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.
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
Fern Tor makes you want to stay there forever.
Updated on 11th July 2003