Friday, June 27, 2014

Another year on....!

Summer at last.
Ok, so when we set up this blog the intention was to do 'regular'ish' new posts on developments at East Cambusmoon....the last year blog wise was rather infrequent, and it is now just over a year since our last post!  Well, there's been much happening here in the last 12 months, so much so that we've had little time to report it!

The holiday cottages have been getting busier not just because of the summer, but also due to the great feedback we've had from our guests to whom we are extremely grateful for taking the time to do so.   We were also over the moon to be awarded 'Gold' accreditation by the Green Tourism Business Scheme last November and strive to improve our sustainability credentials without compromising on quality.

But blogs are very much about the 'now', so what's the latest?

This year we've been able to take a little more time to think about the management of our 5 acres of grassland, which we've allowed to grow bar a few weeks grazing in April/May.  The point of this is to provide an improved habitat for wildlife, in particular voles which are a a principle food source for owls.   The grass is now knee high in our top field bar a couple of mowed patches to facilitate the occasional game of dog-football (we now have a dog!) and allow our guests to stroll out into the wild without getting soaked!   Later in the summer we'll make and put up a couple of owl boxes and see how we go.

'Nuc box' safely tied down to paving slab in our apiary!
On a similar theme, I have been learning about beekeeping over the last two years and recently took delivery of our first colony of honey bees.   There's some history and rationale for taking up this pastime which I won't go into the detail of right now, suffice to say that a) I adore honey, and b) honeybees really do need our help these days!  Beekeeping merits more than one blog post and like other forms of animal husbandry, is governed by the seasons.  For now though, our beekeeping adventure starts with a polystyrene box containing 6 'frames' of healthy brood, food stores, workers, a few drones and a young queen with an insatiable appetite to build her empire....!

Monday, June 17, 2013

One year on

It's nearly 12 months since we welcomed our first guests to Curlew Cottage and The Old Dairy. It's been great fun and we've met lots of really lovely people from all over the world. We started working on the designs for the cottages around the time we finished building our house (5 years ago) but for lots of reasons, time, money, family and business, we didn't commence the renovation of the dairy and byre until May 2011. When you're heavily involved in the project management and specification of any project it takes a while to step back and appreciate 'the job' is finished but in reality for us the end of the renovation project marked the start of the holiday cottage business. Aside from fitting out the cottages, there was a website to create, advertising to organise and endless amounts of bed linen to change. We've learned a lot in the past year and a half but we are also hugely pleased that the cottages have been so well received by our guests. Thankfully we've had glowing reviews and many pleasant comments. We've been excited to meet people from so many different places, family groups of 3 generations, we've had a stag party and a hen weekend, 2 groups taking part in a huge charity challenge, couples escaping from the rat race and new born babes on their first holiday.
In December last year we were pleasantly reminded of the renovations when the Glasgow Institute of Architects awarded the cottages their prestigious award for Sustainable Design. It was a terrific achievement and great recognition for Thomas Robinson Architects and for ourselves. Most importantly though the sustainable design has worked in practice, our guests are comfortable, even in the depths of winter the cottages are warm 24/7 so when people have hiked the hills they know they have a warm place to return to. Everyone loves the wood burning stoves and the fact we offer free top ups of the log basket!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Festivals in and around Loch Lomond

Coming up in May we have Booked which, as you might guess, is a literature festival. Organised by West Dunbartonshire Council library service this festival is just a few years old but already has a loyal local following and has an interesting programme with a great variety of authors speaking. Events are held (mainly at libraries) throughout the area and there is the opportunity for Q & As and signing sessions at the end of each talk. Over recent years I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to a tremendous range of interesting people; some first novelists, some seasoned household names, poetry and music, factual social history, biographies, shadow writers, world adventurers and local colour. Whether you're resident in the area or a visitor you are sure to find something of interest. We've left copies of the programme in both cottages, tickets for the events are free and can be collected from West Dunbartonshire libraries.

Food and drink festivals are also a very welcome feature in the area and we have enjoyed visits to the Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival sampling the goodies from great local producers. This year the festival is being held on 14th and 15th September at Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch. As well as food tasting we're always keen to see our favourite local Loch Lomond Brewery there too. Earlier in the year, 17th and 18th May, there's more craft beers to be enjoyed at the Helensburgh & Lomond Real Ale Festival which is a charitable event offering over 40 ales.

Lomond Folk Festival is being held from 26th-28th July this year. Held in Balloch Country Park (just 4 miles from East Cambusmoon) this is a family friendly folk festival on the banks of Loch Lomond. Day time and evening sessions featuring traditional and folk music are held with some drop-in free events as well as ticketed gigs. The bands and musicians are currently being announced with Shooglenifty (creators of techno ceilidh!) being one of the better known acts gracing this year's festival.

