Long post warning. Plot spoiler – ‘The Court’ is a great place to spend a relaxing break from modern city life.
Deborah: Wendy? Would you like a glass of wine, a cup of tea?
Wendy: Yes! both please
Sunday early evening, I’ve just stepped into the Court, a large thatched cottage in the heart of Sheepwash, North Devon. What a wonderful welcome. Deborah takes my bag and gives me a tour of her home while making tea, pouring two glasses of wine and finishing the ironing.
Deborah Dooley and her family have opened their home to paying guests. Deborah gives subtle and caring attention to all her guests, making sure they have what they need, keeping the atmosphere welcoming. Guests might come to write, to hike, to take time-out from being a mum.
Sheepwash bustles at 8am in the morning. The local shop opens it’s doors, literally. School children chatter and scream as they wait for the bus. Milk is delivered, tractors roll by and I wake from a deep sleep amidst thick white cotton sheets.
When I wander downstairs in the morning a mug of tea soon finds me. Fresh fruit salad, cereals and a full cooked breakfast with eggs from the hens in the garden are served on the visitors’ book, a table with messages scrawled from past guests. Packed lunches are prepared for guests’ planning day trips.
My mornings are filled with workshop activities designed to improve my writing. Whether my writing improves is up to me, Deborah’s workshops give fun, tactful, feedback and encouragement.
Evenings are warmed by a real crackling and hissing fire. Guests recline and share stories from huge embracing sofas. The pub across the tiny town square feels like an extension of the house, not that I’ve spent much time there because the hospitality in the Court is magnetic.
I stayed with 3 other guests, an Essex accountant with a detailed colourful story on any topic your care to mention and a Cambridge couple taking a Hiking holiday. We share breakfast, dinner and evenings and mainly do our own thing during the day. Deborah listens, thinks, then uses what she’s learned. A simple but rare combination. An excellent combination for a hostess.
This is not the sort of place to stay if you like all the modern conveniences available in a multi-star Hotel. The Court provides a different kind of luxury, not one that is packaged with the check-list criteria of hotel stars.
The bathroom is shared by all the guests. None of the modern trendy en-suite nonsense. The bath is BIG, deep and long, surrounded by a wide selection of dissolving things that you might want to soak in. You need to check if there is enough hot water in the tank for a bath before taking a bath. This reminds me of living in a house with a hotwater tank and 4 other adults, my family, coordinating use of the bath was something we learned to do without giving it a second thought. There is an electric shower with always available hot water. If this breaks your idea of a cosey retreat then maybe this isn’t the place for you.
There is a TV in one of the rooms, I have not used it. There are no TV’s or phones in the guest bedrooms. There is a wireless base-station hidden in the lounge which provides internet connections. I couldn’t get cellular reception from either T-Mobile or Orange services. If this type of thing will be a problem for you, the Court is not the place for you. Lack of cellular service was a bonus for me. The Court has a landline number that I gave to the neighbour looking after my fluffballs and thankfully she had no reason to call.
My experience is a warm friendly, active, family home full of people that respect each other. The atmosphere and attitude of the place and people made my stay interesting and welcoming. This is a very pleasant change from the benefits of living alone. I’ll definitley be visiting again.