News

Orchard Planting at Longlands

West Country Buzz (WCB) is a Bumblebee conservation Trust project focusing on the rare and scarce bumblebees of North Devon. The primary target species are the nationally declining Section 41 Priority species: the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), Moss carder bee (Bombus muscorum) and, with its rediscovery in the area thanks to the project, the Large Garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus).

The WCB team started working with Jez and Tammy (Longlands’ owners) back in 2020. We managed to squeeze in meetings between lockdowns and worked together to devise a plan for the site, looking at areas that could provide forage for pollinators with particular reference to later flowering for our rarer bumbles. Tammy and Jez mentioned that they would like to create an orchard and had identified the old raised beds as a suitable place. An orchard whilst being a traditional feature of farms in the area would also provide a great first source of pollen and nectar for pollinators.

WCB applied to the Sustainable Development Fund from the AONB, which provides small grants for local projects that contribute to the AONB including contributing (positively) to its environment. We were delighted to receive the news that our application was successful and so to order the trees! This proved a little trickier than first anticipated with many stockists having sold out (plus a little mix up with the varieties) but finally all the trees and associated items were delivered ready for planting.

On the 15th March Cathy Horsley, Senior Project officer and Jamie Buxton-Gould, Project officer along with volunteers Aggi and Paul brought their digging skills to Longland’s and planted nine fruit trees: 4 apple, 2 pear, 2 plum and a cherry. To ensure lots of pollination and therefore fruit, we chose varieties that were either in the same or neighbouring flowering groups and of course had to be suited to the conditions at Longlands such as Court of wick or Exeter cross (both apple tree varieties). It was a successful day and even Tess the dog wanted to get involved!

To further enhance the newly planted orchard, our funding from the AONB also allowed us to purchase some wildflower seed that was scattered on the bare soil around the trees. The seeds will begin to germinate this year and once established, in a few years’ time, provide a later food source throughout summer for pollinators once the blossom has finished. Species included Common knapweed, Birds-foot trefoil, Betony and Tufted vetch – all bumblebee favourites!

A big thank you to the AONB for generously supplying the funding to allow this project to happen, the volunteers for their time and commitment (we couldn’t do it without you!) and of course to Jez and Tammy for being such wonderful hosts and custodians of Longlands, its flora and fauna.

Glamping Business of the Year at the South West Tourism Awards

Well we said that we weren’t going to blow our own trumpet again.. but then this happened…

We won Glamping Business of the Year at the South West Tourism Awards (different to our win at the recent Devon Tourism Awards!).

The Judges summed us up rather well:

Longlands was already a national winner but with new owners has somehow become better still! It is a beacon of imagination, vision, excellence and passion. Well done!”

Visit soon to see what all this fuss is about!

Jez & Tammy

Gold Winners of Devon Tourism Awards

We’re extremely proud to announce that we won Gold in the Glamping Business category at the Devon Tourism Awards last week!

It’s wonderful that our sustainability efforts have been recognised, as well as our continued relationships with our outstanding local business suppliers who never fail to bring the best of the South West to our guests.

We’re also Finalists in the Glamping category at the South West Tourism Awards which will be held in April. Watch this space to find out how we do!

Longlands awarded Silver!

Longlands has gained official recognition from the Green Tourism Business Scheme for its efforts in sustainable tourism, achieving the Silver Award!

Green Tourism is a national company that has been in business for over 20 years, and runs a certification programme for the hospitality industry. They offer a Green Check assessment of 18 sustainability goals covering People, Places and the Planet. 

Businesses are awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold award based on their level of achievement, and are graded once every 2 years. This is the first time that Longlands has been graded under the scheme.

Longlands was assessed by a qualified grading advisor against sustainability goals which included reducing consumption of electricity, water efficiency, reducing food miles, biodiversity conservation and more.

Jez says “We have been operating as a ‘green business’ since we took over at Longlands, so it’s great to see that our efforts have been recognised. Our decision making is influenced by the people, places, planet framework provided by Green Tourism. We’re committed to supporting our local community and protecting the environment, and we’ll continue to look at ways in which we can improve.”

Exmoor Feasting

Exmoor Feasting, based in Withypool, carefully assembles beautiful platters and grazing boxes that are perfect for feeding hungry families.

Sourcing quality ingredients, the grazing boxes are abundantly filled with delicious fresh produce designed to not only be a feast for the tastebuds, but for the eyes too.

After a long day at the beach, or exploring Exmoor, tuck into a grazing box stuffed with mouthwatering cheeses, homemade dips & crackers, continental charcuterie selection, nuts, fresh & dried fruits and nibbles.

Choose from The Classic Box, The Garden Box (vegetarian) & The Botanical Box (vegan), pick a size and simply place your order. The Medium Box serves 2 (or 4 for lighter nibbles) and the Large Box serves 4 (or 6 for lighter nibbles).

