The following review was written by Kamy Cunningham,
 and published in the Summer 2003 issue of Animalprints

Animalprints was a quartly magazine with articles, reviews, stories, poems and other bits
 of interest to everyone in the 'animal movement'.  Interesting and informative, was published by Worthing Animal Aid. Sorely missed.

Fern Tor

      Fern Tor, a Vegetarian & Vegan Guesthouse set on 12 acres of grassy and wooded English countryside in the wilds of Devon, is secluded, peaceful, and, overall, a wonderful place to retreat from the world. Jane and Cliff Strehlow are your welcoming hosts; and they greet you with home-made scones and a pot of tea, set before a welcoming log fire in the lounge, if the season is chilly.

      I've stayed more than once, and on my last visit I was also welcomed by the happy sight of several hens who had been rescued from battery cages - just a few of the abandoned and abused animals that Jane and Cliff have taken in. Since I donate to several places which rescue hens, among them Hen Heaven (near Brighton) and Farm Sanctuary (a U.S. group with sanctuaries in New York and California), it's nice sometimes to see chickens - they make me aware of the real animals I'm trying to help. These hens still had some red, raw spots from their ordeal in the cages, but their beautiful russet feathers were growing back; and they were wandering around quite happily, pecking and scratching and doing all the things hens were meant to do.

      The food at Fern Tor is outstanding. Jane is a Cordon Vert trained chef, and Cliff is the breadmaker - his nutty loaves are delicious in texture and taste. For breakfast, here's a sampling of what to expect: vegan pancakes, scrambled tofu, homemade granola, vegan 'bacon' and 'sausages,' Cliff's delicious bread, organic jams and jellies, and, of course, all the other elements of a 'fry up' - tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. Yofu, organic teas, coffee and porridge round out the menu. For the vegetarian, there are eggs from the rescued hens. (The hens share space with several rabbits, and Jane sometimes has to rescue the eggs from under the rescued rabbits.)

      Cliff and Jane will provide a snack or afternoon tea if requested, but I suggest you save your appetite for the evening meal, of which the portions are magnificently generous. You can order either a two or three course version. A sample menu: starter - Minted Pea Soup; main course - Spinach, Fennel and Tofu Galette; dessert - the glorious FernBocker Glory - available in several flavors. I'm especially fond of sticky puddings, and Jane makes a vegan apricot sticky pudding that stays on the memory taste buds forever and is one of the best in the universe.

      The guest rooms are done to a very high standard of comfort, with such amenities as thick, soft towels, organic teas and soya milk, beds that make your back feel good, and a BATH - rather a rare luxury nowadays since many b& b's provide only showers. With a feminine touch, Jane supplies a foaming bath creme for your relaxation. Also, the rooms are warm and cosy during cold or chilly times of the year. The overall decor of Fern Tor is soothing, with light, polished wood floors, homey colors, and comfortable furniture.

      Undoubtedly, the highlight of any trip here is the animals; my favorite lazy activity is to sit by the window of my room, of an afternoon, and watch Fern Tor's rescued sheep and goats graze on the hillside, while the wind blows the grass and the jackdaws perch on the fences, or even on the backs of the more tolerant sheep. Just outside the breakfast room window, a big bush with bird feeders attracts some of the local residents - robins, wrens, blackbirds, even pheasants. It takes quite a long while to eat my morning meal because I linger over every bite, so I can keep watching the birds - and also the squirrels attracted by the trays of water Jane and Cliff leave out. To help you identify local species, the library in Fern Tor's lounge has a large number of books on birds, animals, plants, and flowers native to Devon, as well as many on animal issues.

      You may also see 'Treacle,' a rescued pot-bellied pig, outside the breakfastroom window - she roams all around, rooting and snorting under the bushes. Two ex-racing greyhounds--Chester (a golden male) and Chuckles (a brindled female) may also be seen swirling and zipping gracefully around outside throughout the day. 'Ex-racing' would be a slight misnomer in the case of Chester because, as Jane says, 'He refused to race'. Sensible dog.

Fern Tor makes you want to stay there forever.

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Updated on 11th July 2003