last 25 years we open their eyes to how they too can play their part in looking after wildlife and the natural environment.
We offer children a short quiz with a surprise “prize” at the end which includes reference to the welsh language but is more designed to encourage identifying birds and bird sounds here plus identifying trees and plants. It is lots of fun and has been well received. We have some written welsh phrases and words plus welsh dictionaries including children’s picture dictionaries in Welsh and people are often surprised to hear the language spoken locally. We always suggest holiday makers buy local produce including local meat from two fine butchers in St Clears. We offer them fresh grown produce from my garden when there is a surplus. We encourage visitors to recycle waste which can be composted here and edible food scraps are swapped for fresh eggs.
With sustainability in mind in 2015 we have decided to purchase cleansing products which have been made on an organic farm just over the border in Gloucestershire. Daylesford Organics make some wonderful smelling rosemary washing up liquid, kitchen surface cleaner and sanitising hand wash which we use in the barn. Very occasionally bleach is used too but for daily use we are thrilled with the new products which have been approved by our visitors so far.
When making alterations in the barn we always consider the environment and energy use – last year we installed solar powered velux blinds – all repainting of windows and doors used oil free paints and new cushions were chosen for their 100% natural feather filling and cotton covers. Another water butt has been installed to collect rainwater from the roof to water in summer the many flowers grown around the barn.
Our website makes it clear that we value the views of visitors of all ages very much and I often ask them what improvements they would like to see here. Its often surprising what people come up with! Recent additions to the children’s book corner includes more books on trees, flowers, birds, stream life and woodland mammals.
Our next plans are going to be exciting – in 2016 we hope to open up a small boardwalk on the pond we developed 25 years ago so that visitors can spend time looking a little closer at the wonderful array of pond life we have attracted. The challenge will be not to disturb the 2 pairs of grey lag geese which now nest there along with a pair of moorhens and mallards – so this may only be open after June when nesting has finished.