Honeybee Glamping is in the west of the Vale of Pewsey in the pretty village of Horton, between Pewsey and Devizes. Close to the Kennet and Avon Canal, as well as several lovely country pubs, it is ideally located for walking and cycling. Mel who owns and runs Honeybee Glamping as well as the smallholding - ably assisted by her 3 daughters and husband as well as Percy the dog - has shared an insight on her life as a glamping site owner when it's out of season ..... and it's certainly varied!
Regardless of the wind and rain that has been hammering the UK this long autumn and winter, I am continually surprised and delighted by the resilience of our wildlife. The beautiful cold and crisp days that are full of sunshine, which give our hearts a lift, have been few and far between this year and their rarity makes them even more special.
What a wealth there is to see and hear on days like these! The gardens come alive with song and flight from birds, buzzing from our honeybees and the many other varieties such as a myriad of bumble bees and the little mason bees.
We let our lovely hens out when we have no guest dogs here; they love to sunbathe on the lawn in a heap of legs and feathers, lapping up the sun’s rays.
On one such sunny winter's day, when the sheep were fed up with the mud and puddles in their field and thoroughly sick of hay, I let the sheep have a little wander in the garden. They skipped about happily on the different lawns baa-ing excitedly to each other as they found another area of overlong grass on which to munch. Percy, our dog, watched on in confusion his facial expression saying “Should I be rounding them up?”. He checked my reaction as I weeded the borders, then sat on the path by the front door making sure their straying ways didn’t lead them into the house.
He has had too many visitors disrupting his routine over the years. We used to have a cockerel, that has since passed away, called William Cocks. He was tiny - poussin-size tiny - but was never hindered by his size as he had the loudest crow in the area. Whenever free-to-roam was allowed, he would head, at some speed, straight for the entrance into the house. Our door is very often open when the weather is cheery and so he would strut into the kitchen, immediately attack Percy who would be lying in his basket minding his own business, then find me and fuss about for food. Quite a character and sadly missed - though certainly not by Percy!
Also visiting Percy over the past few years have been rejected lambs who live in the kitchen for a few days to improve their health and in all cases we have been able to reintroduce them back to the flock.
Last year’s case, Dora (the Explorer), was a lamb loved by everyone. She arrived in a dreadful state after a long birth in a storm; weak and rejected by her mother. It was touch and go but Percy licked her all over, got the blood flowing and warmed her up. She struggled to manage a bottle of colostrum (the first milk that flows from a ewe’s teats). As a last ditch attempt we drove to a friend who tube-fed her, making sure she received the essential liquid and also injected her with antibiotic. She then had a wobbly week with regular feeds but rejected the comfortable crate we had made for her in favour of curling up to Percy in his basket. She then followed Percy, our youngest daughter Florence and Billy (my eldest daughter’s best friend from Hong Kong to whom we are guardian) who all assumed the role of parents. To see her regain full strength and enjoy the best fun racing up and down the lawn with Billy, Florence and Percy is a memory I will carry forever - particularly special as Billy is a city boy who over the years has progressed from squealing at the first sight of our tortoises to now cherishing the countryside, its animals and our menagerie.
We are lucky enough to have a superb all-singing, all-dancing hot tub in our garden which our guests also use.
It really is a wonderful place for a bit of wildlife spotting. There is a superb view of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which we live and above it is an enormous Eucalyptus tree which I love. The tree dapples the lawn with light shade on hot days and it houses numerous birds. When you look up from the hot tub, whilst being soothed by the massaging water jets, there is a wildlife soap opera of activity to behold in that tree.
Several years ago, my youngest daughter and I had just waved the older girls goodbye as they left on the school bus, when we decided to have a cheeky dip! It was a morning of pure frost. The garden was white and sparkling and the cobwebs were magnificent in their jewelled outlines. As we sank into the warm water, a sudden cacophony of noise came from the tree above us. We looked up and the tree was full of black and white long-tailed tits. These super little birds look like helicopters and are the gang members of the bird family. They are always en masse, noisy and busy in their endeavours - and it was joyous to watch.
We are lucky enough to have bats living in our outhouse and, at night, with the lights off in the summer, they swoop and dip over our heads. Owls are another frequent visitor - barn, tawny and little. All have their different hoots including a twit AND a twoo!
