31 Jul 2019
Middlewick Holiday Cottages sit just beside Glastonbury Tor and boast an inspiring commitment to self-sufficiency. ROSIE INGE stays over.
Jill Barker has been a hurricane of energy since she arrived in Somerset in 2011. Exploring the county after their son was offered a place at Millfield, she and her husband Jon found themselves buying a holiday cottage complex with 16 acres of gardens and fields at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. Experienced in running a totally different company, Green Baby which they sold, Jill and her husband Jonathan have built up the business to such an extent that they won Gold in the Bristol, Bath & Somerset Tourism Awards 2018/19 and Jill now sits on the board of Visit Somerset.
I woke up to a glorious sunrise in one window, moved my head to the right, and was presented with Glastonbury Tor through another. Rather unoriginally called Tor View, my cottage was very well stocked – cheerful yellow polka dot crockery, Circulon pans – and all the machinery was uncomplicated to operate and instructions easy to understand. The pillows were hard and the bed not as wide as I’m used to, but it’s a beautifully comfortable space with an efficient woodburner for chilly evenings.
John Tucker of West Pennard Creative Carpentry turned up at Jill’s door when they arrived and has been helping ever since. He’s built or converted three glamping pods, two wooden cabins, 10 cottages and one shepherd’s hut which is used for massage during the very popular detox weekends. Jill wanted a Farm Shop from year one ‘It’s the retailer in me,’ she explained. It has now moved to its own, much larger site and stocks lamb and pork from their own fields, with local produce from Bruton Dairy, Pullens Bakery and Fussels rapeseed oil, among others. ‘We were the first customer of Granny Gothards’ ice cream’, a good decision since this delectable pudding came first in What’s on Somerset’s blind tasting.
I asked her what she enjoyed most about this business and she said she loves learning about Somerset: ‘There’s so much to see, and I have to visit lovely places for work. We’ve always wanted to be as green and self-sufficient as possible and we installed a biomass boiler five years ago, using wood from sustainable sources and, together with the 130 PV solar cells, we produce most of our own energy.’
Many of the guests are families, three or four generations coming together. Another great success is the Vital Detox week of which there were five in the first year and now operate over 10 weeks. It’s good for post-cancer operations to clear the system as well as being an annual MOT, for which people travel from around the world. Spiritual groups come searching for King Arthur and the Holy Grail – apparently 30 is the magic number for private tours which visit Tintagel, Cadbury Castle, Avebury and Stonehenge: Glastonbury is Number One in the Countdown to the Most Sacred Sites in the country.
‘I have grown to love the eccentricity of the area,’ said Jill. ‘I understand that the ley lines which converge around the Tor generate an energy which is truly powerful and wonderful. I have come to believe that it’s really not wa-wa.’