Archive for Polraen Country House – Page 2

Cornish Tin Mining – A World Heritage Site

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Last week I learned what Cornish tin mines have in common with Machu Pichu, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge. They’re all World Heritage Sites!  And having just completed a ‘World Heritage Champion’ training day, I found the learning quite  fascinating- inspiring me to put a Cornish Mining Heritage page on the Polraen website featuring a great widget (interactive tool) that introduces visitors to the sites, the attractions, audio trails and history – all part of the ‘Discover the Extraordinary’ project.

Learning about the history of Cornwall’s mining industry helps you to appreciate the full legacy of what has been left not only here in Cornwall but also the extent of the impact that Cornish mining had around the world.  It’s a fascinating story which started 270 million years ago when the granite that creates the backbone of the county cooled and tin and copper ore amongst others was created. From circa 1700 to 1914, the mining industry helped shape the heritage, culture and traditions of the Cornish people as well as the landscape. The population boomed as demand for mineral ores grew for industrial and military use.

Cornwall was the Silicon Valley of its day, fuelling the industrial revolution, exporting mining technology around the world along with Cornish miners who then were at the forefront of diamond mining in South Africa, silver mining in Mexico, and the gold rushes in America and Australia. High pressure steam in Cornish mining was the engineering foundation for Stevenson’s invention of the first steam locomotive leading to the mass movement of goods and people. The first tin plated can was made in 1810 revolutionising food storage and preservation. Meanwhile, social impact was reflected in choral singing, temperance religions and Methodism, the brass and silver bands which became synonymous with mining communities. The tin barons, the wealthy investors, filled the gardens of their Cornish country estates with camelias and rhodedendrons brought back from the Empire leaving the legacy of exotic flora and fauna which you can find in Cornwall’s gardens today.

We often get folks from across the UK and from abroad searching their family history, researching their Cornish surname, visiting graveyards to seek out the resting place of past generations. And now, I can help encourage visitors to get a real sense of the ‘hidden Cornwall’ that many don’t get to discover, by visiting some of the 18 attractions, many of them wet weather places, most free to enter.

What a fascinating day it was and I’ve already had a very interesting talk over a pint in the bar with a guy from Walsall, who spent 3 years in South Africa in the diamond mines after studying at Camborne School of Mining. Just goes to show, you’re never too old to learn…….. So take a look at the Polraen Cornish Mining Heritage page to plan an interesting day out discovering the extraordinary and hidden Cornwall.

 

Are you making the most of Cornwall in Spring?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Visit Looe Harbour on a Spring Break at Polraen Country House

Survived  the shock of the Christmas credit card bill? Eased off on the New Year resolutions? Stress at work getting you down?  May be it’s time to give yourself a break.  The secret ingredient?  Treat yourself to a couple of days away in Cornwall before the crowds? A visit to Looe, a change of scene, a slower pace, taking some time out – even just a 2 or 3 night short break - can be the path to relaxation, giving yourself a chance to beat the stress and find your balance.

Cornwall in Spring – 3 nights for the Price of 2

For not much more than the cost of a couple of theatre tickets or a gourmet dinner, you and your partner could recharge your batteries by taking a spring break in Looe at Polraen Country House – country house comfort just 2 miles from Looe and the sea. From £80 per person for 3 a night stay including breakfast. Select any 3 nights and one will be FREE! You might like to add our Special Occasion package of Champagne and Chocolates or Flowers at £30.  Perfect for Mother’s Day as this special offer to visit Cornwall in spring is available until 5 April 2014. 

Check availability

 

Looe is a perfect destination for a romantic break, a pamper weekend, a celebration or simply a chance to relax and chill. The milder climate means the spring flowers are well ahead here, with daffodils and primroses peeping from the hedgerows and some of the countries finest camelia displays are already in full bloom at the National Trust properties such as Lanhydrock or Mt Edgcumbe.

Polrean is very near the South West Coast PathWalking along the cliff tops will blow the cobwebs away, with spectacular views to Looe Island (maybe spot the seals). See Cornish pasties being crimped before you eat them, watch fish being landed at Looe Quay, spot pheasants wandering across the garden at Polraen Country House Hotel. Take a look at some of our other suggestions for Day Trips from Looe.

