We are committed to thinking about the environmental impact of everything we do. We do our best by taking small steps to improve our practices but know we can always be doing better. If you notice anything or have any suggestions on how we could innovate and improve please do let us know as we like constructive feedback.
Thinking about our food miles
When we cook for our clients, we source our produce from local suppliers wherever possible so that we are reducing our carbon footprint as well as supporting local businesses.
Dairy produce such as milk and yoghurt comes from Trewithen Dairy who are located next to the estate. We buy our bread from Cornish baker, Vicky’s Bread who only uses organic flour. Liddicoat, the butcher in Lostwithiel provide our sausages and bacon – all their meat is sourced from Cornwall, including venison which comes from the estate. We stock Cornish producers in our bar including Lantic Gin which is distilled on the estate and contains foraged plants from the estate and south coast shores.
This beautiful garden was created many years ago and now provides fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers for our guests during their stay. Whether our housekeeper, Kay, is cooking for a retreat or guests have ordered produce boxes from us for their holiday, we aim to limit our food miles where we can.
Our gardener, Stuart, has been trialling different methods to avoid using chemicals in the kitchen garden. An example of this is companion planting – marigolds have been planted next to carrots to prevent certain insects from destroying the carrots which means sprays can be avoided.
Until the 1970s, there was a thriving market garden at Boconnoc with a huge diversity of produce grown on the estate. What is left of that area, besides the walls of the garden, is a small area of heritage varieties of apple trees. Nine years ago, we worked with one of the farmers to plant another orchard of heritage apple trees. We now sell those apples to Cornish Orchards, or other local suppliers who make cider and apple juice. We also use the apples to make compotes, apple pies and more for our retreat clients during their stay.
The boiler was put in over eight years ago and provides all the heating and hot water for Boconnoc House, the Dairy House and the Soane Room in our Stable Yard. The wood to feed the boiler all comes from the estate and is chipped on site.
All grass cuttings, leaf mould, ash from fires and the biomass boiler as well as food waste from events are composted in the kitchen garden. This means there is very little need to buy in any compost as we are re-using what we have. We provide compost bins in our cottages so that guests can compost food waste during their stay.
Cutting verges and gardens
Two years ago, we decided to stop cutting the verges as frequently as we had in the past. We now cut once in March and then again in late August. This is exciting as we are starting to see more flowers and grasses growing in the verges including birds foot trefoil, orchids, pignuts, sorrel and much more. We are also starting to see more thistles and docks which are always viewed as weeds and tend to spread quickly. We are monitoring these to see how much they take over but it is important to remember that docks support a wide range of insects including butterflies, moths, plant bugs and beetles.
We have a tree re-planting programme, which aims to replenish all the trees fallen through storm damage over the years as well as planting further trees and plants to protect our thriving eco-system. We are now starting to dig up and replant any natural regen that we find in the woods, or when we have a good year for acorns or beech kernels we will plant these and start to grow our own trees.
Due to extensive planting programmes we must use tree guards to protect the saplings. Where possible we use wooden guards, especially in the parkland. In the past when we have carried out large scale planting, we have used plastic tree guards, however, in 2020 we trialled using bio-degradable guards. These guards cost nearly double the price of the plastic guards but we knew we needed to change our practice. Unfortunately, almost all of the beach whips we planted in the biodegradable guards died although the oak did survive. We are doing further research into why this happened and considering what we can do to protect future trees we plant.
Mulch mats when planting
Often when trees and shrubs are planted, the areas around them are sprayed to prevent weeds and grass growing around the young tree. As we want to move away from using chemicals, we decided to try mulch mats. These allow water and air to percolate through to the planting, whilst at the same time supressing weed growth that would compete with the planting. We are watching these carefully to see how well they work.
Organic farming methods
There are a number of farms linked to Boconnoc and half of these are organically farmed. Whether land is farmed organically or not, all farmers include environmental measures in their work whether it is margins on the side of arable fields, planting areas of wild bird seed to support the soil and biodiversity and cutting hedges on a three year rotation.
Fallen timber on the estate
We are always losing timber in the woodlands here so we have to plan for this timber. In the Deer Park, as it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, we leave all fallen trees so the natural process of the tree rotting into the ground occurs. In other areas of woodland, we leave a certain percentage and we collect the rest where we can. Beech is generally best for logs or wood carving such as making bowls or spoons. Logs are cut onsite by Martin Cloak and delivered direct to clients who have ordered them. We also sell some of the good timber to sawmills and then stack anything else for use in the biomass boiler.