Your order will be delivered to your shelf in the fridge of the Longlands Shop and if you use code Longlands10 you’ll receive 10% off of your first order.

Exmoor Feasting is run by husband and wife team Holly & Andy Heggadon. They’re passionate about good, honest food (borne out by Holly’s ever growing collection of cookery books!) and have a background in hospitality and catering.

We’re always so pleased when a new local business comes to our attention that would benefit our guests!

To place your order and for more information, click here.

Family activities in North Devon

 

We’re pleased to be able to let you know that we’ve teamed up with The Kids Adventure Company to offer our guests some amazing family activities whilst staying with us in North Devon.

Jo & Mike, the owners, have worked in Outdoor Centres for the last 20 years and are experts in working with families and providing an unrivalled experience of the Great Outdoors. Adventures include Forest Adventure, Coasteering, Climbing, Beach Scramble and Exmoor Explore. They’ll even host a birthday party if you’ve booked one of their Adventure packages – at no extra charge.

Bookings can be made via phone or email directly with Jo & Mike. More from them below…

E: [email protected]

T: 07837 649 839

Hello! 

We are The Kids Adventure Company, and we are here to make sure you experience the most exciting and fun Adventures that you can possibly have as a family. We started our Company several years ago when we  realised that so many North Devon families were not able to take their kids on adventures in their own ‘backyard’ as they did not have the experience.  

Being teachers and having taught in Outdoor Centres for the last 20 years we believe we have unrivalled  experience of working with children and families in the Great Outdoors and specialise in making sure  everyone no matter age, ability or confidence level can enjoy the thrills and excitement that the North  Devon Coast and moorland have to offer. We have been inspected by The Adventure Activities Licensing  Authority and we will do our utmost to make sure you and your family will have an exciting adventure to  remember, although you may pick up the odd bump and scrape along the way! 

To ensure we can accommodate your adventure, it is advisable to book well in advance, especially if you  would like to book one of our bespoke Family Adventures – if you would like to join one of our group  adventures please visit our website to check out what activities are available. You could also look at our  Facebook page to see all the fab activities we have been up to lately. Our group sizes are small and we do  not take bookings on the website directly, you would need to phone or email us to book. 

The reason for this is we pride ourselves on quality and we aim to put together groups where children and  adults feel safe and happy with similar aspirations. We feel this is the best way to encourage people to  achieve personal challenges and do things they never dreamed they would have the confidence to do. (We  also have a sneaky home-made cake and hot chocolate on a lot of our activities to celebrate everyone’s  achievements!) 

These are the special times – just do it! 

Prices  

Bespoke session Half day (3 hour session) for a family of 4 £150.00 

Bespoke session Full day (6 hour session) for a family of 4 £290.00 (this could be 2 activities) Additional family members half day £30.00 each  

Additional family members full day £50.00 each 

A family of 4 can be any combination of adults/children 

Timings of sessions may vary due to tides and weather – we can do many things, but we can’t stop the tide!

Coasteering (half day activity) 

Remember that day when we went coasteering together Mum – I had the best time ever! 

Some of the most exciting fun to be had as a family. Laughing as your Mum and Dad throw themselves into  the water and wait for you to do the same, jumping scrambling and swimming together across zawns. This  has got to be one of the best experiences to share and remember forever!  

We always finish with a hot chocolate and brownie as everyone shares their proudest moment! Must be able to swim 25 m and be a confident swimmer and happy to be in the sea.

Minimum age 8  

Climbing (half day activity) 

Climbing together at Baggy Point ending with a hot chocolate as the sun sets. Laughing as your Dad tries to  scramble up that climb you just aced! It’s sure to be a holiday highlight.  

We use a sheltered zawn at Baggy Point which is great fun, especially when it’s a race against the tide to  climb out! Ideal for first time climbers but lots of routes to stretch those who have climbed before. 

Valley of the Rocks is another fab venue and would make a great half day activity if you would like to explore  Lynmouth and the cliff railway and enjoy an ice cream. 

Minimum age 5  

If you are experienced climbers, we can also take you on the exhilarating climbs at the end of Baggy  Promontory called Ben, Marion and Freddie. These are very exposed and dramatic climbs, and you would  need to be a regular climber as it’s a long lower in and climb out! Well worth it though! 

Minimum age by discussion  

Forest Adventure (full or half day activity) 

We are really lucky in that we have access to some amazing local woodlands where we often go to mess  about and have fun exploring, problem solving, shelter building, making whimsical crowns, bow and arrows,  target practice (!), bashing flags, den building, slack lining, fire-lighting, cooking and anything else we decide  to try out! All seems to go down well with everyone we take! Just enjoy the vibe of hanging out together in  the forest! 

