Loved the walks around the grounds and woods. You’ve clearly done a remarkable job re-wilding the place!
The setting is beautiful and the landscape managed to preserve nature, whilst providing ample opportunity for holiday-makers to enjoy the countryside.
The valley was a real revelation. Every time we walked through the nature reserve there was always something new to observe. Having set up and managed a nature reserve I can appreciate the hard work and vision that has gone into creating such a diverse series of habitats . My advice to anyone staying at Dittiscombe is to sit quietly and watch and you will be rewarded. Let Dittiscombe work its magic and you will find it difficult to leave.
Our tenth annual visit with family/grandchildren – I look forward to driving down the lane to the welcome of Dittiscombe with time and space in the Devon countryside – and then walking across the field behind The Owlery with outlook to Start Point Lighthouse, and on around the nature trail.
A fabulous location. Truly back to nature. If you want a place to escape for a while, this is absolutely perfect. Hosts Ruth and Jon were very helpful and full of local knowledge.
Jon and Ruth offer a warm welcome with personal attention to detail. Dittiscombe is an inspiring testament to sustainable living and offers peaceful surroundings in which to relax and unwind.
Dittiscombe Hills was once a large thriving farm of 500 acres, but in the last 20 years our valley has undergone a process of rewilding. It is now a diverse landscape of around 20 acres, made up of gardens, ponds, streams, woodland and meadows, all managed by us solely for the preservation of local wildlife and for the enjoyment of our cottage guests.
Each of the six cottages has a private garden with a lawn, hedges, stone walls, pots, baskets and borders. The borders are filled with shrubs, perennials and bulbs to provide colour and interest all year round. Hedges and stone walls surround the cottages, with navelwort and red valerian making lovely displays in the spring and summer. Rockeries are dotted around the cottages showing off the hot colours of poppies and kniphofia, and the subtler shades of lavenders, hebes and geraniums.
You can see lots of photos of our valley in the gallery below, and more detailed descriptions of each garden on the individual cottage pages.
The Woodland, Meadows & Hedgerows
Around ten acres of our valley is woodland, planted 20 years ago with mixed deciduous native trees such as oak, beech, ash, cherry, field maple and spindleberry. Guests can meander through the woodland trails and into the glades and clearings. With natural thinning and storm damage we are able to cut and store the logs for use in the cottage woodburners. The woodland is now home to many news species to the valley – roe deer, woodcock, jays, tawny owls and long-tailed tits.
There are also important conservation areas of grassland, meadows and marshland which follows the natural watercourse of the valley, and guests are welcome to explore these too. There are several wet grassy areas near the streams which are home to many frogs and toads, and the marsh thistles, wild angelica and giant hogwort, which follow the watercourse, make a dramatic display in the summer. Using a wildlife friendly grass cutting regime, these areas attract many species including bees, butterflies, moths, finches and glow worms.
Hedges are a vital part of the valley, providing food, shelter, nesting sites and a transport system for species under threat such as the Hedgehog and the Dormouse. Read about the wonderful world of South Devon Hedgerows in Ruth’s Blog.
Bee Friendly Planting
Inspired by recent articles and TV programmes, and in support of Devon Wildlife Trusts‘ Wildlife Friendly Gardening initiative and Friends of the Earth’s The Bee Cause, we are continually planting nectar rich plants to provide even more food for bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and beetles. We try to attract more insects and by doing so, more wildlife will follow. We already have an abundance of red valerian, meadow sweet, gorse and ox-eye daisies which provide a wonderful display in the banks and walls, and along the borders of the ponds and streams.
There are several spring-fed ponds connected by a small stream which runs through the valley. Guests can stroll around the nature trail which meanders past the ponds, with benches and seats along the way to view the wildlife which is attracted to these areas. Coots, little grebes, mallards and moorhens, damselflies, emperor dragonflies, grass snakes and butterflies use the surrounding vegetation for protection, for food and as nesting sites.
The ‘top’ pond by is visited by many moths and butterflies during the summer months. By the ‘middle’ pond the statue of the Dittiscombe Angler waits for his fish, and guests can sit under the weeping birch listening to the birdsong and enjoy the rhododendrons, spirea and bottlebrush around the edges. With a wide open space of water, the ‘lower’ wildlife pond is a great source of insect food for martins, swallows and bats, and is surrounded with willows and alders, giving shade and protection to the wildfowl.
We have around 30 local cider, eating and cooking apple trees in the orchard which produce fruit from September onwards, and in a good year we are able to supply large quantites to local cider makers Heron Valley Cider.
Guests can wander through the orchard which offers lovely views of the valley and a glimpse of the sea at Bolt Tail with the estuary town of Salcombe seen perched on the side of the hill.
Local Gardens of the South Hams
Further afield there are several National Trust Houses & Gardens to visit such as: Greenway, ‘the loveliest place in the world’, originally owned by Agatha Christie, is now open to the public; Coleton Fishacre near Kingswear, is a garden by the sea, with an Arts & Crafts-style house (you can read Ruth’s blog about her recent visit); Overbeck’s is a luxuriant coastal garden overlooking the Salcombe estuary and surrounds an elegant Edwardian house with diverse collections; and Saltram near Plymouth is a magnificent Georgian house with opulent Robert Adam interiors, gardens, follies and landscape parkland.
Also of interest is Dartington Hall Gardens near Totnes, planted with great trees and connecting paths which meander through the mature woodland and past a number of sculptural features including a reclining figure by Henry Moore.
Avon Mill Garden Centre is a favourite of our returning guests. It is situated by the banks of the river, in the peaceful Avon Valley near Loddiswell. Visitors can choose from a wide range of plants, then drop into the cafe and delicatessen. There is also a wonderful scenic woodland walk from the centre which follows the old mill leat and Primrose Line Railway alongside the Avon River.