Here in the Looe Valley, you can relax in a charming historic country house hotel 5 minutes from Looe with optional evening dinner from 12 March and a fully licensed bar with plentiful onsite parking. So treat yourself to a spring break in Cornwall. Our warm hospitality, friendly welcoming relaxed country house atmosphere and peaceful location may be just the tonic you need. “Proper job” as the Cornish say.

Free night offer at Polraen Country House this Spring

Book 3 nights for the price of 2 in any room to stay before April 5.

Book your room at Polraen online now

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One natural, one man-made – both inspiring!

Great coverage by the BBC presenting the joint delights of the Cornish countryside and coastline in one great episode of Countryfile.  Marine Conservation efforts in and around Looe and Cornish Mining Heritage were both featured on  Sunday night (26 Feb). The media interest reflects a growing awareness of the need to protect and conserve our marine habitats and gives deserved recognition to the Cornish mining industry under its World Heritage Site status.  (Not sure how long these links to BBC iPlayer will remain live but here they are for a few days at least. )

Watch the clip of :  Ellie Explores a Wreck. As marine conservation volunteers in Looe, my daughter and I were particularly interested to see the coverage having attended a conference for marine conservation volunteers the day before, organised by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The programme exposes the plight of sea creatures trapped in a fishing net which has got caught around the sunken frigate, HMS Scilla in Whitsand Bay – a popular dive site.

Heading west from the  marine habitats of South East Cornwall, the Countryfile episode encompassed the Cornish mining industry – each in their turn contributing so much to the essence of what makes Cornwall’s landscape unique. Tin mining followed by clay  sculpting the shape of inland Cornwall while the coastline provides many of the magical memories and recreational activities that  visitors recall of their Cornish holiday.

And what lies beneath the waves? Incredible beauty and marine wildlife in abundance that we must protect.

Inspired by these two topics, I’ll shortly be giving each greater exposure on the Polraen website with pages of useful information for visitors so watch this space for interesting places to visit when planning your next holiday. As a taster:

Marine Conservation

Take a look at the exciting programme of mainly free events and activities developed for 2012 from rockshore rambles to seal trips and foraging walks. Details can be downloaded via the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website: the YourShore leaflet gives details of events  organised by the Looe Marine Conservation Group and by the 4 other Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas throughout Cornwall.

Cornish Mining Heritage

There’s so much more to know about the contribution Cornwall and Cornish miners has given to the world! South Africa without rugby? Football without the Mexican wave? From Cornish pasties to tracing your ancestors, take a  look at a new interactive website developed by the World Heritage Site organisation. It brings the story of Cornish mining to life and highlights some really interesting places to visit like the historic port of Charlestown, the clay pits at Wheal Martyn, Caradon Hill mines, and Morwellham Quay . Most are  free and most are all weather attractions – but don’t save them all for just a rainy day – they’re well worth slotting into your sight seeing plans.

 

Film crew use Polraen on location in Looe Valley

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Interesting day yesterday as a film production company (crew of 25+) and endless vehicles set up camp at Polraen Country House in the car park at 5.45 am to start filming a movie (being produced by James Biddle of BigTalk Productions, producer of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’). It’s a horror movie, set in Ireland but being filmed on location here in Cornwall and most specifically, here in the beautiful Looe Valley, so I’ve loaded a few pix to give appropriate credit to the stunning countryside that surrounds Polraen here in the beautiful Looe Valley which on this occasion, is doubling for the verdant pastures of Ireland.

With a log fire burning in Polraen’s  bar to greet them and the hotel providing a warm retreat throughout the day, we were invited to the catering wagon to have breakfast alongside the crew.  (Have to say the egg and bacon wasn’t a patch on Martin’s but very nice to have someone else cook it for you!)