Minimum age 3 (but you are welcome to bring along a younger child under your own supervision at no  additional charge) 

Beach Scramble Adventure (full or half day activity) 

Our beach scramble days are becoming legendary in the local area. We base ourselves at Baggy Point and  basically spend the session climbing, scrambling, squeezing through caves, exploring, rock pooling, fire  lighting, marshmallow toasting and getting wet if the tide comes in!! Whatever takes our fancy, whenever  we like – you will get to explore parts of the coastline not many visitors see. 

A fantastic way to spend a day or half day as a family just having fun together. 

Minimum age 5 (as long as they are adventurous!)    

Exmoor Explore (full or half day activity) 

Living on the Moor for several years we really appreciate Exmoor’s raw beauty and hopefully you will feel  the same way after a walk on the Moor with us. So many lovely places to explore and streams to paddle in with activities along the way to keep the kids entertained. We can also focus on navigation techniques if you  fancy learning to use a compass. These sessions will always include a homemade cake and drink to keep  energy levels up! 

If you don’t get to explore Exmoor with us, we really advise taking a drive up there yourselves. It’s a really  magical National Park, truly rugged and remote. In fact, it is so unpopulated it is designated as a Dark Skies  Park and if you go on a clear night you can sometimes see the Milky Way.  

Minimum age 4 (but you are welcome to bring along a younger child under your own supervision at no  additional charge)  

Birthday Parties 

We run fantastic outdoor parties for local children, so why not consider making your child’s birthday special  if it’s whilst you are on holiday and have an adventure party together as a family? We can make any birthday  special with one of our famous brownie cakes with a sparkler in (well famous in North Devon anyway!). Just  contact us and we can make your Birthday Adventure special at no extra charge. 

Minimum age 3-99! (depending on the activity as specified above) 

What is wild swimming and why is it good for you?

There has been an increasing amount of chatter recently on ‘wild swimming’ and its benefits. An immersive dip is said to aid the body as well as the mind as we grapple with the pressures of life. So what is wild swimming and what exactly can it do to improve your health?

What is wild swimming?

In a nutshell, wild swimming is taking a swim outdoors in a natural environment such as a river, lake or the sea. When I was young and growing up on an Island we used to call it simply ‘swimming’. But hey, it’s now a ‘thing’ and its increasing prominence has meant that many more people are taking the plunge. We are lucky to have our own wild swimming lake here at Longlands, so if you’re a novice it’s a great place to dip a toe in the water and try it out…

Do I need a wetsuit?

Of course the temperature of the water will depend on what time of year that you swim. If the water is between 0-6 degrees, immersion is going to have an extreme effect on your body (breathing will be rapid and skin will sting). For the uninitiated a wetsuit might be welcome! Here at Longlands we are proud of our green credentials and are fans of B-corp clothing brand Finisterre for the same. They stock quality wetsuits for varying degrees of cold water so if you’re thinking of swimming in the winter check out their product line. Fair weather swimmers will be just fine in a swimsuit. Lakes and well established rivers will be around 17-20 degrees in a hot summer, which will feel a little fresh when you jump in, but will soon feel pleasant.

Why is it so popular?

I’ve seen journalists and broadcasters documenting their dips in lakes, water holes and the sea over the last few months and all report feelings of invigoration and wellbeing. One of my favourite wild swimming social media feeds is that of part-time journalist and vicar, Reverend Kate Bottley. It’s not a feed dedicated to wild swimming but is peppered with plunges in marvellous arrays of hats ranging from a deerstalker to a bobble hat. I have to admit to being a seasonal salt-water swimmer and start swimming from May, finishing up in September without using a wetsuit. The shock of the water temperature and a heightened awareness of my surroundings is why I love it.

Is wild swimming good for me?

Yes! There are many benefits to wild swimming, both physical and mental. A plunge into cold water has long been known to be good for you, which is why many professional athletes take ice baths (bbbrrrr!). Cold water therapy makes the blood rush away from the skin towards the vital organs in an effort to conserve body heat. The result is that waste matter is flushed out and circulation boosted so that nutrient filled, fresh blood is pumped back to both your vital organs and brain. So that’s just one of the physical boosts, what about mental? The stress hormone cortisol can be decreased through cold water submersion, thereby boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine, both hormones linked to a positive mental state. And, of course, letting the experience consume you clears your mind and allows you to observe your natural surroundings.

