Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Awarded certificate of excellence

TripAdvisor awards Puddleduck Valley 
'certificate of excellence'
At the last count we had 45 reviews on TripAdvisor with an overall rating of 5 stars out of 5. A big thank you to all our guests who have taken the time to leave us a review - It's really appreciated.

"With the Certificate of Excellence, TripAdvisor honors hospitality businesses that have consistently received strong praise and ratings from travellers”, said Heather Leisman, Vice President of Industry Marketing, TripAdvisor. “This recognition helps travellers identify and book properties that regularly deliver great service. TripAdvisor is proud to play this integral role in helping travellers feel more confident in their booking decisions.”

The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and recency of reviews submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Happy Christmas to all our lovely blogger followers. May you have a super Christmas and a fab new year. 

Love Phil, Melanie, Heidi, Abigail and the menagerie of animals.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Kids due to be born in late March / April 2016

Kids due in spring

Kingston our stud goat (below) has now started covering the females and with a little luck we should have kids (of the Caprine variety) arriving between 20th March 2016 and the end of April 2016. 

If you fancy witnessing a birth or cuddling the newborns book now for next spring. It's sure to be both enchanting and enlightening! To book just visit our website at

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The new duck house & pontoon

We have finally got around to getting the ducks down onto the pond.
A big thank you goes to Finley Allen who helped me build the floating platform/ pontoon.

The duck house itself is an old chicken house bought from Holsworthy agricultural auctions. Bought for £35 all it needed was a coat of preservative - Not bad.

The platform was built from  (almost) 100% recycled materials. The list includes:
1 oversized pallet
A number of reclaimed floorboards
Some left over wall insulation board
Loads of plastic bottles and wine bottles that wer off to the recycling centre
Chicken wire
Old baling twine


  1. Having cut the tongue and groove floorboards to size we nailed them onto pallet.
  2. We then measured out the centre of the pontoon and screwed the fixings into place so that the duck house could be secured to the pontoon while it was floating.
  3. We then cut and placed the wall insulation board underneath the pontoon.
  4. The chicken wire was fitted next to stop the plastic bottles floating away.
  5. Finally the bottles were pushed into place underneath the chicken wire and the wire lashed together with baling twine.

Almost full

We then loaded the pontoon onto the quad trailer and gingerly floated the pontoon on the pond.

It was time to test to see if it would take the weight. As Melanie refused it was down to me to see if it could carry (ahem 12 stone). See the video on Youtube here


Now we "just" had to get the duck house with the ducks inside onto the platform. No mean feat!
Needless to say we left the cover of the duck house unlocked so that the birds could escape if it sank.

Finally the ducks are happy on the pond.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Down on the farm at Puddleduck Valley - 15/May/2015

*** Bees Special ***

It's another glorious day down at Puddleduck Valley and nature is in full flow.
The Jackdaws sound like they have a full brood in next-door's nest box and the sparrow's first brood has already fledged. It must also now be summer as the swallows that nest in the large barn have returned from Africa. I saw them for the first time today swooping around inside the barn checking out their old nests. Last year they raised 8 fledglings so hopefully they'll manage even more this year.

In the valley the carpet of bluebells really is stunning, especially when interspersed with the Red Campion.


Past guests may know that ever since we moved in 3 years ago, we have had a wild colony of bees living in the wooden wall of one our barns. We have tried various methods to coax the bees out and into a new hive but they resisted all attempts - until now.

We have had to use a rather invasive method and physically move the colony. Tom (our plumber!) & his Dad arrived on Wednesday to have a go. We had to wait for a nice day to make sure that the bees were in a "good mood" as Tom's Dad said.

We all got suited up with the necessary suits and veils and moved the ladders into position.
The first job was finding them. The first few planks were removed from the wall and the size of the colony became clear. They had obviously been in place for well over 4 years as the honeycomb was big and stretched into the barn between the joists, above the ceiling for downstairs and beneath the floor of upstairs. The bees remained in a good mood (ie not swarming and stinging us) while Tom's Dad removed each layer of the honeycomb carefully searching for the queen - Not an easy job when there are more than 40,000 bees!

The combs were taken out and then wired into the new (man-made) hive. Including lots of bees, honey stores and larvae at all stages of development.

Eventually we realised that the colony stretched too far into the building to be able to remove it just from outside.

Inside the barn, the floor was lifted and the new hive set up. Tom's Dad pointed to the old colony and explained that the queen was still there as the bees were 'fanning' - A message to the other bees to show where the queen is, to gather around to protect her and to get ready to swarm away.

This group of bees and comb was gingerly moved into the new hive.
As hoped, the bees then created a living pathway for others to follow all fanning and pointing the right way to go.

