Twelve things you might like to know about The Old Kennels…

Although we are all too aware of ‘greenwash’ these days with claims of ‘reduced’ environmental impact, we believe that every decision we make, and everything we do makes a little difference. Little differences add up when we all make the effort. Usually, making more informed choices benefits our health, the environment, saves money and resources too.

It’s not about marketing, it’s this is just the way we live. A good friend of mine always says ‘it’s easier to change a 100 people 1% than one person 100%’ so we hope after a visit to The Old Kennels on a course, or a short break, that you might take home just one idea and use it. So hopefully the links below will inspire you to do just that.

We installed 4kws of Solar Photovoltaic panels in 2011 (thank you Shires of Wellington) we constantly strive to reduce our electricity and record usage/production monthly. We feed our surplus energy into the grid and buy the electricity we need through Good Energy (who only buy and sell electricity produced 100% from clean, natural sources like Cornish sunshine, Scottish wind and Welsh rain) and feeding our excess back into the grid at times when we produce more than we use. We are aiming to produce exactly what we use.

Virtually all our household appliances, computers and constantly-left-plugged-in items are on ‘standby savers’ as even that little red ‘off’ light uses power, or we simply switch them off/unplug when not in use. When replacing appliances we go for the lowest energy rating possible, our hairdryers are 1kw and we have a Tefal ‘one cup’ for tea making during classes, our fridge/freezer is A+ rated. Our lighting in the studio, house and The Loft apartment is all LED (and all the appliances in The Loft are A+ or better, the TV is A+ LED). We also have sun tubes in the house in three areas with low natural light, these save turning a light on constantly. Our outdoor lighting is solar, LED or CLF on PIR switches to save electricity and prevent light pollution. We also have a Podpoint electric car charger for the use of visitors.

Of course we are careful to reduce wherever possible, turning off lights and always looking for ways to save.

Water (clean, grey and effluent)
While at The Old Kennels you will be using water drawn from our well. This is spring fed and tested regularly. It is put through a sediment filter, a neutraliser (natural limestone to neutralise the pH) and then an Ultraviolet filter to kill any bugs.

When you’re here please use as little as possible, we ask you to simply turn off the tap while your brushing your teeth and scrubbing your hands, flush only when you need to (if its brown flush it down, if its yellow let it mellow!), only fill the kettle to the number of cups needed etc. we help you save by installing low flow taps and having dual flushes, high level cisterns and hippos, as well as eco camel shower heads.

So, why save water when it’s all free? Our water still has to be pumped using electricity and when you have your own water, you tend to be far more meticulous about turning off taps while you brush your teeth, using a dish washer rather than hand washing, and steam washing rather than water for clothes, as you are very aware just how precious it is.

Our ‘grey’ (lightly used) waste water and sewage are treated in our Entec sewage treatment plant. This uses a little electricity to aerate the contents and splash it over a honeycomb matting. The resulting outflow is clean water that should be of a standard you can drink (although I might leave that to someone else to try!).

We proudly support Water Aid and our toilets are all ‘Twinned’.

Water and space heating
Our large glass roofed garden room works well to passively heat our house, which is super insulated and has double and triple glazing (we are always striving to improve the efficiency of our house as things need replacing or renewing). 20 Thermomax Solar thermal tubes on our roof assisted to heat our well water until recently when after 20 years of service we had a breakage and could not replace the part – we are considering how best to replace these at present. We have a 25kw ETA biomass (wood) boiler, the wood fuel is cropped from our hedgerows/20 acres of woodland. The boiler works by burning a small ‘kiln’ of logs intensely and very efficiently in order to heat a large tank of water which sits awaiting demand, this ‘thermal store’ then heats the space and water for the house, studio and The Loft. We might light the boiler once a day in the coldest of weather but only once a week in summer, so its very efficient.

Bedding, towels and laundry
All towels and bedding are 100% natural cotton and are fine and light to reduce laundering time. You will be sleeping under our home produced Alpaca Quilts our mattresses are hotel grade natural filled, from a wonderful supplier who are owned by Newcastle City Council (NCC); and managed by Your Homes Newcastle the Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO) attached to NCC. As a supported business 70% of their workforce has some form of disability.

In each room you will find a little card asking you to put your dirty towels in the shower or bath when you would like clean, this way we don’t change towels when you don’t want us to. When we wash we use Suma Ecoleaf natural products which don’t harm the environment and aren’t tested on animals.

We line dry our washing as far as possible – the hoist in the conservatory is a great indoor drying area, although we sometimes have to finish off & fluff up towels in the tumbler, so we wait till it’s sunny to wash and dry as far as possible (a good drying day also means the PV provides the electricity for the washing machine). Our washing machine is extra-large capacity so we wash less often and is A+++ rated and dispenses the correct amount of washing liquid and softener as required by the load type*. The washing machine has a 20 minute wash cycle to reduce energy use, the tumbler stops when things are dry (you can set how dry you want them).

*Miele TwinDos WMH122WPS 9kg Washing Machine & RC9011A ‘B’ LG Dryer 9kg

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Zero Waste Policy

We proudly have sent nothing to landfill for many years. We try to buy the minimum of packaged goods and recycle 100% of the packaging that does enter the house. Compost produced is a valuable resource to us for use in the garden. We do ask you to sort your waste during your time here, but try and make it as easy as possible clearly labelled bins lined with cornstarch bags.

