We feel very fortunate to own a beautiful old house in a lovely part of the world. We are very aware that living here carries with it certain responsibilities: to the house, to the local area and to the environment
A Country Tradition
Grove Fort came into the family in the 1920s almost 100 years ago as a working farm. It was built from stone and mortar and originally the outhouses were joined to it. In the 1920s it was white washed and had a set of concrete steps going up the front of it to a shop loft. This shop was run at that time by two sisters with the surname Allen. I am not certain if they were related to the owner at that time, Mrs Isabella Allen, who was my husband’s grandmother.
Together with her daughter, Mrs Allen churned the milk from the farm’s cows into ‘country’ butter. They sold this, together with fresh eggs from the hens, to help to provide for their considerable family.
The house was renovated at various times. In 1972 a kitchen and bathroom were built on at the rear of the property. Most recently, in 2005 the adjoining outhouses and the concrete steps were taken down, double glazing and central heating were installed and the plaster layer was removed, uncovering the original stonework beneath.
At Grove-Fort, every effort is made to minimise the impact on the environment, as this is something that is very dear to our hearts. Living in an ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ a deeper sense of appreciation is developed for the natural world and its fragility. By adhering daily to principles such as “reduce, re-use, and recycle,” minimising packaging and not using plastic bags, we have reduced waste and improved recycling at the farm. We are truly blessed to have an abundance of wild and farmed produce that can be used in cooking and add a delicious ‘home cooked’ element to baking and cooking. Blackberries, damsons, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, apples, black currants and gooseberries are just some of the seasonal produce that we use to add to pies, jams and scones throughout the year. The jam for welcome packs is well-received and we reuse jam jars for storage. Our guests enjoy Fair-trade tea, coffee in the welcome pack. The sugar used for making jam is also Fair-trade.
Reducing electricity and saving water is important to us. The linen from the cottage is laundered using eco-friendly washing powder and line dried, weather permitting. Guests are given the same opportunity to dry their laundry in the fresh air The house is cleaned by using eco-friendly cleaning products so hopefully, during your stay at Grove Fort your body will get a rest from the constant bombardment of toxins which we are accustomed to experience in an increasingly toxic world
Environmentally sensitive renovation
As we updated the facilities of the house, we tried to minimise our impact on the environment, for example, keeping the original stone work, replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones, putting thermostats on all the radiators and increasing insulation wherever possible.
We try to use our business to support the local economy by encouraging our guests to spend money in the local shops and restaurants and promoting local attractions and services. As a couple, we endeavour to buy all our food, building materials and appliances from local firms.
As you may imagine, there is an abundance of wildlife in the area, if you know where to look. Bird species are plentiful and include blue tits, wagtails, thrushes, robins, bullfinch, chaffinch, sparrows, wrens, pheasants, blackbirds, buzzards and hawks. We are fortunate to be one of the few areas in Ireland with a stable red kite population. These magnificent birds are seen on a daily basis and can come quite close, especially in the winter months as they search for food. These birds had disappeared from Ireland until there reintroduction in 2009 to the South-Down Area. Farm animals including cattle, sheep and spring lambs and the donkey are a great talking point and often photographed. More difficult to spot are the grey squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, hares, and the now abundant rabbits.
All visitors are welcome to Grove Fort. If you as a visitor have a particular interest in looking after the environment you are especially welcome! We would encourage you to join us by; for example getting out and about to see what the area has to offer, consider having car-free days when you might walk or cycle, perhaps think about using the new electric bicycles which may be hired locally, using eco-friendly products during your stay and reducing the carbon footprint where possible. Hopefully, this will only add to your vacation experience!