The film is about a young couple setting out on holiday, who can’t find the hotel they are booked into and get horribly lost…….and things start happening. It’s being  filmed on location at various spots throughout South East Cornwall with Bodmin Moor being used for the spooky bits and a pub somewhere further west doubling as the hotel they can’t find………

Much of the action yesterday was filming the couple inside their car as they set out at the start of their holiday.  They drive at speed over an unmanned level crossing at Trenant, across Terras Bridge before hurtling up the hill towards Treworgey. They had to wait for the tide to come up the Looe River so they could film from the water and they needed to avoid filming when the Looe Valley Line train put in an appearance. Various local talents were pulled in. Rob Chapman from Trenant Holiday Cottages supplied a boat and his services to steer his inflatable rib for the camera man and director. James Chudleigh from the Rowing Club/RNLI was called upon to provide health and safety advice, which he gave very succinctly: “Don’t Fall In!”

   

Filming continued after dark under arc lights in the car park at Polraen, recreating day light to film the couple discussing/arguing inside the car. Interesting concept because the actor and actress don’t know the plot……….apparently an experimental approach to capture better reactions when things start happening to them/going wrong.

The film crew have departed for now……but will be returning in the next couple of weeks to film in Kilminorth Woods and Pelynt. They didn’t leave until about 7.00pm so it’s a very long day but they eat well (enjoyed an excellent lunch too courtesy of  Roast Catering – location caterers for TV & Film.) Playing host to a film crew does monopolise your time …. but it was all very interesting and a great experience  - the kind of thing we’d entertain during the quieter months of the year! Unless there’s a bigger budget………..!

The film ‘In Fear’ will be out next year.

 

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Help for Heroes Bangers ‘n Mash Night at Polraen

Monday, November 14th, 2011

We had a great night here at Polraen on Friday! A Sandplace community get together, harnessing the best of community spirit, generosity and kindness for which the Brits are  known. It was a simple affair – a Bangers ‘n Mash night in aid of the Help for Heroes charity. And we raised £443.16. A good time was had by all – a fun quiz, a well supported raffle and a few beers and wines shared in a warm and welcoming atmosphere and in the presence of good company. And for those who want to know where the sausages were from – Warren’s, the Butchers in Liskeard. Hard to beat! We buy all our meat there, great quality for our Sunday roasts!

Oddly enough, we have Network Rail to thank for our new community spirit! Had we not combined forces in the early spring to fight the erection of their telecommunications mast at Sandplace Station, we might never have got to meet our various neighbours, now friends, strung out along the length of the Looe Valley in the small communities of Trenant, Sandplace, Tregarland Bridge, Plashford and Causeland.  Perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining……  And the generosity is illustrated by those who were unable to come but still gave a donation or provided a raffle ticket prize. THANK YOU!

Falling on such an auspicious date as 11.11.11, I was reminded that Remembrance Weekend is about remembering the fallen. And indeed,  no community remains untouched by the impact of war – the name of Lance Corporal Paul Upton (died in Afghanistan in Feb 2009) is remembered through its inscription on the local memorial in Looe – the first name to be added since 1945. But whilst  remembering the dead, we must also look after the wounded.  So if you want to give a donation to Help for Heroes, it’s easy. Click here to simply donate!

And here’s to our next evening. A Mulled Wine and Mince Pies Affair with the odd musical instrument thrown in for good measure. Date to be advised………Watch this space!!

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Sunday Roast Lunch in Looe, Cornwall

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

I thought I’d take two minutes to tell you why we think our Sunday lunch at Polraen is so special and such fantastic value for money at only £8.95 per person.

The Main Course

The key hallmarks of our Sunday roast are that we use only Cornish reared meat from a local butcher – full ribs of beef, shoulder or leg of pork and only free range chickens. The lovely root vegetables – carrots, parsnips, swede, potatoes, cabbage or sprouts are sourced locally, usually from the farm shop and all hand peeled and prepared at Polraen. Martin’s roast potatoes are Maris Piper from a local farm and we part boil to get them nice and fluffy, using either goose fat or beef dripping to get the flavour – wondefully crisp and golden brown. We use minimal salt in our cooking but our rich gravy is  flavoured with a liberal dose of Marsala wine.

The Welcome

We welcome folks into Polraen with the chance to get a drink in the bar before being taken to your table.  And on cold winter days, what a sight to see a lovely blazing real fire!! Then with the help of our waitresses, Ruby, Amelia, Emma and Lucy, supported in the kitchen by Lydia and Antoine, we aim to ensure that our guests enjoy a lovely meal in a warm and friendly atmosphere, served in the conservatory overlooking the garden. It is not a carvery. It is not a preplated meal. Your meal, with separate vegetable dishes, will be served individually to your table so you can help yourself to as much or little as you choose. We are happy to make alternative gravy for celiacs and will endeavour to satisfy special dietary requirements with advance notice. Although we serve only a Sunday Roast dinner, we are happy to prepare a vegetarian meal if ordered in advance.

