Devon, United Kingdom (PressExposure) March 09, 2011 -- Combe House Devon, a romantic country hotel and restaurant near Exeter, has been run privately by the Hunt family for the past twelve years. During this time, Ruth and Ken have transformed this stunning Grade I Elizabethan country manor and its gardens into a truly memorable place to stay. Their love of hospitality and genuine desire to offer guests something special has helped the house to grow organically through a series of sustainable projects.
Although the Hunts have only recently started using the terms 'eco' and 'sustainable' to describe their work, their first 'green' project was back in 1999 when they discovered other residents at Combe - a colony of rare Lesser Horseshoe bats which are only found in South West England and Wales. The house was adapted to ensure the bats habitat remained intact and they have since been joined by even rarer Greater Horseshoe bats. It's now the ninth largest colony in the UK.
Other highlights have included the faithful restoration of the derelict Georgian kitchen in 2003. This was followed by the gardener's outdoor washing facility; now a bath house for guests' use. It's filled with rainwater collected from the roof and heated by a wood-fired boiler using logs from the estate - Combe's alternative to a spa.
2005 saw the restoration of the derelict Victorian laundry at the rear of Combe House Devon into the signature Linen Suite. The vast, original drying rack was retained and suspended from the ceiling in the sitting room and a large, round 6ft diameter copper washtub - reminiscent of bygone wash days - was commissioned for the bathroom.
The restoration of Combe Thatch Cottage was completed the following year, a romantic hideaway for two with a secluded walled garden at the end of the mile-long drive. Next came the Thatched Garden Folly and open Thatched Bath House, both hidden in the woodland garden and built by the Combe team and local artisan tradesmen.
More recent and ongoing projects include planting new orchards; re-introducing the 'Putt' apple and bringing back cider-making; creating soft fruit gardens; converting two large lawns into a kitchen garden and restoring an overgrown Victorian garden to supply around 70% of the fruit and vegetables in season needed by Combe's chefs to help turn their food miles into food metres. The derelict Victorian potting sheds and glass houses have also now been restored to full working use.
Future plans include the restoration of the Georgian orangery for special events, and stables and outbuildings into a bakery, butchery and Devon cookery school, plus the introduction of free range chickens and rare breed pigs into Combe's apple orchards.
Local Seasonal Food
Ruth and Kent Hunt have always been strong supporters of the use of rural industries purchasing quality local produce whenever possible. Combe's two resident Master Chefs of Great Britain, Hadleigh Barrett and Stuart Brown, now take 'local' a step further and seek out nearby farmers who believe in the closed cycle system where animals are born and bred on the same farm and never leave until ready for the local abattoir, which is two miles from the farm. This is real farm-to-plate practice.
Combe's sustainable projects have gained them several awards including the 'Most Excellent Innovation in Sustainable Hospitality' from Condé Nast Johansen 2010 and a Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
Accommodation in the main house at Combe is in fifteen luxurious en-suite bedrooms and suites, including a four-poster and the Linen Suite, while tucked away at the entrance to the drive is Combe Thatch Cottage; prices for 2011 start from £199 B&B per double/twin room per night. Dogs are welcome in some rooms and the cottage.
Both staying guests and non-residents are most welcome to enjoy Combe's full dining experience, which starts with drinks and canapés on the croquet lawn on warmer days, or by the crackling log fire in the Great Hall when it is chilly outdoors. A three-course dinner is £49 per person while lunch, also three courses, is £33pp, both with canapés.
For details call Combe House Devon on 01404 540 400 or visit http://www.combehousedevon.com.
Combe House has a Green Tourism Gold Award and is a member of the Sustainable Restaurants Association.