Hello! Hannah here. If you’ve stayed with us this year, you’ve probably met me, and if you’re planning on holidaying at Koa, you almost certainly will.
Earlier this year, my husband Simon, our two spaniels, and a then invisible-to-the-eye baby bump packed our belongings and left the bustling little city of Oxford behind for a new life in rural Devon, running the wonderful Koa Tree Camp.
Armed with big ideas, plenty of energy and an open mind, we took a deep breath and plunged into our first season on the site. And it’s been (still is) a brilliant experience.
The best thing has undoubtedly been meeting our amazing guests. Koa seems to attract a diverse array of fascinating individuals, who tend to be as interested in good food, good company and a laid back holiday experience as we are. It’s been wonderful meeting you and your families, chatting by the communal barbeques, delivering you breakfast, trailing off to feed the pigs and finding out more about you all.
There have been plenty of lessons to learn along the way. Here are some of the things we’ve found out – along with some of our ambitions as we settle in and grow.
Don’t do it all at once – or maybe do? A particular challenge for me has been moving across the country, changing our lifestyles completely and taking on a major new challenge while pregnant. When we first moved down here, it wasn’t a noticeable thing, but now, at a solid six months in, I’m feeling very enormous, but I have finally learnt to take breaks, rest up, and know when to hand over to Simon. That took a while! On the one hand, perhaps it would have been better to spread the major life changes out a bit, but on the other, I’m not sure we’d have had the confidence to make the move if we’d known I was pregnant before we signed the contract. In the same vein, we might have delayed starting our family if we’d known we were going to be taking on such a big new project. So perhaps it’s actually for the best that fate intervened and we ended up doing everything all at once.
Try things out, but don’t be afraid to be flexible – we tried a few different food options this year. We opened our little yurt café for part of the year, and tested out a breakfast delivery service over other parts. We’re yet to make a decision on what’s most sustainable for us, and best for our guests, but it’s been interesting trying out variations on breakfast options. One thing’s for sure – Simon’s sourdough waffles aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be on the menu, in whichever format it takes, for some time yet!
Some things take time – coming from Oxford, where local produce is abundant and ridiculously easily sourced (helped by the fact that I worked part time for a local food cooperative), we assumed we’d be able to feature local, organic produce on all our menus straight away. But everything’s more spread out down here, and it’s taken a little longer to get ourselves into the position where we’re completely happy with every ingredient we source. We’ve tried and tested various local suppliers, and learnt to accept that building up reliable relationships takes a bit of time. It’s worth it though. We’ve just teamed up with Dan the Fish Man, aka Clovelly Fish, and boy oh boy, does he know all there is to know about every single piece of fish he sells. His quality is incredible – fresh, locally landed and barely a food mile to talk about. Finding Dan and testing out his produce has really inspired us to stick to our guns on making locally sourced, organic food a priority – so watch this space as our menus grow…
Get stuck in there with a smile – this job is so varied. We’re cleaning toilets one minute, writing marketing strategies the next, wheeling endless barrows of wood, doing accounts, collecting eggs, manning barbeques and fixing doors. If you didn’t take unexpected challenges on the chin, with a smile on your face, you’d soon get stressed here. Luckily, we’ve learnt that most things are fixable, and the best way of dealing with any challenge is to just get stuck in, do your best to sort it out, and smile through it all…whether it’s stuck doors, stuck cars or stuck systems.
Do you have any ideas for us to take forward? Or did you particularly enjoy something about your stay? We’d love to hear! Do let us know.
Koa Tree kisses