Monthly news

Each month we will let you know what's going on at Kemps Farm and the Brendon Valley area in general.
November 2012
A big month for us. Our four legged friends Larry and Robin made the long move from Oxshott to Exmoor and are now happily staying at Sparhanger Equestrian Centre near Lynton and Lynmouth. Chris and Michelle run a fantastic service there and our horses are already addicted to their haylege!
Michelle is an accomplished horsewoman and trains trainers which shows how good a teacher she is. We are doing awful stuff like riding without stirrups but at the end of each lesson we get to have a great hack across Ilkerton Ridge appreciating everything  Exmoor and the North Devon Coastline has to offer. Often the dogs come out with us and there is nothing better than a worn out dog after a long walk in the fresh air.
Of course the horses love it - no traffic - beautiful fresh green grass, clean water, and a blast across the moors - just remember horses - we're in charge - or supposed to be! Here is a picture of them in their stables.
December 2012
It has been very very wet! We have been closed for business since October as we build an extension on the farmhouse at Kemps. We got permission from Exmoor National Park authority first time which is a miracle! They are insistent that all developments comply with strict criteria to protect and preserve what makes Exmoor special. Nearly everything on Exmoor needs planning permission and while it can be annoying it does mean that it will always remain an amazing place to visit that hasn't visibly changed for decades. Just driving down Porlock High Street is probably the same as it was at the run of the century!
Anyway we got our planning as we proposed building the new extension out of local stone. It turns out that the stone used to build Kemps is all smooth and must have come out of the local river, Oare Water, down the bottom of the drive. It's obviously difficult to get smooth stone from quarries so our builder is proposing to the Park Authority that they literally take some off the beach at Lynmouth or Bossington - just as builders would have done in the nineteenth century!
The only catch to the application was the need for a bat survey. As Kemps is very remote, with no neighbours there was a good chance bats would roost in the roof space. The bat survey found evidence of bats so we are having to create special places for them in the roof space on the new extension. Lucky bats!!
The best thing about being remote is both the silence and the stars! At night in winter you can literally see the milky way overhead. There are no street lights and it really is pitch black - get the wood fire going and let the dog fall asleep in front of the fire - that's my advice....
Here's a picture of the farmhouse at the moment. With all the rain we had in the last month we are glad we paid extra to have the corrugated iron "top box" built so the builders can work in all weathers. They HAVE to be done by March 2013 as our first guests arrive at the Hayloft then.... fingers and toes crossed - our clients are expecting a luxury Exmoor cottage holiday and so a luxury Exmoor holiday cottage they will get - not men in white vans!!
January 2013
Happy New Year
We spent the New Year at our neighbours house in Oare, ending up with some very unsteady Scottish dancing well after midnight. Luckliy there was a clear sky as, with no streetlights on Exmoor, if you have forgotten your torch you are going to end up in the river!
Oare and the Lorna Doone Valley were featured in Countryfile with a very cold looking Matt Baker out at the ruined medieval village up Badgworthy Water. That incredibly remote spot is around a 1 hour walk out the back of Kemps and a wonderful place to take a picnic in the summer - not quite as nice in a semi blizzard in January....
There has been snow on the ground for the last week. At over 1000 ft above sea level we get snow almost every year. It's not scary as long as you plan ahead, have lots of food in the fridge, a good supply of logs and a case of wine! Anyway, snow has got to beat the rain and we really hope the incredibly wet summer of 2012 was a one off and that we are now back into more normal sunny days.
We always take lots of bookings at this time of year and this year is no exception. Already all of May and September 2013 are already booked and June isn't far behind. We have several repeat bookings and one is for 2 weeks - lucky people!
February 2013
A cold cold month but at last the rain seems to have stopped!
We have been out on the horses at Sparhanger near Barbrook. The ground on Exmoor has been frozen for the last two weeks but still nature progresses. In our pond at Kemps we have massses of frog spawn - a feat for a heron when they hatch!
The snow we had at the beginning of the month was really scary. We had to drive in over the moor and almost didnt make it. Exmoor can be as bad (and as beautiful) as the Highlands of Sctoland in winter so if you want to rent a holiday cottage at this time of year you need to come prepared. I have attached a picture below of how bad it really was.
The sad thing is that is melted quickly so became very heavy. As a result we must have about 20 fallen trees up in the Combe. At least that means years of firewood so you can stoke up the woodburner in The Hayloft and have a cosy cottage holiday in Devon!
Bookings are going really well and we only have one week unbooked between now and June so hurry if you want to come and stay on Exmoor for a luxury self catering holiday this year
March 2013 and April 2013
 At last winter has eased its grip on Exmoor.  Lorna Doone Valley is seeing the first green shoots of spring although it is always a few degrees cooler than Porlock as we are over 1000 feet above sea level! The horses will be out on new grass very soon and are heartily sick of haylege I'm sure.