The wall of the barn of the barn was replaced and we left the bees to settle overnight.

The following night Tom & his Dad returned and closed up the hive and moved it to the van ready for the journey to their new home. The great news was that there was no evidence of Varroa mite. (The plague that has been decimating hives all over the world.)

Of course the bonus was getting a honey comb for us to eat - Not a massive rent for three year stay at Puddleduck Valley!

A few facts:
Three types of bees live in the hive:

  • The type of bee is decided by what the larvae are fed.
  • A colony of bees can have up to 60,000 bees.
  • The colony decides on when they will start creating new queens - not the queen.
  • The queen can lay up to 2000 eggs per day.
  • When a bee colony swarms (to leave its current home) the old queen flies and takes half of the drones and workers with her. The next (new) queens then also take half the remaining colony until the last queen realises that a tipping point has been reached where half the bees won't be enough. She then kills the remaining queens and stays in the hive.
  • Bees are used on African farmland to deter Elephants!

Next week:
Greywater Recycling
We build a humane rat trap

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Down on the farm at Puddleduck Valley - 29/Apr/2015

Spring has well and truly sprung down at Puddleduck Valley. 
Nature is bursting into life everywhere we look and some pesky predatory animals have been up to their old tricks again.

Duckling Update
The ducklings are now around 8 weeks old and have grown so fast that they now look like adult ducks.

1 week old

9 weeks old

Did you know that you can tell the sex of a duck in two different ways? A male duck often as a curl in his tail feathers and has a softer rasping quack than the female who has the load quack.

We also have two families of wild ducks (Mallards) down on and around the main pond where we have the rowing boat (Jemima). The ducklings are also growing fast and whenever we pass run across the surface of the water -  Very impressive. Needless to say, the fathers are nowhere to be seen.

 ** Bad News Alert **
Every few weeks we change the layout of the run for the chickens so that they get some fresh grass to scratch in and lots of new wiggly insects to catch. To keep foxes out we have an electric net fence around the chickens and it’s this that forms the enclosure. 
On Saturday we changed the layout of the fence which meant turning off the power. The fence layout was changed and we (I) forgot to turn the power back on – Big mistake.  At around 11:00 Melanie noticed an awful lot of feathers blowing around – We’d had another fox attack.
In total we lost 3 birds. Although horrendous, it could have been much many more. As we don’t clip the wing feathers of our birds the majority had managed to escape.
Needless to say, the power is back on and the Fox’s cubs have full bellies.

 New Chicks
A new brood of chicks of hatched! These are Elvis and Marilyn’s offspring but they have been incubated by machine rather than Marilyn. (She’s a bit rubbish at actually staying on the eggs). We had a lot of discussion as to whether the chicks will also have funky hairdos. Guess what – They do – Even as chicks.

Elvis & Marilyn
Marilyn's Chicks

In the woodland the carpet of Bluebells look like they are just about to burst.  When they do all flower our followers will be the first to know.

In the veggie patch – The strawberries have been moved and now have their own bed. With around 50 plants we should see a good harvest later in the year. The strawberries were moved because autumn fruiting raspberries are also planted and these are really taking over. All the peas and beans have now also be planted and should be cropping in July if the mice and birds don’t eat all of it first!

Catch up with us next week when should have some tales about setting up our greywater recycling system and the progress of the new brood of chicks.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Down on the farm at Puddleduck Valley - 22/Apr/2015

It's been another beautiful week in Devon and we don't feel like we've stopped.

Butterfly gardens
We have needed to improve the planting in our little garden behind the main house and in the Stables garden.  After lots of research we decided to plant a garden in line with our green principles and plant borders with plants that attract butterflies and moths from Match to November. Joan (Phil's Mum) has been roped in to raise the seedlings and Phil & Abigail have been hard at work creating the borders and planting the perennial plants.  The result doesn't look much yet but just wait a couple of months.
We used plans and planting lists from The Butterfly conservation website here:

Down in the woods spring is really getting going and the Bluebells under the trees look like they will be in full flower within a couple of weeks.  This is the carpet of Bluebells from last year. 
We have plenty of free accommodation if you fancy seeing the flowers.

A new yurt
One of the biggest events of the week was erecting or second yurt "Barley Top". The Yurt is brand new and has a lovely scent having come straight from the factory in Mongolia.  Before starting the build we set up our nature camera and started a time lapse sequence. We had a fab day with zero risk of rain and completed the build in 6 1/2 hours. See the time lapse video here:

The finished article:

Swings and boats
After so much hard work we awarded ourselves a day off on Sunday and enjoyed playing with remote control boats on one of the ponds and building a new swing in the woods.

Check in next week to catch up with more of our ramblings and how all the animals are getting along

Love Phil, Melanie,  Heidi & Abigail