For more music and heritage we love Piping Live! which is being held at various venues in Glasgow from 11th - 18th August. This is a truly international event, the World Pipe Band Championships also take place on 17th and 18th August, so you can hear bands and musicians from all over the world as well as take part in classes, watch highland dancing and learn about the huge variety of piping and traditional music.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thoughts for the garden

Not the day for sitting outside but not so bad a day for planning what to be growing in the garden this year. My main focus is always vegetables and fruit, we are not self sufficient but make a fair contribution from our own patch to the kitchen and thoroughly enjoy the prospect of harvesting some of the food we eat. As a parent one of my favourite times is when the children get home from school on a sunny day, fling their bags towards the door and dash into the veggie garden to eat peas and mange touts from the plants followed by a helping of raspberries from the canes. I dream of this as I look out of the window at the falling snow!
At the moment in the garden we have leeks, artichokes and spinach, so not a lot to feed the family on but still a contribution directly from our own soil.
I do grow flowers, always calendula which is one of my favourites, and nasturtium - both of which you can add the petals to brighten up a dish. Last year I grew a bed of flowers and plants directly to attract more bees and insects to the veggie garden, one of the most spectacular plants was teasel which grew wonderfully tall, looked stunning and provided a great hub for lots of bees. It was referred to as our 'dinosaur plant' because of its spikes and we've cut and dried the flower heads for arrangements, another one to grow this year for flowering next year as its a perennial.

This year I'm going to extend my flower growing so we can have more cut flowers for the holiday cottages. I've ordered various delights from Higgledy Garden for the cutting garden and have been inspired by the brilliant and exciting photos on their website. Watch this space!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Geilston Gardens

The National Trust for Scotland's Geilston Gardens is about 8 miles away from us and there are many things I really like about this place. Essentially its a very small NTS property compared to many but there is such a wonderful variety of garden landscapes in a relatively small space that there is always a delight around the next corner.

We last visited a few weeks ago as the apple blossom was starting to show its beauty, I love the orchard and am always inspired to come home and when we planted our own (does 13 apple trees equal an orchard? - I'm hoping so) I came to Geilston for inspiration. Actually whenever I visit a National Trust or similar type property the kitchen garden and orchard are my favourite places. Aside from inspiration you can often buy great quality and good value plants; in summer months you can also buy surplus veg from Geilston, all the better for knowing the proceeds go to the charity.

 I also love these gardens because they have something to appeal to all members of the family. The children loved the Giant Wellingtonia tree, we speculated whether the folk of Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree might live in something like this? Was there a slippery slip through the middle of the trunk?! There's a great variety of planting, when we visited much was just waiting to burst into life.

Hello again!

Time flies by with all that sunshine keeping me outside rather than here by the laptop. Lots and lots of sunny days and the garden seems to be growing well after a slow start. Aside from the garden the sunshine has huge benefits; we've generated heaps of electricity via the solar panels and the hot water is abundant too and, to be honest, I've only just turned my mind to the veggie garden so a slow start to the season has been an inevitable consequence. One of the great things about living in Scotland is that while Spring comes more slowly than further south we do have fantastically long days through the Summer and there's plenty of time to catch up. We've planted out the rest of our potatoes (we're cultivating 3 varieties this year) as well as cauliflowers. We'll also sew some more salad leaves and quick crops, these will take a short while to come through but we've got pots of rocket and lambs lettuce to pick at which we established indoors. Away from our own patch we've been putting pots of herbs on the patios of the holiday cottages so guests can help themselves. Whilst we've popped a selection of dried herbs and spices in the kitchen of each of the cottages we know keen cooks will enjoy being able to pick their own. Plum trees have been planted at the edge of the patios so in time to come guests will be able to pick their own fruit, maybe for making a nice plum crumble for tea.
Here's an updated picture of the sitting and dining room of 4 bedroomed Curlew Cottage, there's heaps of room for families and groups to relax together and plenty of space so you don't have to be on top of each other. We've had a few guests in the cottages but there's an inevitable gap between the website being completed and the world realising we are available for bookings. So we've decided to run a great offer to encourage those who are thinking of booking a holiday to pick up the phone and make it real. More details very soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What a difference a year makes

So here we are, two renovated holiday cottages. Sitting finely in the landscape of the southern part of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
Its so very easy to forget how the buildings used to look before we started building work last May. After many months of design and feasibility work we took the plunge to renovate two very tired and long disused farm buildings and bring them back to life. When you're undertaking a renovation project its very easy, and very necessary, to be involved in the detail of how design and construction are going to work. Often there are unexpected problems, measurements on site which don't tally with drawings, work which needs doing that was never anticipated (so costing more money and more time) and so on. Sometimes you think back to what was there before but mainly, we find, that you just don't; as a function of renovations, working and family life you don't always take that step back to appreciate what is being created. Looking back at photos really reminds us of how it used to look, 12 months ago it all looked very differently. And we are happy with the outcome. Very happy and very proud.
One of the things which constantly changes in its detail but never changes in its power to soothe and calm, uplift and invigorate is the view to the north of Ben Lomond, the hills and the Loch.