Polrunny Farm - getting greener every year!
Have you visited Polrunny Farm yet?
If you have, you will be fully aware of the greenness of the rolling fields as they tilt towards the sea, and the cleanness of the air with its slightly salty taste. You will remember the flora and fauna that make their home at our farm, the birds singing with gusto as rabbits search for food in the long grass beneath them.
This incredible natural environment is what drew Melanie and I to Polrunny Farm. That and the pasties.
After spending more than twenty years living in London, we wanted to exit our suburban cityscape and surround ourselves with natural beauty. We wanted to spend more time outdoors, exploring the beaches and swimming in the seas. We wanted our sightings of wildlife to be of rabbits in the fields rather than foxes in the bins. We wanted the sun rises and the sun sets to be a bigger part of our lives too.
Now as farm and holiday cottage owners, we are passionate about helping others to experience the joys that Cornwall’s environment brings to us on a daily basis. We want you to share our joy. We want your pulse to race as you come face to face with a wild deer or pony. We want your tastebuds to dance a jig as you drink the fresh water that comes from an underground spring that ultimately runs down the Valency valley and into the Atlantic. And as the sun sets, we want you to appreciate the incredible array of stars visible because man-made light and pollution haven’t been allowed to infiltrate our dark skies.
At the same time as supporting you as holidaymakers to enjoy Cornwall and all our fabulous county has to offer, we also need to play our part in supporting our local community to make sustainable use of Cornwall’s natural resources.Many of our neighbours in Boscastle, Tintagel and the other surrounding villages either directly or indirectly rely on the land and its natural resources to put dinners on their table. They farm the land. They work in shops that sell farm produce, or restaurants that serve it. They serve the tourists that are attracted by the land. They work in the properties the tourists stay in.
Since coming to Cornwall, Melanie and I have seen with our own eyes the harm that unchecked behaviours can bring to our environment. For example, Cornwall’s beaches are amongst the cleanest in the country, but each tide that washes against our cliffs carries with it a level of plastic detritus that we are all collectively responsible for.
We need to make sure that our environment is protected so that it can continue to sustain our community for generations to come. This means farming sustainably. It means establishing the means for Cornwall’s residents to earn their living locally. It means creating our own energy and using it efficiently. It means cutting out unnecessary waste. It means being creative in how we minimise the harmful effects that the car can have on our environment and air quality. It means promoting environmental tourism and sustainable tourism more generally. And it means only working with suppliers that demonstrate a sustainable ethos.
This article introduces the approach that we are taking at Polrunny Farm to promote and deliver sustainable tourism.
We should acknowledge up front that we aren’t experts at this stuff. The approach we are embarking on is absolutely a journey for us, so don’t expect this to be the (electric) Rolls Royce approach to sustainability. Our journey will inevitably involve a few false starts, a few wrong turns and a few missed opportunities. And it is bound to be constrained by the amount of resources at our disposal.
Where is our journey starting from? And what’s our strategy?
The conventional way to start this work might be to pay a consultancy to work out our carbon footprint for us, and then to help us write an all-singing, all-dancing policy.
We aren’t interested in fancy reports. That’s not our style. Instead, in our first year at Polrunny Farm, we have started off by doing some stuff. And then, when we are at a point when we have done what is obvious to us, we’ll seek some external feedback in the form of industry-standard accreditation for our work to date. That accreditation process will give us an indication of where we are currently at. It will also point us in the direction of more stuff we need to do the following year to help us secure the next level of accreditation.
And we will continue this process year on year until we secure the most challenging environmental accreditation that we can find out there. Our ultimate ambition – our journey’s destination - is that Polrunny Farm will be recognised as a leader in providing sustainable tourism.
By that point, we as owners, you as our valued holiday guests, and our local community of friends and neighbours, will all be working together to protect and enhance our environment. And at the same time, Polrunny Farm’s environment will be supporting our community, and future generations of it, to thrive.
So that’s our overall approach.
“But what are you actually going to do now”, I hear you ask?
Ok, let’s get practical. We have split our work into three themes:
· The farm’s land;
· The holiday cottages; and
· Our role in our sustainable community.
The below paragraphs give some details about what we are doing on each of these topics. But they don’t contain the full list. If you want to know everything we have done and are doing, then check out our ‘Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable’ policy – effectively our Environmental ‘to do’ list. We will do our best to keep this list up to date as we discover more things we can and should do to protect our environment.