The Puddings

And then of course there are the puddings from £4.95. Wonderful home made yummy puddings!! In the crumbles, we use apples from Polraen’s award winning garden – we’ve had the best crop ever this year from our two apple trees. And the lovely wholemeal and porridge oat topping is courtesy of a Delia Smith recipe. Pavlovas – for which we have gained quite a reputation over the years – are usually strawberry and kiwi fruit but sometimes I ring the changes with a fresh pineapple. Martin takes the credit for all the main course but I am queen of the pavlovas! But I must thank the lady who used to own Polraen Country House for sharing her secrets with me. Then of course Bread and Butter Pudding! Over the 12 years we have been at Polraen, we have got to know that certain of our puddings are so popular that we can’t take them off the menu. So I make no apology for promising that Martin’s brioche bread and butter pudding will be back each Sunday – flavoured either with Grand Marnier/Cointreau or Whiskey and Ginger Marmalade.

Hope I’ve tempted you!!   When word gets round that we’ve started serving Sunday roasts, we can get well booked up in advance so always best to ring and book a table if you can on 01503 263956 but we’ll always try to squeeze you in on the day.

The aroma of apples and plums simmering in the kitchen is currently filling the house as we prepare for our first Sunday lunch of the 2013 winter season – November 10th.  So hope you can join us one of these Sundays!

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Calling all brides and grooms planning a wedding in Cornwall - keep your diary free for Saturday October 8th to attend a wedding fayre at Polraen Country House, Looe in South East Cornwall.    We have been chosen by Kernow Wedding Belles as the venue for their first wedding fayre!  The burgeoning business is destined to change the face of the wedding preparation market so if you want your day to be special, personal, intimate or different,  you’ll want to attend this wedding fayre with a difference.

The aim of the family-friendly Looe company is to provide a platform for small, independent companies, so that they can showcase their services and wares at a series of intimate and exclusive wedding fayres across the region, housed in some of the most attractive venues imaginable.

The wedding fayre at Polraen Country House,  Sandplace,  near Looe, will take place 10.30 am to 4.30 pm on Saturday, October 8.  In a peaceful location in the beautiful Looe Valley, 2 miles north of the historic fishing port of Looe in South East Cornwall, our family run 18th century country house hotel is no stranger to weddings.  So it’s a wonderful endorsement and accolade that this local company, with expertise in the wedding business, has recognised  the unique combination of location and facilities, including the award winning garden, excellent food and service that we offer.  They describe our venue as  “both beautiful and elegant.  Reputedly built as a coaching inn around 1740, it remained part of the nearby Morval Estate until becoming the family home of Peter Bessell, Liberal MP for South East Cornwall in the 1960s.  It was later converted into a small hotel and has since undergone considerable refurbishment which complements its natural Cornish country house charm .”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Kernow Wedding Belles plan “to stage a wedding fayre offering a wealth of taste and style, backed by the hospitality and business acumen gleaned from the proprietors’ combined years of employment experience.”  The Belles are the Looe-based mother and daughters team of Stephanie Hawkins, mum to Jodie and recently wed Carrie-Ann Richardson, and all of them have a successful background in the wedding industry. “Response to Looe Wedding Belles’ first fayre has been fantastic with at least five new businesses exhibiting to the market for the first time.”

Exhibitiors will include Cake Makers, Photographers, Jewellers, Car Hire, Bridal wear, Florists, a Travel Company & a whole host of professionals who will be demonstrating their particular expertise in the industry. Free entry & complimentary drink on arrival.

For further details, please contact Jodie on 01503 265448 or Carrie- Ann on 07875 266 220 or 07551 008 677 respectively.

Directions/How to find us

The South East Cornwall Walking Festival 17-25 September and Looe’s Making Waves Music Festival 23-25 September. What a great week to visit Looe! You’ll find yourself spoilt for choice with a great selection of guided walks covering the East and West Looe River Valleys, the Looe Valley in AutumnTamar, Bodmin Moor, and the South West Coast Path.

