We're at PL13 1NZ, on the coast of south-east Cornwall (see map). We're 4 miles from Looe, 8 miles from Liskeard (main line railway station), 16 miles from Plymouth, 60 miles from Exeter, 140 miles from Bristol.
This part of Cornwall is much quieter and more secluded than Newquay, Padstow, Falmouth, Penzance. Our land is on the gentle green, hilly and wooded south coast – and just a couple of miles away in one direction is the village of Seaton / Downderry, splendid for holidaymakers and (occasionally) surfers, and the other way is Looe, a proper working fishing village with a couple of good beaches as well. We have no other centres of population near us.
Above is a satellite shot of our land, which stretches across from side to side, and from the lane down to the seashore. The coach house is inside our own Caradon Coastal Reserve, on hills overlooking Looe Bay, with breathtaking sea and coastal views. On a clear day you can even see the Lizard peninsula, 40 miles away!
We keep rare breeds of sheep, plus goats, chickens and horses/ponies, and we encourage them to live as long and natural a life as possible. Their job is to help keep the land in good heart, and they seem to enjoy that quite a lot.
Whatever the weather is here, we get a lot of it! For a more accurate forecast than many, try metcheck.com and the amazing magicseaweed.com and tides4fishing.com.
In our 70 acres (29 ha) and half-mile of coastline, we've created our very own private nature reserve, the Caradon Coastal Reserve. We’re members of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and we manage the land to encourage wildlife as much as possible; the land is home to some very rare species of butterflies (Pearl-bordered fritillaries and Dingy skippers) and bats, as well as slow-worms, voles, shrews, squirrels, hedgehogs, badgers, foxes ... even deer, which can be glimpsed if you’re quiet (and lucky)! Birdlife here includes the (now rare) thrushes, bullfinches, owls, mallards (see photos here and in the Gallery), woodpeckers, pheasants taking refuge from a nearby shoot - and perhaps, one day, Cornish choughs.
(There is one form of wildlife, however, that's not so welcome: ticks. They're found throughout the UK, and some of them carry Lyme disease; it has been found in various parts of England, Scotland and Wales, including this area. This means that almost anywhere you go in the countryside - even in city parks - you're at risk. So if you're staying in the coach house we provide tick removal tools and practical information.)
One of the best ways of seeing wild animals – bats, foxes, deer, badgers – going about their business of an evening is by spending an hour or so quietly steaming in our hot tub.
In 2017, we won the rare accolade of Highly Commended, awarded by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust in the annual Cornwall Tourism Awards Scheme.
The full length of our shoreline borders one of the UK’s Marine Conservation Zones, set up to help conserve marine wildlife and fish stocks. So you can be sure that beneath the waves is a wide (and increasing) range of sealife getting on with its business just as nature intended - including seahorses, sea bass, pink sea fans, cuttlefish, basking sharks. In the bay and around the island you can often see seals; and dolphins have appeared more than once.
At night? For starters, there are the lights of the village of Looe, 4 miles away, twinkling across the water (see photo on More Info > Things To do page), and the lights of fishing boats and the loom of the Eddystone lighthouse 12 miles away. Looking up … whatever we get, we get a lot of it here. Clouds? Yes! - but on a clear night the stars spangle the sky in their thousands.
The Coach House may well have origins dating back over 1,000 years; its basic layout and proportions are almost identical to those of a known Anglo-Saxon building near Great Hound Tor on Dartmoor. In more recent times, it was used as the coach house (that is, where the coachman lived, along with the coach and horses) for our grandiose – but now ruined – country house 50 yards further down the hill.
Windsworth is home to a range of animals; those that have found their way here have a home for life – and it’s usually a long life. We give them conditions that meet their instinctive needs and allow them to express their normal behaviours.
We have several goats: two handsome white (and very friendly) Saanens, Colin and Neville; but we’re not quite so sure of the parentage of the others – Bobby, Toby and Grommet. They live in steep fields on the edges of the coastal slope, and their job is to demolish brambles, thistles and docks and undergrowth in general, making space for the rare butterflies. They’re clearly very happy in their work!
