TOM'S ECO LODGE, Isle of Wight | When it comes to seeking out stylish family-friendly eco holiday destinations in the UK, it's surprising how few options there are. If you're in the mood for camping – or should I say glamping – I reviewed Tom's Eco Lodge for The Telegraph but it's more 'themed farm' than boutique hotel. What's important to us, is that sustainability is at the heart of what they do. 

Tapnell Farm has been milking cows and growing maize for a century – and now family-friendly tourism is the headline act here. The safari tents at this ranch-like retreat on the Isle of Wight are suited to sticklers for sustainability; ideal for fans of the Featherdown Farm experience. — The Telegraph

Here's how a holiday at Tom's Eco Lodges makes a difference…

Environment

  • The Lodge has been completed with minimal impact on the environment. Building materials are predominantly wood and natural canvas. The safari tents are sat on raised decking reducing the impact on the land.
  • At the end of 2014 they installed a biomass boiler to heat all of the properties at Tapnell Farm.
  • As well as having two large solar fields (one at Tapnell Farm, and one next door at East Afton farm) they have installed solar panels on a farm barn (49KW) and two cottages (6KW).
  • Sewage is cleaned using a Biodigester pure flow treatment unit, which naturally processes the discharge and the treated water is good enough to drink. (Not that they use it for that.)
  • They are part of Natural England's Environmental Stewardship's scheme. This entails hedgerows, field corners, woodland and pond-edge management and areas planted with wild birdseed crops and the retention of over-wintered stubbles for feeding of wild birds.
  • They ask that you keep an eye out for owls, especially barn owls. Ian and Jane Brett who have worked in the dairy for decades, assessed the barn owl population to have declined seriously by the 1980s and then bred enough on the farm; sufficient to be able to donate some surplus owls to the Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre at Ringwood in Dorset.
  • The family has been in farming for over 100 years and they took over the care of Tapnell and East Afton Farms in 1982. The farm now has 300 cows and produces 8,000 litres of fresh wholesome milk each and every day of the year, no exceptions. Production is sustained 365.25 days a year, every year. 
  • They aim to approach their new tourism work with the same mindset and endeavour, combined with the passion for the countryside, farming and the Island. The golden rule is “to pass on our farm in better environmental and productive health than it was at the beginning of our life’s tenure”.

Community

  • They promote and use local cleaners, builders, plumbers, shops and produce where possible. The Island is a relatively small place and you quickly become known so it’s important to work with each other and in harmony. All guest to the safari tents and the farm are always encouraged to utilise local producers, suppliers, attractions, pubs and restaurants.
  • Being on the Island brings a greater sense of community and togetherness and due to the obvious and clear borders they use what they can within those borders.
  • They have no real need to use external people, as the Island is becoming ever more sustainable as a single entity. They hope to only add to this drive to make the Island sustainable.
  • Staying at Tom’s Eco Lodge, Tapnell Farm and the Isle of Wight opens up local experiences that both young and old can learn from and enjoy. These experiences, as simple as, witnessing a calf being born, might seem unspectacular to those who enjoy country life day in day out, but for most this is a rare experience.

Landscape

  • Our farm is surrounded by small and randomly shaped fields that form the pasture and meadows of the countryside, which gently undulates from Tapnell Down to the south, to the Hamstead Heritage Coast and coastal woodlands to the north. The picturesque chalk down grassland and forests to the south are not only part of the protected landscape, but are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest and described by Natural England as being “probably the best example in Britain of chalk grassland under maritime influence”. This species rich chalk grassland includes plants such as the Horseshoe Vetch, which supports the Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue Butterflies. The 125m-high downland offers spectacular panoramic views of the Protected Landscape and both the Tennyson Heritage Coast along the south of the Island and the Hamstead Heritage Coast along the north of the Island.
  • They've planted more than 30 acres of native woodland and 4km of hedgerow with the help of local experts Landscape Therapy, who help manage our landscape for the benefit of the wildlife and peoples pleasure.
  • Some of our landscape and biodiversity conservation work has been supported and grant aided by the Forestry Commission, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership and the West Wight Landscape Partnership. Particularly important, is our Isle of Wight provenence of small leaf lime trees. We are lucky enough to be looking after the only group of these trees left on the island and through careful management they are increasing in number.
  • They offer walks around the farm and into the parlour, if you don’t mind a bit of muck! We are keen to share our knowledge and understanding of farming in the Landscape. You can join us when we feed the calves and walk the many beautiful routes of the local area; there is much to see and learn, from Tennyson to

Farming

  • Being an Island and the definitive borders that come with that means there is a real opportunity to explore the whole Island with freedom that at you are never going to be too far away. So you can just head off where ever you want and enjoy the freedom, without being too lost. This has drifted far from the point but that’s what can happen on the island…