Then you can change from walking boots to dancing shoes to head down to any of the 3 sound stages over the weekend of 23, 24 and 25 September where the focus will be on different music styles in a fantastic music festival ‘Making Waves’ with headline acts including Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds and Roy Wood and his Rock n Roll Band. 

Making Waves Music Festival in Looe - the staged venues:

  • West Looe Quay marquee with a Cornish traditional feel
  • The Rose Garden Marquee, East Looe with an easy listening ambiance
  • The Beach and Seafront with an al fresco rock, pop, punk vibe.

Music will be concentrated during the day on the 3 soundstages then local pubs, restaurants and cafes will take over in the evening to maximise the benefits to the local economy.  Workshops, street entertainment and dance performances will add to the festival atmosphere.

And it’s very affordable!  A weekend ticket is £40 for all venues if your’e over 18, while 14-17 age group pay only £10 and accompanied under 14s go FREE.  Saturday only tickets are £25. The weekend kicks off on Friday with a ‘giant pasty’ procession from East Looe to West Looe where everyone is invited to ‘make some noise’ to welcome the pasty followed by a Noz Lowen on West Looe Quay from around 5pm (traditional Cornish dance). So if you haven’t got your tickets yet, click on the Making Waves Festival logo above and get online to book! After Wednesday, tickets will be sent via text to your phone. You can also get them from the Looe Tourist Information Centre (tel 01503 262072) or on the gate.

If you need accommodation, at Polraen, Check Availability for 2 and 3 night breaks until end September.

See you there!

A newspaper article in today’s Daily Mail (July 11th 2011) ‘Hotels ‘bribe guests for online reviews’ compels me to add a comment.  And to give some advice to those seeking to use tripadvisor in order to find a good hotel or bed and breakfast/guest house.

Firstly, I consider tripadvisor to be a useful tool for enabling guests to give objective and honest feedback and for it to be shared with fellow travellers. At Polraen, we have encouraged feedback via tripadvisor for a couple of years now, by displaying a tripadvisor stand close to our visitors book and in a simple email to our guests, thank them for their stay and provide a link to the review page, assuring them “What you write is totally up to you.”  We offer no incentives. Which is why there is some cause for concern that the system is being abused by some hoteliers, and sadly by a Cornwall hotel. I’m glad that tripadvisor reviews of Polraen Country House Hotel are overwhelmingly positive BUT…….. stories like today’s will regretfully undermine the perceived impartiality of the tripadvisor site. So for those seeking to use tripadvisor as a source of information to help make the right decision on where to book, here are some points to bear in mind.

