Whalesborough and the Life-Altering Box of Meat – By Monty Halls

We hear from Monty Halls - British Presenter and Marine Biologist, who stayed at Whalesborough this Autumn with his family, including Luna the dog...

Life is all about joining the dots, and in this particular case, the first dot was the wonderful folk at the Cleaner Seas group, who just happen to have devised a filter that stops microfibres from escaping your weekly wash and getting into the sea. Hurrah indeed, and we had a terrific few days filming with them last Summer telling their story. But, as seems entirely appropriate for a marine-based environmental initiative, they have a great many tentacles that spread into lots of other organisations, and on the back of that work, we received an invitation from Whalesborough, a family spa resort that uses these filters on all their washing machines.

“Come and stay for a few days,’ they said, “and we’ll show you all the other environmental things we’re doing.”

No further invitation was required, and so I bundled the girls – Tam (indeterminate age), Isla (11), Molly (9) and Luna (a dog) – into the car, and off we drove.

First things first. Whalesborough is not only a resort, it’s also a working farm. This is central to its identity, providing a focal point around which all other activities swirl. That includes the buildings themselves – cottages and barns that are sympathetic to the ancient agricultural land on which they stand – and of course the animals which are very much part of the experience.

We were staying in the main Whalesborough Farmhouse, a beautiful, very old, white cottage. “Cottage” is perhaps a strange term, as it was a substantial building, with all manner of wobbly floors, inglenooks, and cupboards that, when opened, turned out to be entire rooms. In fact, when Isla (who knows a thing or two about most things) first clapped eyes on it, she said: “There’s no way that’s our cottage, it’s too big.” But somehow it pulled off the trick of being large, and yet cosy at the same time. By the time we had to leave, Molly simply didn’t want to go and had to be wrestled off the premises – she may well have snuck back actually, haven’t seen her for a while…

Whilst exploring the house – us looking for towels and storage, the kids looking for the wi-fi and ghosts – I found a large box of meat in the fridge. This had been left as a sample of the farm produce, and would turn out to be moderately life-altering. But more of that shortly.

We’d turned up fairly late, so there was just time for a quick – but massive – meal in the on-site Weir Restaurant, then we burped our way back up the hill and retreated to our respective beds, passing out under duvets the size of thunder clouds.

The next morning, we were booked on a tour with Farmer Dan. There are pictures of Dan all over Whalesborough, cartoon depictions of a classic farmer – all flat cap and board grin. And when we met him outside the pig enclosure, what do you know but he turned out to be the only man on earth who indeed looked precisely like his cartoon. Flat cap, broad grin, warm welcome, and vast inherited knowledge.

After introducing us to the pigs – all traditional breeds, with bristly snouts and boar in their bones – we jumped in the trailer to be taken further afield. Dan had brought his dog along, to do a quick demo of rounding up the sheep. Recently retired, the dog reminded me very much of an old gladiator, a tad creaky but ready for one more rumble. Dan kindly allowed us to bring Luna along, who sat in the base of the trailer looking (ironically) sheepish in the presence of a dog that actually had a job.

Reaching the top of a green rise overlooking the wild northern coast of Cornwall, Dan leapt out of the tractor, the dog followed, and they duly worked in glorious harmony to round up the sheep (who, as demo sheep, did seem rather resigned to the daily demo. The one at the back had its hands in its pockets and was kicking stones). But it was magic – the kids had never seen anything like it before, and will never forget it. Neither will Luna, who gazed adoringly at the sheepdog all the way home, lost in admiration. She went on to twitch and snuffle that night in her basket, running free to whistles and crisp commands.

There are two types of people who do tours. The first are surly and weary of it all, veterans of a thousand banal questions. The second are those with genuine pride, and genuine delight in introducing others to their lifetime’s work. Farmer Dan was very much in the latter camp, and went on to show the kids how to feed the chickens, the goats, the alpacas, and – best of all – use the huge bucket on the front of the tractor.

I asked him about the organic moniker for the farm, and what it really means.

“Well,” he said, considering the question for a moment, “all I can say is that our meat is from traditional breeds, is raised entirely on the land using natural food, and travels a few hundred yards to the restaurant on site. That’s about as organic as you can make it, I’d say.”

The afternoon was spent in the pool, with the kids shining like otters as they shrieked and splashed. I’m not entirely sure how the guests on the poolside felt about this, particularly those who had come for a holistic escape involving tantric clenching (I just made that up), but they seemed, if not delighted to have two red heads roaring with laughter for twenty minutes, then at least tolerant of their presence.

The gym is ridiculous. It’s the type of gym that would be the end result if someone sat me down and said “Right, design your perfect gym”. Airy, great kit, sprung floors, a huge variety of workout options, and a pool nearby for when it all gets a bit much.

The rest of the stay was spent exploring the farm – lots of information boards and interactive play for the kids, particularly around the restaurant – and walking along the coast. I had a chat with Nigel – the resort manager – who told me that they’re striving for a zero carbon footprint, and think they’re pretty much there now.

We loved Whalesborough. The memories are vivid and generally involve being outside, or exploring, or meeting the animals, or leaping into the pool. It’s a rather nice blend for a family, and also ensures the wee ones sleep like logs every night.

Ask the kids, and there’ll be a few stand-out moments. The sheepdog. The pool. The dog wash (although Luna was not quite so keen). And daddy falling into the septic tank. Ah, yes, the septic tank. Now, VERY important to note that this was 100% my fault, and nothing to do with Whalesborough in the slightest. Basically, I was trying to get a good photo, and clambered over something I shouldn’t have done, and walked somewhere that I wasn’t supposed to, and ended up with one leg going through a manhole and up to my knee in septic tank water.

To be very clear about this, from Isla and Molly’s perspective this was the greatest thing that had ever happened to anyone in the history of anything anywhere. Even the lovely lady at reception couldn’t help smiling as I told her the story, although she managed to be suitably sympathetic at the same time. The photo I ended up taking was fairly average as well.

And the box of meat. Like a lot of people nowadays, I don’t eat much red meat, but when I got home I decided to get stuck into the lamb steaks and pork sausages in the box. I swear, they were delicious, but more than that the energy boost I felt was absurd. I know, sounds ridiculous, but maybe it was that burst of good organic iron, maybe my body just needed some primal protein, but it was life-alteringly good. Now, at least once a week, I try to eat some red meat.

So, thanks for that Whalesborough. And for everything else – we won’t forget our brief stay on your lovely farm.

Plan your Stay

View Cottages

Make a booking

Check Availability