Wood products we sell
Once wood is cut we store it in racks at the sawmill. The onsite furniture maker, Mena Woodwork is currently drying timber from the estate to make outdoor furniture and he also sells chopping boards in the shop which are made from Boconnoc wood. We cut soft wood to make tree guards which we sell along with planks that are dried at the mill and blanks for woodturning. If you are interested in buying timber from us please contact the estate office.
Water powered sawmill
The forestry operation at Boconnoc used to employ a large number of people but as wood was bought in from abroad, the forestry operation on the estate dwindled. In the 90s the estate’s water powered sawmill was renovated and is now used once a month to cut tree guards, fence posts, blanks and planks, that will be stored at the sawmill.
In 2019 we met bee keeper Peter Hunt who keeps bees and collects honey in Cornwall and Devon. He now has over 20 hives at two sites on the estate and we are looking forward to getting honey from those bees in the next year or two.
We are beginning to work with bird specialists and farmers to monitor the species that are on the estate and surrounding farmland. There are a number of birds on the Birds of Conversation Concern including linnet, marsh tit and mistle thrush that have all been spotted on estate farmland. You are also likely to see swallows, house martins, yellow and pied wag tails, buzzards and bullfinch if you are staying on the estate, dependent on the time of year. In 2019 a cuckoo was spotted near the lake but we have only heard one once so far this year. There is occasionally a king fisher racing along the banks of the lake. Please do let us know what you spot during your visit to the estate.
Flowers for events
When we run our own events we will always use cut flowers from the garden, or grasses from the hedgerows. For our weddings we encourage our couples to work with companies like The Garden Gate Flower Company who grow all their flowers within a 10 mile radius of the estate.
We have seen some invasive species worsen over the years here. Himalayan balsam lines the island and some of the banks on the estate. The suggestion was to spray it but as we aim to limit the use of chemical sprays, especially near water courses, we strimmed it last year before it went to seed.
Knotweed is another plant that spreads. We currently have patches of it in different areas on the estate, and we do still spray this yearly, but we are looking into spraying directly into the stems this year, so the spray does as little damage as possible to the surrounding area.
We have seen a lot of spear thistle recently, particularly by the lake. This year we have cut it in June before it goes to seed in July / August and monitor whether it returns next year.
There are many aspects to property maintenance including what paints we use, where we source wood for kitchens, how we heat the properties and much more. These are the challenging aspects of old properties, many that were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Where possible in Boconnoc House and the holiday cottages, we use natural paint made by Edward Bulmer. Edward Bulmer teamed up with a German company called AURO, who are pioneers in the use of gentle chemistry when making paint. Both companies are committed to developing sustainable products which means finding plant-based alternatives to plastic binders, azo dyes and nasty chemicals.
Where possible we use locally sourced wood and we always work with local suppliers.
When heating properties we now look to use electric heating, instead of oil.
These are all small steps but we are always open to new ideas and ways of doing things so continue in our research.
Electric charging point
We have put in a car charging electric point for guests to use during their stay. Payment for use is £10 per day.
We have set up a ‘swap shop’ near our office for the local community to bring unwanted items that others might like, or to share plants, surplus produce etc to promote reusing of resources among the community.
We are mindful of the environmental damage caused by technological hardware so where possible, we purchase refurbished products rather than new. We also opted to keep our office handsets when we were offered an upgrade to reduce waste.
We have a small shop on site selling locally made products. All products are produced in Cornwall and many come directly from the local community around Boconnoc itself.
We do our best to recycle all our packaging, glass bottles and paper and ensure all cottages have recycling facilities for guests to use.
We now use Ecover products where we can for cleaning which are all eco-friendly.
Toiletries for guests
We utilise local, environmentally friendly toiletries within the house and cottages from Made for Life Organics.
Other small steps we hope to achieve in future:
Recycled staff uniforms – we would like to work with a second hand charity like Oxfam to provide second hand uniforms.
Weddings – we are working to create a more sustainable model around weddings.
Seed collection and taking cuttings – each year we would like to increase the amount of seeds we collect from trees and plants as well as taking cuttings of our apple trees, hydrangeas etc so anything we are planting is from the estate.
We will continue to think about ways to improve the soils and biodiversity on the areas of land that we manage ourselves. And being aware of carbon capture.
For certain events we run we will be offering ticket discounts for people that cycle or walk to the estate.
Encourage those who attend large events on the estate to bring their own cups, plates etc so there is less waste from food trucks.
There are many more ideas and strategies to implement, but as we develop our sustainability agenda we will be adding to this page, as our plans and discussions develop.
Tree guards and other products for sale including blanks for wood turning and planks, air dried at the mill, all cut on the water powered saw.
Homegrown produce, bees, wildlife, local producers - ask one of our team if you want to learn more.
Compost, apple storage and grasses for decoration