Tripadvisor Reviews – Six Top Tips

  1. Be sceptical of any establishment which has 5 star reviews – exclusively!  The saying ‘You can’t please all of the people all of the time is true’. So if there is nothing negative at all under a rave review listing, consider that only ‘safe’ guests (or friends) are being invited to submit reviews.
  2. Don’t be put off by the odd negative review about a place you like the look of. Read several reviews to understand the trend over time.  And for a poor review, always read the management response if there is one, giving the ‘other side of the story’. If however, no management responses are shown against poor reviews, consider that this reflects a complacent attitude by the hotel management – ie not taking the time to respond to a guest complaint. 
  3. Remember, some guests can be ‘bad guests’ with malicious intent who set about finding fault.  If a guest makes the initial mistake in booking a hotel not suited to their needs, a complaint will frequently result  but…..Is this the fault of the hotel or the guest? If a guest expects to use a gift voucher on a Sat night in peak season for a one night stay, and can’t, so submits a negative review out of frustration, tripadvisor still accept this as a customer service experience, yet the rating might only reflect the misunderstanding of terms and conditions/frustration/disappointment and not necessarily the hotel’s customer service performance during the phone enquiry.
  4. Note that sometimes, tripadvisor gets it wrong and unfairly upholds a bad review (disputed by the hotel owner) because the tripadvisor ‘dispute’ email is limited to 200 characters which occasionally does not permit a proper understanding of the issue. (We had an experience of this ourselves when a guest posted a picture almost 2 years after their stay, posting it as NEW! when it was in fact 20 months old since when our bathrooms had been refurbished! It took nearly 6 weeks to get the misleading and defamatory photo taken down.) 
  5. Don’t let the rather offputting privacy policy dissuade you from submitting a review.  One of our guests recently drafted an excellent review * but declined to submit it, as they were concerned for their privacy when confronted by a lengthy opt-in policy regarding Facebook sign in.   I raised the issue via the tripadvisor forum, and received this explanation.  ‘There is no requirement to sign on through FaceBook. It is an option. And there is no requirement to share your reviews. You can say No.  TripAdvisor has options to: (a) disconnect completely from FaceBook if you had at some point connected; (b) disable instant personalization.’  Other advice also highlighted that it is incumbent upon Facebookers to review their own privacy settings on Facebook to control the level of access which others have to their Facebook posts etc. (My own view?  When tripadvisor is seeking to have access to your profle information and to access your friends information,  I certainly have sympathy with my guest who was concerned “about potentially being bombarded with their adverts, or subjecting  my family to the same.” From a marketing perspective, if something appears off putting and intrusive and therefore acts as an obstacle to travellers undertaking the desired outcome (ie submitting a review) then I would argue that the onus is on the marketing gurus at tripadvisor to consider this. I have found that it has only been the relatively recent development of the Facebook sign in option that has escalated the issue – as the level of text dedicated to the opt in approval prior to submitting a review has become overcomplicated and lengthy – a potential turn off to our guests.  I will be monitoring how comfortable our guests feel about this going forward.)
  6. Remember, regardless of how attractive the incentive is, don’t accept a bribe! However well dressed up it is! And consider reporting any establishment which, in your opinion, is coercing you to submit a biased review. 

Businesses like Polraen over the last couple of years have contributed hugely to building tripadvisors community of travellers by encouraging the practice of posting reviews.  Regretfully, it does seem that the independent review site appears a little ‘less independent’ now tripadvisor is charging for business listings to feature contact details and special offers, earning revenue from selling third party ad space to online booking agencies and sadly being manipulated by some accommodation owners in this way.

*And here is the review about Polraen that never got posted: ”

“This is a great little Hotel with very friendly owners who go out of their way to make their guests welcome. Our room was small but very comfortable and spotlessly clean. The free Wi-fi was useful. The food is locally sourced and beautifully cooked by Martin. The menu is varied, the food well presented and everything was delicious. Gill is queen of the raspberry pavlovas!

The setting is very peaceful, with a lovely garden and ample parking. We found it convenient for exploring with and without the car. There are many exciting places of interest within a reasonable distance. We visited Eden, Tintagel, Heligan and more. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Polraen and we would love to go again.”

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I’m really excited that we have a member of staff attending a Green Foundation Course at the Eden Project. The course is designed to help businesses in Cornwall prepare for the coming changes in legislation regarding climate change.  At Polraen Country House, we strive to be increasingly environmentally friendly as conservation and concern for our environment have always been key considerations for us in running our family business over the last 11 years. We’ve gradually incorporated policies from recycling and housekeeping routines to careful selection of cleaning products and toiletries, from double glazing our windows to insulating our roof, replacing our freezers and boiler and changing all our light bulbs in order to lower our carbon footprint. Our efforts to date have been recognised by receiving a ‘Green Acorn Award’ from the South East Cornwall Tourism Association.

But now, we have a staff member totally inspired and full of enthusiasm to ensure that we focus on some new initiatives to further improve our ‘green’ credentials. We’ve nick named her ‘the eco warrior’. Sometime in the not too distant future, I feel that solar powered hot water and photo voltaic generation will be a reality for us together with extended composting and even closer scrutiny of the ingredients in our cleaning products and food miles on our menu!! And our volunteer work with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust in promoting and helping to run marine activities on behalf of the Looe Voluntary Marine Conservation Area is part of the bigger picture – along with encouraging our guests to take the bus or train into Looe rather than their car.

Thought for the Day:

Rome wasn’t built in a day (!) and we are only a little micro business but if we focus on one project at a time, eating away at our carbon footprint in bite size chunks, the sum of the whole is greater than we could ever imagine. Together, we can all make a difference…………..

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