Lock down at Top Barn

It hardly seems possible that at the time of writing this blog we have been in lock down for over eight weeks. We closed the bed and breakfast in mid-March and remain closed until we receive new guidance relaxing the current arrangements, enabling us to safely accept guests again. These are unusual times for all households but for us it has been very strange not having guests arriving, no extra laundry and no cooked breakfasts.

There are some positives that we can take from the lock down. More time to work in the garden is perhaps the biggest benefit. Like many people up and down the country we have taken advantage of the extra time and generally glorious weather to dig, sow, plant and weed our garden. We have more vegetables planted this year than ever, so much in fact that more barren land has been dug and given over to vegetable production.

The garden infrastructure has also been improved with the addition of a new pond, paths, extensions to patios and flower beds added. At the beginning of March, we had decided to install a small summerhouse in the bed and breakfast garden, but with supply problems at present this has been put on hold until the summer but at least the base has been prepared. Likewise, our long-awaited alterations to the Holkham Room with the addition of an outside door will need to wait until we can source materials and our builder friend is available to assist.

In the field we have been tidying up and preparing for the addition of new livestock, it’s surprising how much damage to the land three adult pigs can do. Last week we took delivery of three Large Black weaners, so beforehand the pig field needed levelling and some fencing repairs. This is our first experience of the Large Black and as the name suggests these pigs will grow rapidly to weights in excess of 100kg. Late last year the fox killed our chickens and rather than replacing them during the very wet winter months we decided not to restock until the spring, so the hunt is now on for some point of lay hens. We realise that this has been the first period we have been without eggs produced at Top Barn for about eighteen years.

One of the next major projects is exterior painting. We have numerous doors and windows at Top Barn, fortunately all at ground level but all in need of repainting this year. We know this will be a marathon job taking at least three weeks to complete so we are hoping for some dry and warm weather in June and July. Even with the opportunities of more time at home that the lock down presents, we still have far more jobs and projects to complete than time available. Top Barn is a continuous project, always something more to do, always something more we would like to do, never quite the time to complete everything on the list.

When we consider the very challenging situation of being confined at home we count our blessings that we live in a rural setting with extensive grounds, no close neighbours and open countryside all around. We have been able to take exercise daily and walk the dogs as usual. Like most people we have maintained close contact with our neighbours, friends and family using technology and a carefully orchestrated community clapping each Thursday evening to show our appreciation for everyone who has been so magnificent in serving us all and helping to keep us safe during this Covid-19 crisis.

What will be the ‘new normal’ at Top Barn? We think and hope that in time many people will be happy to take short breaks in the UK rather than travelling further afield. Our local hospitality trade really does need a boost. Of course, at Top Barn we want to be ready to welcome guests in the future and we hope that improvements during this lockdown will be valued, but fundamentally our principal offer remains the same. If peace and tranquillity is what you want from a bed and breakfast, then Top Barn offers that perfect rural retreat. We have never wanted to lose that relaxed atmosphere and looking to the future we have no plans to offer anything more than good Norfolk hospitality.

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