The farm’s land
Our farm consists of three fields, as well as our farm sheds and holiday cottages. Our fields have traditionally been used for a mixture of grazing and crop growing. Local farmers currently graze their sheep and cattle on the fields below the breakfast garden, and harvest the grass from the top field.
Our portal-framed sheds have a history of their own, but that’s a story for another day.
We need to decide how we want to use our fields and sheds in the coming years. Because of the impact it can have on our environment, this is probably the most important decision we will get to take on our environmental journey.
Our aim is that we find a sustainable use for our land that generates pleasure for us and for our holiday guests, as well as at least covering land upkeep costs for us and making a positive contribution to the health of the local economy.
We may well not change things much from the way our land is used now. We have already committed to some environmental land management principles that include maintaining our field grass at a certain length; and allowing certain sections of our land to grow wild, and in so doing supporting biodiversity. But in time, we are definitely going to use a small portion of our land to feed ourselves. Melanie is thinking fruit and vegetables. I’m thinking free-range (essentially pet) chickens and fresh eggs.
Another early priority for us is to start work on reinvigorating the hedgerows that surround our fields. A well-maintained Cornish hedge can play host to an immense variety of wildlife and at its best, can resemble a vertical flower meadow. We are going to get stuck in to this project as soon as we can.
We know we need to improve the flow of our site so that our top field becomes more integrated with our gardens. We are working with designers to think about ways we can do this.
Over and above this, we have lots more ideas of things we might do. But as neither Melanie nor I are of farming stock we need to take things slowly. We need to test our ideas out with people who actually know what they are talking about. We will let you know about decisions we take as and when we take them.
The holiday cottages
To make this arm of the farm environmentally sustainable, we need to do some work on the cottages themselves, on the equipment available within the cottages and on how we support you to live whilst you are with us. Again, we have got lots of plans.
Firstly, we are looking at how we source our energy supplies.
We currently generate a significant proportion of the energy we use on site via the solar panels on our portal-framed sheds. The electricity we buy from the National Grid is all sustainable energy.
Our cottages currently use LPG as their heating source. LPG is a low carbon alternative to fossil fuels. It’s a clean-burning, smoke-free fuel that supports cleaner air quality.
But the LPG we currently use isn’t a renewable form of energy. We are committed to identifying options for how we might transition to more sustainable fuels. We know that any change here will require new boilers. This won’t be cheap so once we decide on a way forward, we will develop a rolling programme of upgrades.
Secondly, we need to lessen the amount of energy we waste. Our holiday cottages are converted stone barns and as such, energy efficiency isn’t their greatest strength. This winter we are taking steps to better insulate each cottage, and we’ll ensure that we use the most environmentally sensitive materials.
In addition to loft and wall insulation, we are replacing our curtains to ensure that they also support our efforts to keep heat in.
Thirdly, we are minimising our use of finite resources, and especially single-use plastics. And we are actively supporting you to be environmentally conscious whilst you are staying with us. We:
- make it easy for you to recycle a wide range of materials;
- provide reusable shopping bags and reusable flasks and picnic tupperware;
- provide other facilities for you to (re)use as you choose, such as a welly bank and a book library;
- have replaced all our lighting with energy-efficient lighting; and
- only buy from companies that are committed to minimising wasteful packaging. We will also buy local where possible.
We are also going to promote sustainable transport. We are installing an electric car charging point for use both by our guests and by our neighbours, should they wish to use it. We are investigating purchasing some electric bikes for our guests to use, although insurance is an issue here. We are also going to blog about ways that people can enjoy a holiday at Polrunny Farm whilst leaving their car at home. For those that want to give it a go, it’s challenging but possible!
Our role in our sustainable community
We have nearly been at Polrunny Farm for a year now, and are still getting to know our community and how we can help it flourish in a sustainable way. We have joined the local chamber of trade and tourism. We are also participating in local beach cleans and other schemes that support the regeneration of our environment. We will write a blog about these schemes in case any of you are interested in joining in with a bit of enviro-tourism.
We also promote activities that are taking place in and around Boscastle; and restaurants, shops and other businesses that operate in our local area. This will help you to make the most of your holiday, as well as helping the local economy to thrive.
Let us know what you think.
You can see that our environmental ‘to do’ list is a long one. But we absolutely haven’t got all the answers.
If you have further ideas we could pursue to ensure that we protect and enhance our environment, we would love to hear from you.
Over the coming months and years, we will continue to blog about our progress, and you, our guests, should hold us to account if you feel we should be doing more.
Adam and Melanie
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