<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

From dairy farm to holiday barns

PUBLISHED: 14:55 19 June 2017

Cranberries has been ten years in the making

Cranberries has been ten years in the making

Matt Austin

Businessman Steve Littley sold his transport firm and left Surrey for the perfect, quiet life in Devon. A decade and £3.5million on, the building work at Cranberries Hideaway has finally finished. Kate Williams visits the former dairy farm and discovers how the journey evolved

When Steve Littley decided to move to Devon for ‘a quiet life’, little did he know he would end up creating a hotel complex, spa and restaurant with more stress than he had ever known.

Starting out as a market trader selling ladies’ underwear in the South East, Steve built up his transport company and sold it for a good profit, waving goodbye to the pressures of Surrey life in search of some peace in the West Country.

“I fell in love with Devon really. We used to come to Beer Head Caravan Park. I was 36 and had achieved quite a lot but I couldn’t find a house. Then Hills Farm at Kilmington became available,” he recalls.It was the view of the rolling hills from the former dairy farm in the East Devon village which drew Steve in initially.

He explains: “I was looking for a house and a small business - maybe a couple of holiday cottages, little bit of income, something simple.

“Not a whole farm, then to build a six-bedroom barn that then became 32 rooms, a spa, a restaurant, a wedding venue and corporate venue!

“When I bought the farm, in my mind, my plan was to build an eco-house. It was the view, it was the area; it was a project which could have gone one of a million ways.”

Hills Farm intrigued Steve with its 18th century stone barns and glorious valley outlook. Steve was sold on the location but he was drawn to the idea of bringing those tired and broken buildings back to their former glory rather than letting them go to eventual ruin.

From his eco-house and one barn converted to holiday accommodation, Steve’s project slowly evolved into Cranberries Hideaway - seven self-catering barns, nine guest bedrooms, an Elemis spa, conference centre, wedding venue, restaurant and gin bar. And, if that was not enough, he has recently acquired the lease for the village pub, The Old Inn, as well.

With the help of a grant from Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England and The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, Steve’s passion for eco living, green business and original buildings has become a reality.

He says: “Devon is all about farming and tourism. We took a farm which, sadly, wasn’t doing well, and we’ve turned it into a holiday complex and, on top of all that, it’s all Grade II listed so we’ve regenerated everything back to how it would have been in the 1700s.”

What has ended up as a grand scheme is a far cry from the quiet country life Steve and his family were in search of. It has taken ten years, £3.5million and continual visits from Defra, East Devon District Council’s listings team as well as fortnightly visits from his bank manager during building.

Steve admits: “It’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. The £3.5million gives me nightmares. It has taken it’s toll. It’s a rollercoaster. Every day is different.”

Despite previously running his transport and logistics company with a 700-strong staff and offices throughout the UK and Europe, Steve still maintains this project is the hardest thing he has ever done.

He explains: “This is completely out of my comfort zone. But, you adapt - from corporate to the public - in theory it’s like all businesses, the end goal is the same, you’ve got to keep everyone happy.

“And, in Devon, the competition is different because everyone helps each other. If a hotel down the road is full, they send visitors to us. Coming from cut-throat Surrey, it doesn’t happen like that. Everyone helps everyone else out here, it has a real community-type spirit.”

Having an excellent team on board has ensured the project’s success.

“It’s a ‘family’ business because we are all colleagues, we all work together and are equal. There’s no hierarchy, we all muck in – if I need to clean the toilets, I do.”

With his head in his hands, Steve laughs about the stresses, strains and enormity of the Cranberries project but he is relieved the build is finally finished.

“It takes up 99.9 per cent of my time! Everything is about this. It’s 24-hours a day. I enjoy it. There are more highs than there are lows and I think it’s something to be proud of, for my children. And it’s a working business and makes money. But we need to be busier, which I hope will come.

“I think what we have here is unique. The sense of satisfaction is there. Recently, I actually took a moment and had a look at what we’ve done and I’m very pleased with what we’ve achieved.

“Now is the time to sit back, reflect and enjoy what we’ve got.”

THE WEDDING VENUE STORY

The top barn was first built as a games room. When one of the villagers’ daughters was getting married he asked if they could use the barn as a wedding venue because of the amazing view.

Steve explains: “That’s where it came from. They came and decorated it, they had straw bales, and they made it look stunning. It all worked well and from that moment, I thought, ‘We’ve just done a wedding’.”

WINNING THE ECO WAR

The main house and all the buildings are run on ‘green’ energy.

The Green Tourism business scheme has awarded Cranberries a gold certificate.

Ground and air-source heat pumps deliver the heating and hot water at Cranberries.

A state-of-the-art biomass boiler system supplies hot water and heating to the spa and restaurant.

A solar energy plan is in place for the electricity.

The farm has its own spring water to supply all the taps and even flushes the toilets.

All cottages are cleaned using eco-friendly materials and cleaning products.

A large area of woodland at the farm has been preserved to house birds, wild animals and insects. Bird boxes have been placed around the cottages.

Cranberries guests are encouraged to travel to the hotel via public transport, for which they receive a five per cent discount on the cost of their stay.

An electric car charger has been installed for the recharging of electric vehicles.

Everything is Efficiency AAA rating.

All of the accommodation has been renovated using recycled materials and traditional building methods; promoting greener methods.

Fly-fishing on the privately-owned mile stretch of the Axe River is permitted free of charge to guests but on a ‘put back’ basis to help maintain the environment.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tue, 12:54

A yacht of great beauty, a 60ft wooden vessel hand-built with utter dedication in East Devon, is preparing to make her maiden voyage. Mike Ludgrove has devoted 12 years of his life and all his money to create Helena, the yacht of his dreams. Words: Sharon Goble Photos: Matt Austin

Read more
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Devon’s iconic Burgh Island, famed for its art deco hotel and links to Agatha Christie, is being sold by owners Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard after almost 17 years.

Read more
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Midsomer Murders and Bergerac star tells Devon Life about his favourite Devon people and places

Read more
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Walking 350 miles around the boundary of Devon was David Beanland’s way of marking his 80th birthday

Read more
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The word hero is bandied around too often these days, but in the case of veteran Royal Marine Eric Greenleaf it might just be apt, as CHRISSY HARRIS discovers

Read more
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Fifty years ago Sir Francis Chichester sailed from Devon on voyage that would make him famous, as Chrissy Harris reports

Read more
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

England and GB Women’s hockey star, Giselle Ansley, looks back at a whirlwind 18 months since winning Gold at the Rio Olympics and tells Devon Life of her delight at the impact the team’s success has had on the sport

Read more
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bo is living the doggie dream as #1 taster at Devon dog food company Forthglade, writes Belinda Jones

Read more
Friday, March 23, 2018

The ladies’ group has been so successful that the husbands and boyfriends left at home have decided to establish their own group!

Read more
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A very familiar face from our television screens is coming to the county soon in a completely different guise to his acting work

Read more
Friday, March 9, 2018

Devon has produced some of the world’s best talent when it comes to film, music, sport, TV or pretty much any other field you can think of. Here are 18 celebrities that have shaped popular culture in their own unique way

Read more
Thursday, March 8, 2018

From nurses to TV stars, chefs to campaigners and runners to cider makers, Devon’s women are some of the most inspirational people you’ll meet in day-to-day life. We celebrate 12 who’ve made a mark on our county’s cultural and social landscape

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A unique steamship is being restored at Bideford for a new educational role, writes Owen Jones

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
 
A+ South & South West
 
Great British Holidays advert link
 
Pure Weddings advert link
 
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Local Business Directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search