Merry Christmas

We wish all our guests past and future a Merry Christmas.

Our Christmas letter:

2021. Another year of Covid.

The year did not start well, we were once again in lock down, for a further 4 months, until 12th April.  Our Spring was not as good as the previous year, when we were bathed in sunshine. This year it was constant rain, interspersed with snow. Indeed, we were cut off for several days, awaiting the snow plough. The photograph on our Christmas card, was taken by Sue during this period.

With the constant rain the front paddock became a muddy bog surrounding a large pond which overflowed, flooding the horse shelters and tack room. We managed to drain the water from the paddock and shelters by hand digging a 50-metre trench to the nearby ditch. However, with the next rain storm we were back digging as the mud walls collapsed into the trench. A never-ending task, we contacted a running club friend with a groundworks business. He dug a web of trenches and laid 150 metres of drainage pipe which feed into a cage in the pond. From there the flood water is piped into the ditch. The drainage works are successful, the paddock isn’t under water, even in the recent rain storms. The digger exposed 6 springs which were flooding the field, they are now piped into the ditch. The springs were not altogether surprising, as we have a well by the house which is fed by a spring.

More alarmingly, a live machine gun shell was unearthed by the digger. The police were called, and they in turn contacted bomb disposal who made the ordnance safe. The shell had probably lain there since the Second World War. At that time, there were a number of airfields and a large number of army personnel based in this area of Norfolk. So, maybe there was a machine gun post in our front paddock, at the junction of the three roads / lanes coming into Gresham.

We have also installed electric fencing in all our paddocks so we can better control the animals use of the land. It allows us to rotate the sheep and ponies to enable the grass to recover and grow in Spring/Summer and to protect the land from over use in the wet months of Autumn/Winter. Additional shelters were also built to provide better shelter for the sheep and for storage of hay.

The 5 dogs are unfortunately growing older. The eldest Golden Retriever (Poppy) and the youngest Cockador (Fae) have hydro-therapy fortnightly. Both enjoy their sessions, and their joints and surrounding muscles are benefitting, it is much better for them than increasing their dosage of anti-inflammatories. The rescue Greyhound (Willow) had the last of her 42 teeth removed this year. They were all removed over a 2-year period by a specialist South African vet who is an authority on teeth in all types of animals. He has operated on lions, bears and tigers. And he came to Willow’s aid, who has suffered from severe gingivitis from the day she arrived from Ireland. She now has no teeth, but more importantly she is free from toothache for the first time in her life.

In preparation for the re-opening of the caravan site, we decided to make the guests as independent as possible. This was particularly pertinent, as one of the Covid guidelines required that access to the shower block be limited. We went further, and made access to the shower block exclusive by giving the keys to the gents to one pitch and the keys to the ladies to another pitch. As for the remaining pitches, we upgraded them to fully serviced; with grey water waste drains to accompany the water taps installed last year, so all pitch occupants could be self-sufficient. Our groundworks friend was once again there when we needed him, and he installed drains on every pitch and ran a waste pipe to a system of cage filters from which the filtered clean water flows into the ditch. The ditch feeds the stream which runs through the village, where wild water cress continues to thrive.

Our holiday cottages also opened in mid-April, and as the previous year we cleaned extensively in accordance with the Covid guidelines. Since the day of opening, we have had an extremely busy year, the caravan site and the cottages have all been occupied right through to the end of November, we are over 60% booked for 2022 and we even have a list of those who want to book for 2023, when bookings are opened.

The fields to the north of our property have qualified for the Government Stewardship scheme. The land-owners have undertaken to improve the environment by conserving and restoring the wildlife habitat. The stewardship land, which is about 20 acres, was sown with grasses and plants earlier this year. It was previously cultivated with crops but because it was part of a flood plain the yield wasn’t particularly good. We are hopeful that this scheme could encourage the barn owls to return. A pair of kestrels have taken up residency in one of our old oaks, and drove the barn owls out to an area nearer the village. The barn owls had nested in one of our nesting boxes for the last 15 years. So, they are missed. It would be wonderful if they returned. With that thought.

Stay safe and take care.

Merry Christmas,

Ian and Sue