We have a 30-strong flock of rare breed sheep; Jacobs (brown and white patches,) North Ronaldsays (from the Orkneys), Borerays (which originated on St Kilda), Ouessants (small, black, bouncy and insatiably curious, from the island of Ushant off Brittany) and Soays (agile, and almost deer-like; the most primitive UK breed of sheep). They, too, free range in our fields, and a few of them are very friendly.
We also have some horses and ponies grazing here from time to time.
If you have children and you come here in spring/summer, they may be able to collect warm, freshly laid eggs from our hens' nesting boxes
I've lived here since the 1980s, and brought up four children here with my partner, Keith Brian (who died suddenly in 2007, and was buried up at the top end of the garden, staying for ever in a place he loved). I've had a fairly adventurous life - for some details see www.the-wordsmith.co.uk#about - and even though I'm well rooted now, the adventures just keep on coming!
I'm well embedded into my local community, and I'm on the committees of local organisations such as the Looe Marine Conservation Group (affiliated to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, who have given me Seaquest training, and observation training for dragonflies and butterflies); and Liskeard Arts (see www.liskeardarts.org.uk). I'm also a member of the Friends of Kilminorth Woods, and the South East Cornwall Tourism Association (whose journal I edited for over a decade).
The conversion of the coach house has been a massive project. Why did I undertake it? For over 50 years it was a sad grey storage area, and when Keith died I had to decide whether to stay at Windsworth and somehow make our 70 acres earn their keep, or sell up and go. That would have broken my heart, so I decided to do a dual-purpose project; turn the coach house into a refuge for us in case the world goes mad, and to share it - carefully - with people who would appreciate the gorgeousness of this slice of the Cornish coast, and who'd want to come and learn about a sustainable lifestyle. That decision was made in 2008 - and now, with our wood-fired hot tub made from a repurposed IBC, we're just about there!
I've been lucky enough for Patrick Saunders of www.kernowecology.co.uk to take me in hand and - for the second time, successfully! - gain Defra's help in the form of the Higher Level of its Countryside Stewardship Scheme. With Patrick as my adviser we're enhancing the biodiversity of the land - 'wilding' it, in current terminology. It's always been pretty wild anyhow ever since Keith and I took it over, but now I'm giving a home to creatures such as thrushes, slow-worms, hedgehogs, adders, badgers, deer, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, moths and loads of bees. Off our half-mile of beach, the sea (which is part of the Looe Marine Conservation Zone, protected from commercial fishing), there are porpoises, seals, dolphins, basking sharks ... the place is positively heaving with wildlife!
This is partly driven by my feeling of responsibility for my part - and to some degree, my ancestors' part - in what's happening to the biosphere. I reckon that Planet Earth will do fine without humanity, but we need Planet Earth be function well and healthily for us and our descendants, and for life in general on the planet, to survive and thrive. I subscribe to the idea that humanity as a whole started the Anthropocene era, with its effects on the globe. I would like it if more of us recognised this, and used our immense power as humans to mitigate it.
So not only do I take direct action with this coach house, but also I educate myself by subscribing to a wide variety of journals, including Caduceus, Green Scene (Mensa’s Ecology and Conservation Group), New Scientist, Peace News and What Doctors Don’t Tell You.
And I’m a member of (and so subscribe to) many humanitarian and planet-minded groups, including Amnesty international, Avaaz, 38 Degrees, Toilet Twinning, TreeSisters, the South West Coast Path Association, the National Biodiversity Network, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and the Marine Biological Association.
Plus I get (and read!) newsfeeds from, eg, the National Oceanography Centre, the Marine Conservation Society, the Met Office, and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
And I support Global Citizen, SumOfUs, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WWF, WaterAid, the CoaST Network (sustainable tourism) Open Democracy, Freedom United, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Rescue, Save the Whales and Greenpeace by signing their petitions and giving donations - and I have several accounts at Triodos Bank.