Love at first sight
Our exciting venture started in 2005 with a one line advert in the property section of the local paper, ‘A smallholding requiring modernisation’.
I was immediately interested as my husband Ifor, brought up on a farm, had always hankered for some land. The state of the place was a bit of a shock but I could see the potential of the farmhouse as our family home, and the redundant stone outbuildings as holiday cottages. The location was so beautiful it deserved to be shared. Protected by the surrounding hills, and surrounded by lush meadows, it was immediately apparent that this magical place was a haven for wildlife, and to the music of the boundary stream I fell deeply in love and dreamt of how it could be.
Ifor had been a builder for many years but recoiled at the amount of work involved in renovating the property. I pleaded ‘But we could do it in stages’ and thankfully, as we strolled around the five acres, he too fell in love. Even though our accountant described it as being ‘a bottomless money pit’ we took possession, changed the name to Doleos (nightingale meadow) and started clearing the grounds. As drainage from neighbouring land had caused severe dampness in the house we also bought the adjoining ten-acre field which would enable us to excavate around the farmhouse and clear around the derelict building that we know today as Celyn (holly) cottage. It soon became clear that we had found a gem.
The work begins
Our Architect, Byron Jenkins, obtained planning consent for converting the range of stone outbuildings into 9 holiday cottages but, sadly, the work was delayed as Ifor suffered considerable health problems. Following major surgery, and several months of treatment for an autoimmune problem, he began to improve, and a photo taken just 2 months after his surgery shows him building the front stone walls. His consultant disapproved and referred to him as a ‘workaholic’ – but we did draft in some help.
Slowly, the farmhouse was made habitable and we moved in at Easter, 2011.
An anniversary and an accident
By April 2012 we had completed the conversion of the old zinc shed into Derwen (oak) cottage but, before launching the holiday let enterprise, we felt that we deserved a 41st wedding anniversary treat. We stayed in Cardiff but, whilst browsing in a city centre bookshop, my luck ran out as a tall stack of shelves fell onto me, severely injuring my wrist. This caused an extensive delay and we missed what should have been our first holiday season.
I did eventually recover sufficiently to successfully establish the holiday business. I was delighted to get amazing reviews on Tripadvisor, including the coveted ‘Certificate of Excellence 2014’ for ‘Doleos Holiday Cottage’. By May 2014 Celyn cottage was completed and it too quickly gained excellent reviews, as did Maesygelli, our house in Goginan (a small village to the east of Aberystwyth), which Ifor and I had built together. I’m thrilled that I have received the ‘Certificate of Excellence 2017’ for all three of my holiday cottages and am immensely grateful to my visitors for their valued reviews.
Into the wild
To keep pace with the growth in the business we have transformed the surrounding land from field and rubble into beautiful gardens. Birthday gifts from Ifor have certainly helped - a lorry-load of horse manure one year and a stunning hand built pergola, using recycled timbers from Borth beach, the next. Various shrubs and trees at the back of the house are now established (and lovely) as are Ifor’s raised traditional stone flower beds in the front yard, which are packed with colour and plants of all shapes and sizes.
But I’m delighted to report that all this activity has not disturbed the wildlife; sightings of rabbits, wild pheasants, hares, are common, as are sightings of birds such as the stunning Red Kite, swallows and woodpeckers. The latter, and other smaller birds, regularly feed from the peanut feeders hanging from the pergola and, so accustomed are they to our dog that, they no longer bother to fly off. Rabbits have even burrowed into the raised flowerbed near the front door and, despite my best efforts to fill in the hole, are still there! I’ve surrendered and will now wait for the babies to appear.
Distant horizons and new friends
Venturing up to the old quarry, along the path mowed by Ifor through the meadow, is a very rewarding experience as, at the top, you can enjoy breath-taking panoramic views of Cardigan Bay and the distant Cambrian Mountains. It delights me to see my visitors stroll up to the meadow gate to take in the scenery.
However, for me, the most rewarding aspect of our holiday let business is the number of regular visitors who have become our friends, and who have also fallen for the charms of Doleos. By appreciating our hard work they inspire us to continue to do our very best to keep Doleos as a welcoming and magical haven. Croeso cynnes.