>> For contact details and more information, see our full listing of The Coach House
The Old Coach House is a Victorian stone coach house converted into off-grid accommodation on a 70-acre farm with half a mile of seashore. It’s cosy for two or four people but it can sleep up to eight adults.
It was the labyrinth that drew me to the Coach House initially – it’s a unique feature in a pretty unique spot, on a slope overlooking the sea. But when I arrived, I realised I’d lucked out in other ways. How often do you get the opportunity to stay in a comfortable off-grid house, in a nature reserve, on a farm with free-roaming horses, ponies, goats, chickens and sheep to meet, enjoy coastal views that extend for miles, and have access to your own private beach? The Coach House is the only property for rent on the farm, so a stay is quite a privilege.
The Coach House is on a 70-acre smallholding called Windsworth, midway between Seaton and Looe (about four miles from each), on the quieter south-east coast of Cornwall. Owner Caroline Petherick lives in a house by the gates of the property, away from and discreetly of sight of the Coach House but near enough that you can reach her if you need to. She has raised her four (now grown-up) children on the property and is passionate about protecting and nurturing the land and wildlife here.
Windsworth is about 8 miles from Liskeard station, or about 5 miles from tiny Sandplace, a request stop on the branch line between Liskeard and Looe . Caroline encourages guests to travel to the area on public transport and, with notice, is more than happy to arrange a complimentary pick-up or drop off. She was away when I arrived, so her friendly carpenter/ builder Martin did the honours. The journey time from London Paddington direct to Liskeard is about three and a half hours, with a further 20 minute-or-so journey on the branch line.
When I arrived Martin gave me a tour of the house, which faces the sea. It’s a roomy and comfortable – some might even say, luxurious – longhouse. There’s a spacious kitchen with a woodburner stove, a cooker and fridge freezer. The kitchen is generously stocked with all manner of pots, pans, plates, cups, glasses, utensils and a kettle for the hob. There’s also a Kelly Kettle (the camper’s favourite) and a Zeerpot, for keeping things cool if you want to experiment. There’s a large, inviting wooden table with chairs and benches in the middle of the room, plus a sofa. On the same floor, there’s a hot shower, two loos with sinks – towels and loo roll are provided – and a bedroom. In the attic there’s a family room and there’s also a separate studio flat. Leading off from the kitchen is a gorgeous, airy living room, full of plump sofas and wicker chairs. It has a fireplace and, best of all, floor-to-ceiling balcony doors . It leads out onto a decking area – I spent many peaceful hours here, sitting in one of the canvas garden chairs, looking out onto the large, tree-filled garden and soaking up the sublime sea views. There’s a picnic table with benches and a swing chair too – I came alone and kept hopping from one to the other! If the weather’s good, you might want to use the BBQ and there’s a mangle and sink for washing clothes, clothesline and pegs. There’s also a huge woodpile. If you need it, there’s special kit for children: toddler high- chairs, loo-seats and a fireguard.
More about the rooms:
The Coach House sleeps up to eight people. I chose the king-sized bed in the downstairs bedroom and loved that the windows opened onto the garden: it meant I awoke to birdsong. The family room in the attic can sleep four: it has two double mattresses. If you need more room, the studio flat is behind (and adjoins) the Coach House but has a separate entrance. I had a peak and it’s inviting – it has a double bed, loo and kitchenette. It’s worth knowing that the studio flat isn’t let separately from the Coach House, so privacy is never an issue. If your group is bigger than eight, you can invite friends to camp in the garden: they can use the outside shower, loo and sink (or yours inside, if you’re feeling generous.) Linen and blankets and duvets are provided in all the rooms.
You’ll need to bring your own food. You can order online from the well-stocked Tredinnick Farm Shop and they will deliver supplies to the house timed with your arrival, or you can stop off there on the way as I did. It’s about a ten-minute drive from the Coach House. Look out for the scrumptious Trewithin Dairy yoghurt and butter, Cornish Orchards blush and heritage cider (heaven on a scorching day), Chocolarder’s Cornish Honeycomb chocolate – they’re a small-batch bean-to-bar producer – and Newlands Farm eggs. Caroline provides tea, coffee and sugar. She also kindly (and unexpectedly) left me a loaf of bread, flapjacks, ginger chocolate, a bottle of cider, and milk in the fridge. The treats made me feel very welcome and I hovered them up! A few minutes walk up the road from the smallholding is a neighbour’s farm stall. When I ran out, I bought six hen’s eggs for a pound (and left the coin in the honesty box). One day I had a fair-trade coffee at the eco-friendly vegan and vegetarian Treetop Café which overlooks the Monkey Sanctuary: it was an easy 10-minute walk from the house. The cafe uses local suppliers, serves lunch and snacks and stock ethical teas and chocolate besides the brew. (They also try to recycle and compost all the waste they produce. ) Otherwise, there are variously food shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants in Millendreath, Looe, Seaton and Liskeard.