You will notice all our hand soap, hand cream and body wash in the accommodation (also studio and house) are from refillable pump dispensers. We use THE SOAP Co.  who are an ethical luxury brand that makes products that ‘are good and do good’. The Soap Co. use natural, ECOCERT and EU Ecolabel certified ingredients the range we use is from their vegan bee friendly product collection. None of The Soap Co. products in this collection contain SLS, SLES, ALES, mineral oils, EDTA, parabens, propylene glycol, triethanolamine, sulfates, phthalates, artificial colours, retinol, PEGs, urea, silicones, carbomers, cocamide DEA, MCIT/MITs, carcinogens. The Soap Co. are a social enterprise providing training and work opportunities for people who are visually impaired, have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged. All their profits go back into their business so that they can provide these opportunities and more like them.

When you stay in our guest rooms, we won’t use our environmental commitments to leave you short of room extras, rather than plastic throw aways you will find you a little cloth bag with a wooden comb, bamboo toothbrush, glass nail file, hand made soap or other similar goodies – yes they are yours to keep and reuse!

You will maybe notice a lack of plastic in general, we really try to avoid it being anywhere on the property where an alternative exists.

It is policy here that all waste is sorted for recycling and what isn’t taken in collections by our District Council, is delivered to the appropriate scheme every month or two. So that really just means soft plastics to the recycling centre now and again, as East Devon have now extended their collections to include tetrapaks, hard plastics and cardboard, as well as glass, paper and cans.

Of course we try as hard as possible not to generate packaging waste in the first place, and often take the time to complain to companies who over package (if we all do it enough maybe they will get the message that we don’t want to pay for, or receive, their wasteful packaging). Wherever possible I buy unpackaged goods, or those in compostable wrapping. Unless of course I want the packaging … I admit I only buy some things in the prettiest glass jars, for when I make chutney, jam or marmalade!


We monitor our electricity usage constantly reading our electricity meter, solar meter and heat meter monthly and compare year-on-year how we do, this tells us instantly if usage is strangely high so we can act quickly. Although we cannot easily meter our well water, we are however looking at how this can be done reliably.

Local Produce, home-grown and organic group buying

We grow as much of our food as we can. We believe that organic principles are important to prevent long term damage to soil structure, ecology and health, so we compost keenly, use no chemicals on our land and do our best to buy everything organically wherever possible. What we can’t produce, we try to buy locally, which means fresher, cheaper food which has travelled very few miles to be consumed. It supports our local economy and gives the cash direct to the producer so they have more money to produce a better product.

Castle Hill Farm (on the road from The Old Kennels to Hemyock) do free range eggs – portacabin and honesty box.
Connetts Farm (on the main road through Dunkeswell) do potatoes, eggs, milk and fab pumpkins, as well as mistletoe etc seasonally
Honey – take the road from Wellington Monument to Wrangway and see the sign on your right
Millers Farm Shop – fabulous place located on the A35 Honiton to Axminster road – just go!
Joshuas Farm Shop – by Otter Nurseries – wonderful selection including Sidbury Mill bread flour
Then there are a few things not produced locally that it’s still lovely to have, like organic rice, sugar, chocolate, pasta and recycled loo roll, natural washing products, and so forth. We have started a buying group, and once a month order from Suma wholesale. Minimum order is £250, if there are a few of you it’s really not hard to spend that. Bulk buying means less time shopping, less food miles for your shopping and less packaging. We always used to have one old metal cabinet in the back scullery and keep the bulk in there, bringing in what we needed, storage isn’t a problem, and the savings are huge. If you like the idea look them up, you don’t need to be a business, you can buy ‘ones’ of things, its online shopping and easy to do – everyone has a bill and they all pay separately. Totally recommend it!

Ethical banking

We bank with Triodos and Charity Bank we have had our mortgage with the Ecology Building Society for nearly 20 years now, the rates are all comparable with high street, but the ethics are significantly different, we like to know our money is helping others not major corporations!

Printing and office

Our printing is all on recycled paper or chlorine free paper made from pulp from sustainable forests. All inks used are made from vegetable based oils or recycled.

Memberships, groups and friends

Blackdown Hills Business Association (since 2004)
Heritage Crafts Association (since inception in 2010)
Basket Makers Association/ Braid Society (no longer a member but advertise in their publications)
National Trust
Royal Horticultural Society
English Heritage
Co-founded Westcountry Embroiderers Devon/Somerset Border Group 2003
Friend of the Thelma Hulbert Gallery
Henry Doubleday Research Association & Heritage Seed Library (since 1991)
Glass Bead Makers UK (since 2007)
Blackdown Hills Woodland Association (since 2010)
British Lichen Society (since 2014)

Local and Community Action
Sponsors of Dunkeswell Garden Society Children’s vegetable growing classes (since 2008)
Fundraising events for Hemyock and Dunkeswell Preschools and Hemyock School, Nepalese Childrens Trust
Wwoof hosts – offering an exchange of ‘keep’ for a few hours’ work a day to registered wwoofers.
Clerk Dunkeswell, Luppitt, Monkton and Rockbeare Parish Councils from 2001 till 2018, having recently stepped down I am still very involved in our own parish and project work.
Founded Blackdown Hills Parish Network 2005
Organise Community buying group through Suma wholesale
instigator and bid writer – Dunkeswell Eco Business Park 2007 (and landlord until 2017)
Co-founded Blackdown Hills Natural Fibre Group 2007
Co-founded Blackdown Hills Transition Group 2010

We are proud to be rated as:

Gold standard by the Green Tourism Business Scheme

Platinum Standard by Tripadvisor Green Leaders

and of course 4* by the AA