Our extension is just about finished and there is a picture below if it with the scaffolding off. Compare that to the picture in our December blog and I think you will agree it looks amazing.

Easter for us was a time of finishing off with the builders but we managed to get out on some long rides across Exmoor towards Tarr Steps and Exford. The moors are incredible at all times of year but right now they are emptier than normal so we didn't see another person for four hours!

The Culbone Stables has also come on as a venue and is winning awards across Devon and Somerset for the exciting cookery on offer and especially for their Tuesday night theme evenings. They have also now bought Jaws restaurant in Minehead and will be doing LUXURY fish and chips there soon! Can't wait....

Down the valley the farmers have all been busy 24/7 lambing. It has been very tough this year with the cold weather and many lambs have died but it has warmed up in the nick of time and most have been saved. They get everywhere - especially into the garden at the hayloft so don't be surprised if they wake you one morning. At least each room has its own luxury en-suite bathroom as compensation.

May 2013

The Hayloft is virtually fully booked for the whole summer now - just two weeks in July left to go. With the wonderful weather we have been having lately on Exmoor I expect those weeks will book up very shortly. We find there is a direct correlation with sunny weather and bookings for self catering holidays in the West Country. Of course you can't second guess the weather but the red deer rutting month of October tends to have lovely days and crisp nights and with fewer people around you can really feel the solitude. 

I was talking to our local farmer the other day and he said that since they built the M5 and the north Devon relief road from Tiverton to Barnstaple "no-one comes to Exmoor any more"! For me that's the appeal. It's just like the West Country holiday you remember from your childhood. Lazy days doing whatever you want with no traffic and few people. Also the people who do come and visit have made a conscious decision to come to Exmoor - drawn by the incredible scenery, great local produce, walking and horse riding.

Anyway back to what's been happening at Kemps Farm. The outdoor seating is out for the summer and this year we have more English bluebells that I can remember. A hard winter leads to a good summer - or so they say. The house works are all complete and we are now busy repointing the patio area. We still find time to ride our horses out on Exmoor every day - here's a picture of Catherine and Larry taken from the back of Robin!

Summer 2013

Wow - what a great summer we had. The Met Office says there was nothing exceptional about it but it seemed like the sun shone every day! We had bottles of Rose on the terrace most nights and some memorable barbeques.

The horses quite liked the summer but Larry seemed to suffer in the heat a bit. Being from Ireland as he is I would think that any temperature over around 20 degrees is boiling for him!

The Hayloft has been fully booked which is great but does mean frantic 4 hour periods every Saturday for tunaround. Our friend Annie Voss-Bark comes up from Minehead to do this for us. The is a fastidious cleaner and literally nothing is left un-turned in her quest to clean. We like to feel that every guest should feel that nobody has been in the Hayloft before them. Annie is also a fully trained cordon bleu chef and makes the cream tea guests enjoy on their first day with us!

We have been learning to jump our horses. I must say being asked to do this in your 40's is truly terrifying but Robin looks after me. Here's a picture - I almost look professional!

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