by Helen Hayes
With a busy summer of holidaymakers coming and going together with one of the busiest times of the year on the farm, I was delighted to have the opportunity for a quick catch up with Andrew and Sally Hurford, owners of Hornshayne Farmhouse in the Farway Valley, East Devon.
Hornshayne farm has been in Andrew’s family since they bought it back in 1945. The beautiful thatched farmhouse sits in 470 acres of farmland but it wasn’t until 1965 that Andrew and his parents moved in to run the farm.
“Andrew’s parents used to run the farmhouse as a B&B in the summers,” Sally said, “but about 15 years ago it became obvious the house needed major renovation and we wanted to find ways of funding this. This all happened at the same time as our tenants, who were renting part of the farmhouse, moved out. We decided it was time to look for another stream of revenue, so our beautiful house could earn its own income to pay for the very expensive upkeep. That’s when we looked into holiday letting, which seemed a very obvious choice. We not only get to enjoy our own home and meet lovely holidaymakers but importantly it covers the costs of running a property like this.”
Andrew was in the midst of milking their herd of Holstein dairy cattle as he told me they are more than happy for their guests to explore the land and they love to explain to everyone about farming and how food is produced. They always let any guests know if a calf is about to be born so they can come and watch if they wish. Come lambing season, there is certainly a lot of activity.
Above: Andrew and his dad with their Holstein cows.
Only recently, one family staying at the farm, watched a cow giving birth and the following day the grandmother, who had been so amazed by what she saw, asked what time the next one was due so her grandson could watch. The Hurfords had to explain; “It doesn’t really work like that. They generally don’t arrive at a requested time but we would alert her when the time was right be it night or day.”
It’s easy to see why Andrew and Sally love the farmhouse so much. I asked them what their favourite parts of living here are; to which they replied; “The house is very beautiful, with a long and fascinating history. It contains many period features and the best, sunniest farmhouse kitchen. Hornshayne is in the heart of our beautiful farm and we encourage those staying to roam and share with us the fabulous walks and the stunning views across East Devon. We enjoy showing guests around the farm; whether it’s watching the milking, feeding the calves or the chickens, there is always something happening. The wonderful Jurassic coast, as well as many varied seaside towns, are all within a 20 minute drive of Hornshayne.
The Jurassic coastline in Dorset is just a 20-minute drive from Hornshayne Farmhouse.
“When thinking about letting, we wanted to create something we would look for in a West Country holiday. We wanted to welcome families and love to see happy children. Wanting to provide a space for everybody; including cosy sitting rooms, comfortable bedrooms and a well-equipped kitchen, we didn’t want to forget our younger visitors. To this end we added two small playrooms in the house and a games barn. For something out of the ordinary, we added a play castle in the garden which has proved very successful with children of all ages.”
Knowing there is a huge selection of holiday cottage agents available these days, I was intrigued to know what stood out for the couple about Helpful Holidays.
“When we were looking for an agent to represent us we came across Helpful Holidays who are based on Dartmoor, Devon. Having a local agent with local knowledge was important to us. They know the area well and many of the team have been here, to the house and the farm, so they can speak with first hand knowledge about our property’.
“We were pleased we chose them as we felt the owner’s support from the Chagford office was first rate, and we believed that they would try harder than most to book our property, all year around.”
… and finally, before we left them to get on with their busy lives and strict new cleaning regimes (Sally has just invested in a fogger), I asked them what advice they would give anyone considering investing in the holiday cottage market.
“The advice we would give to a potential owner is to carefully assess who you believe would like to rent your property and then design it with them in mind. For example, we felt our largest market would be multi-generational families, so we tried to design the house to suit all ages. You also need to be prepared to adapt to changes, for instance the new Covid-19 guidelines.
Above: The Hurford family.
For more information and to check availability for Hornshayne Farmhouse, visit the property page here.
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