Christmas Day last year was a beautiful day here and we had a dip and glass of fizz in between present opening and dinner cooking. The tree was literally buzzing with our honeybees - the flowers of the tree had just opened in time for a Christmas feast and much needed nectar to get them through the following few months.
We also love a bit of star gazing (this part of the world is renowned for its dark skies and lack of light pollution) and lend the telescope to our guests on a good clear night.
My husband and middle daughter, Bea, have a keen interest in astronomy and on the recent wolf moon headed out to photograph it. After nearly half an hour of unloading essentials from the house -blankets, chairs, camera gear, flasks of warm drinks, snacks and so on - they settled on the deck of one of our lodges to get a photograph. They returned triumphant with a photograph of one of the sheep who had clambered onto the grass mound in the field (a favourite sleeping place), just in front of the moon. So much nicer than a howling wolf photo!
It has been a wet autumn and winter. One benefit of this has been the starling murmurations - this is where the starlings collect together (particularly in the evening) and create a quite spectacular display as, in their hundreds or even thousands, they swoop and land and then take off again, forming the most amazing shapes in the air, beautifully orchestrated and moving as one. Well, starlings also love a good puddle - they drop out of the sky and then have a good splash around before disappearing just as quickly up into an old oak tree on the canal bank; only then to lift again, dance and land back in the puddle. Who lifts first? Who lands first? It really is a spectacle of the natural world.
Can cleaning our lodges be more pleasurable? A view of the Downs and the Kennet & Avon Canal, a cup of tea on the go whilst I hoover the decks and pop in with mop and duster, and then out with dirty linen.
Just as pleasurable as the views experienced on my favourite local dog walks. The canal is always an opportunity to see an otter or kingfisher. Unfortunately, I haven't yet actually seen our otter, but have seen evidence of its prey (the comical head, bone, tail of a fish) on the bank. My boater friends, however, have seen them playing on quiet summer evenings and many ponds locally have been cleared of goldfish, much to their owners’ annoyance. The kingfisher I do see more regularly although you do need to be quiet and many of my walks involve friends, their dogs and too much chatter!
During the shooting season, we often get the odd stray pheasant which makes a home in our little wood. They swagger out to the entrance of the field after the sheep have eaten most of their bucket of sheep mix and feast on the leftovers. After finishing these sugary morsels, they sometimes take refuge under the trampoline if it’s raining.
Within 15 minutes of walking I can be up high on the Downs, feeling on top of the world. The kites sometimes swoop alongside with their identifiable v-shaped tail. The buzzards are particularly noisy and when the parents kick the juveniles out of the nest, they whinge and whine for some time afterwards. And they are BIG. One was sitting on the gate to the field when I moved here 9 years ago and I was convinced it was an eagle! I often see deer down in the Vale as I walk above on the Downs - fascinating to watch especially if they are close to us and Percy thinks he will take a closer look…not a chance. To watch them bound a fence gives the best Grand National horse a run for its money.
Our site is nearly ready for occupation for this season. We have survived another winter with only minor mishaps - lucky not to be in a flood zone and only partially under water with a few things blown over in the gales. Getting the lodges ready for the season is always a busy time and my youngest daughter and I spent a wonderful morning last weekend scrubbing owl poo (boy, can they poo? It’s like someone has dropped a bucket of paint mixed with grit, which my husband tells me is bone grindings!) along with sick pellets off the decking of the bathroom. The owls use the backs of the lodges and occasionally the front to shelter from the storms in the winter. I think it is a great natural way to control any cheeky mice looking for a warm home! We both agreed it was quite fascinating, and a friend has asked if I would box up the pellets for her and her grandson to dissect!
Here at Honeybee Glamping you experience a different sort of break where you slow down, but still have the comfort of an en-suite bathroom (with or without an owl watching). Honeybee is off-grid, using solar power and there are solar usb points (don't tell your teenagers!). You are in the heart of the Vale of Pewsey where you can walk, cycle, paddleboard or canoe (to and from the pub is a worthwhile exercise!) or perhaps visit Stonehenge and Avebury which are close by. We would love to see you. You will be warmly greeted with cake, biscuits or flapjack … Percy and Florence are usually the first ones up to the top of the drive to meet you, whilst I dash about finding shoes, clipboard, and welcome goodies! Florence and Percy are frequently mentioned in guest reviews but my extraordinarily efficient eldest daughter, Grace, who helps clean, and me - well, not so much!