What makes it green
The house is off-grid and its eco-credentials are impressive: lighting comes from solar-generated electricity, the sun and the woodburner in the kitchen heat the water in the showers, sink and wash basins and the fridge-freezer is solar-powered too. The woodburners in the living room and kitchen keep the house cosy when the temperature drops – I lit the kitchen one in the cool of the evening and it worked a treat. There is an LPG gas hob for the cooker or you can cook with the woodburner stove. It felt to me like a totally ‘normal’ house. Firewood is sourced sustainably and waste is recycled: Caroline provides easy-to-follow instructions (in a handy booklet) for separating recyclable items. You leave food waste in composting bins discreetly placed under some trees. There are no electrical sockets, aside from a single phone- charger point. Reception is sketchy but I managed to get a signal in my room, and in the garden at various times of the day. Being free of ‘electro-smog’ was a huge plus for me – there’s a palpable feeling of peace indoors and out and I slept like a baby. Caroline also supplies organic and homeopathically-balanced shower wash, shampoo and conditioner and Ecover washing products. The Caradon Coastal Reserve, her private nature reserve, forms a part of the land. For it she has received Defra Countryside Stewardship support, which means her meadows are a haven for bio-diversity. Caroline also offers the animals on her land a home for life.
I pretty much had the run of the farm to myself, all 70 acres of it, which was quite a novel sensation. On my first afternoon, after cooling off with a nice chilled cider – I arrived during the heatwave – I walked the labyrinth, which is in a lower pasture, on a slope overlooking the sea. From here and in fact, from any sea view, you can spot Looe Island (which you can reach by boat from the mainland). The following day I explored the farm and its wildflower-rich meadows and pastures. I loved meeting the friendly horses, ponies and goats who graze here. (Caroline keeps sheep for grazing too, in a field behind her home and some re-homed chickens.) I also ventured down to the half-mile long private beach. To reach it you walk through tall grass, down a steep wooden staircase in the woods and then down an even steeper sandy cliff supported by a rope – basically, there is a lot of slithering involved! Don’t attempt this if you have impaired mobility or are nervous about heights because what goes down must get back up! It’s definitely an adventure and if you have kids they will love it.
A stretch of the South West Coast Path – officially disused though some locals do walk it- runs westward from the labyrinth and beyond the farm’s gates to join a National Trust path up to Bodigga Cliff, a local beauty spot with a couple of picnic tables. It’s a short walk from here on the trail to Millendreath, where there is another swimming beach and beyond that you can continue to Looe. The bit of the Coast Path east to Seaton from the labyrinth has been closed owing to landslips along the way and it’s best to give that a miss – you can rejoin it further down on the main road. Just down the road from the Coach House is, as mentioned, the Monkey Sanctuary – though I only got as far as its cafe!
In case of wet weather, there are a few books and magazines to read, plenty of games for children, cards and some musical instruments. If you’ve a dog, there are canine toys too and guests with pets are positively encouraged to bring them. In the cottage is a basketful of leaflets for area attractions if you’re easily bored.
Make sure you meet the horses! It’s unusual to have the opportunity to connect with horses in a way that is unmediated by humans. Also, don’t miss the labyrinth: it’s in an unbelievably beautiful spot. Caroline has some fascinating information on labyrinths posted in the field below it, which will pique your interest. Above all, slow down and resist the urge to sightsee ‘off’ farm, particularly if you have a car: the nature here is glorious and deserves to be savoured.
This is a rare and special place, infinitely more than the (generous) sum of its parts. I think Caroline definitely undersells it! I could happily have stayed for a lot longer and though I relished having the Coach House to myself – I believe a bit of solitude in nature is good for the soul – I’m already hoping to return with friends next year. It’s also great to know you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for your green principles.