Our Longlands Lake

Our lake at Longlands is a very peaceful place to swim, being surrounded by woodlands and, of course, we are located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The water that fills the lake comes from a spring up in the moors – you can’t say fresher than that! Enter the water slowly and carefully, wearing swim shoes if possible, and strike out across the lake to enjoy a refreshing swim on a warm day. As you relax in the water, float on your back and take in the wide expanse of sky above you. There is a small jetty on the lake and we would ask that you don’t run across it so as to avoid slips and falls. We would also advise against jumping off of the jetty into the lake. In cold weather the temperature of the water could be such that your body starts to inadvertently hyperventilate, taking in water to the lungs and so increasing risk of drowning. The old proverb ‘look before you leap’ serves as a gentle reminder that you cannot see under the surface of the water so are unaware of any hidden dangers when entering rapidly…

Our lake is not only used for wild swimming. We have a boat moored alongside the jetty called Little Bird and she is used by guests that enjoy boating. If the lake is being used for boating, we would ask that you wait for it to clear before taking your swim. Thank you!

Wild Swimming Devon

River Torridge, Torrington Common

There are several opportunities to swim at the River Torridge as it takes a meandering 48 mile route from north west Devon down to the estuary at Bideford. Torrington Common is a popular spot where the water is around a metre deep, pebbly and fast flowing. This is also the birthplace of fictional otter, Tarka, in the book of the same name, by Henry Williamson.

Wild Swimming Exmoor

River Lyn, Long Pool at Watersmeet

Heading out north east from Longlands, towards Lynmouth, there is a wild swimming spot at Watersmeet called Long Pool which is part of the East Lyn River. Park up at the car park opposite the National Trust restaurant and tea room and take a stroll through the ancient woodland. There are a series of shallow plunge pools along the way as you follow the river downstream to the Long Pool which is tucked underneath a waterfall for added magic!

Badgworthy Water, Badgworthy Pool near Malmshead

This part of Exmoor is known locally as Doone Valley, Badgworthy Valley being the official name. A memorial stone in honour of Richard Doddridge Blackmore, author of novel Lorna Doone, can be found along the river here. There is a small, but deep,  plunge pool at Badgworthy Water underneath a shallow waterfall. Parking is available nearby, and there are also tearooms too, to warm yourself post plunge.

Dark skies in Devon:

A beginners guide to stargazing

There are many great reasons to holiday in North Devon. Our magical Longlands location aside, people also like to explore the coastline, dine on a Devon cream tea or perhaps laze around Saunton Sands soaking up the sun.

But Devon is also hugely popular as home to one of the world’s finest International Dark Sky Reserves at the Exmoor National Park. Longlands sits on the western border of the Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve so is perfectly placed for night time excursions to the park, or to view the periphery of the reserve sky from the deck of your luxury safari tent.

What are dark skies?

The term ‘dark skies’ is used to describe areas of public or private land where the quality of starry nights, and natural darkness, is extraordinary. There are two classifications of dark sky areas; the core (the main area) meets the minimal dark skies guidelines and the peripheral area supports the preservation of the core, with no artificial light.

Why are dark skies important?

Dark skies are important to us all both mentally and physically. Humans have evolved to the circadian rhythms of day and night. Our reliance on artificial light to ward off the darkness (street lamps, lights, TV screens, mobile phones) has had a negative impact on our health as it keeps us awake. Darkness prompts the pineal gland in our bodies to produce melatonin which helps us sleep, boosts our immune system and lowers cholesterol. All the good things for a healthy body!

Where are there dark sky sites in the UK?

There are designated dark sky areas right across the UK. And of course the closest official viewing site to Longlands is the Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve. Because we have little artificial light on site, Longlands is a great place for beginners to stargaze. Stargazing glamping if you will! Each of our safari tents has its own hammock perched above it, so all you have to do is wait for night to fall, hop into your hammock and start studying the sky above. Perfect! There are four International Dark Sky Reserves in the UK, one is at Exmoor and the others are in Brecon, Snowdonia and the South Downs.

Dark Sky Reserve Exmoor

Should you wish to venture out of Longlands for the ultimate stargazing experience, the Dark Sky Reserve at Exmoor has many excellent resources for beginners. You can pick up a dark skies pocket guide from one of the National Park Centres, or it is also available to download here. The experts over at the Exmoor park recommend the following stargazing hotspots: Holdstone Hill, Webbers Post, Brendon Two Gates, County Gate, Anstey Gate & Haddon Hill.

Stargazing for beginners

The best thing about stargazing as a beginner is that you don’t really need anything to do it. On a clear night it’s possible to see many constellations with the naked eye, or a good pair of binoculars. Learn the star charts or start off by tracking the moon as it’s the easiest celestial object for a newbie. Dark skies during the monthly full moon are the best way to see planets, galaxies and the Milky Way. There’s a handy website called MoonGiant which will help you track full moons. As you start to enjoy stargazing a little more you may want to invest in a telescope, or whilst on holiday you can hire one from one the National Park Centres at Dulverton, Dunster or Lynmouth, then head out to see the starry sky. If you happen to be visiting Longlands just before we close, at the end of the October, you could pop along to the annual Exmoor Dark Skies Festival which is a series of events for families and people looking to enjoy darkness and the night sky.