Award winning Boscastle B&B tells us how they do it...


More than just a B&B... A Bed and Breakfast near Boscastle recently took gold at the county's tourism awards, but how did they do it? Sylvia Vacher pays a visit to find out

More than just a B&B...

A Bed and Breakfast near Boscastle recently took gold at the county’s tourism awards, but how did they do it? Sylvia Vacher pays a visit to find out

From pith helmets to piglets, this is a place where the new is stitched seamlessly to the old, much like Sally Searle’s tapestry which hangs on the landing alongside her grandfather’s Second World War flying jacket.  When I phoned to arrange my visit, Sally was outside on their three-acre plot.“I’m picking flowers for the guests’ rooms,” she chirped.

I looked at my hothouse Lidl Lilies and wondered what on earth she was picking in November in North Cornwall.  I arrive at the Old Rectory to the sound of the sea, or is it that the wind plucking the last leaves from the trees?  Sally tells me it could be either; on a wild day you can catch the boom of the Boscastle blowhole.  Thomas Hardy first compared the two sounds during one of his many visits here.  This place purrs with poetic pedigree;  Hardy met his first wife, Emma, on the threshold I step over as I am greeted by Sally and Chris and their daughter Anna.But Hardy is not their only claim to fame, they have just won gold at the Cornwall Tourism Awards in the sustainable business category and the competition was fierce.e flares in the open grate and tea and saffron cake are on offer.  Chris settles into his chair and I into mine; it is easy to settle here.  Paperbacks of Hardy’s poems, helmets, hats and pottery pieces dot the room, and the view over the garden boasts every colour of tree imaginable.   On the tea tray are china cups, a Boscastle Pottery milk jug and a silver teapot; such eclectic Englishness is increasingly hard to find in today’s B&Bs.  At a time when sustainable is synonymous with modern, and coastal chic means pop in a porthole or two and paint the loo blue, this place is refreshing.  A vase of flowers stands on the sideboard.“I love the flowers, what are they?”  I ask.“Let’s see.”  Sally gets up to touch and tell.  “Spindleberry . . . forcythia foliage . . . Cape lily . . . verbena . . . persicara red dragon . . . euphorbia . . . “I am humbled and make a promise to myself to do some serious reading up about matters horticultural as we begin our tour of the house.  They bed eight guests here, nine if you include the dog they welcome in The Old Stables downstairs.  Upstairs are the three other bedrooms, Mr Hardy’s Room, The Rector’s Room and Emma’s Room – with its original Thunder Box, surely a loo with one of the best back-stories in the county.Today is pig heaven and, we don our wellies to set off for the garden tour.  Millie the Golden Retriever finds some dried liver strips in the boot of my car and we become friends for life.  Anna brings youth and vitality to The Old Rectory, in a part of the world where it is hard to retain our youth as they drift up country for work.  But hers is no free ride.  With a degree in Ecology and a diploma in Sustainable Horticulture, she tends the ducks, the sheep, the chickens and the pigs, and tills, trims, rakes and weeds the walled kitchen garden, which supplies the seventy different types of fruit and vegetables available for the table.    The rain has churned the soil up into a meally mulch and the twelve young Oxford Sandy and Blacks are loving it, along with the windfalls that Anna is feeding them.  Gertie the sow’s pedigree piglets are a real pull for the student day-trippers, as is roast pork, the most popular choice on the evening menu – all home-cooked by Anna.“We are growing a forest garden, a half acre of edible woodland,” she says, as we take in the view over the Valency valley.I am confused, “edible woodland” may be an effective description of my culinary creations, but how much wood can a person eat?“Nut trees, berries, you know,” she adds.Sustainability Old Rectory-style is not about putting your recycling box out on a Monday and feeling smug for the rest of the week.   Sally actually looks forward to the backbreaking annual leaf sweep; autumn leaves, apparently, have exciting uses.  Try taking up the their Six Ways to be a Responsible Visitor, or arriving astride a pony or by bike, two of Emma Hardy’s greatest pleasures.  When you sit down to breakfast, the chances are that over a third of your fellow guests will be return visitors and you will be enjoying your Frühstück with those trailing in Rosamunde Pilcher’s footsteps.  Oh, and Millie will be there, so don’t forget the dried liver strips, she rather likes them.