Our journey at Trewena: building our dream Falmouth Holiday cottage business

We’re often asked by guests about our journey at Trewena so here goes… I’m going to try and distil the last three years of work into a blog post! 

But first allow me to delve into the past and give you some context that’ll help explain how we got here. Straight from school I became an apprentice sheet metal worker in my hometown, Plymouth, before deciding in my mid-20s that it would be a good idea to become a history teacher. So I downed tools and trotted off to Nottingham Uni to read History and Chinese Studies. I never did become a history teacher but instead became leaned heavily into the ‘China’ part of my degree, eventually completing a PhD at the University of Hong Kong which was looking at tourism and the economic development of ethnic minority areas in China. After that I stayed in Hong Kong and moved into the corporate world of information services. 

Throughout all these adventures, in the back of my mind I always had the dream of running some kind of hospitality business. Whether that be an on-the-beach hostel offering BBQs and board hire to surf travellers or a spit-and-sawdust campsite in somewhere I didn’t quite know. I just knew I’d like somewhere that I would allow me to do all the things that I loved; to get my hands dirty building and fixing things whilst also thinking about how to craft a brand and to (try) to offer a service that people enjoy. 

It was after meeting Hellen that these ideas came into more focus. Hellen was keen to move back to Cornwall, and soon after starting our family we decided it was time to leave Hong Kong and start the next chapter; a small cottage business with potential to grow was in our sights.

So without further ado, here’s a (very) abridged version of what we’ve been up to since February 2021. 

We arrived onsite on 1st February 2021. This was right in the middle of Covid. In retrospect  it wasn’t the best time to buy. Covid restrictions not only made the sale very slow, but they also restricted our opportunity to poke around the place we were buying. We knew we were getting a ‘doer-upper’ but probably didn’t really comprehend how much we’d bitten off!

Safe to say that by the evening of our first night, by the time we’d both fully comprehended the task at hand we both felt more than a hint of buyers remorse!

During the sale we were lucky enough to be offered to buy the field behind the us from a local farmer (which is now the orchard), but that wasn’t completed until after we moved in. So our first neighbours were a bunch of cows. We loved that initially although by summer we’d learned that cows bring with them A LOT of flies so were glad when they moo-ved on. 

There were some major things that needed doing straight away. The chimneys were leaking and needed repointing, the whole roof needed woodworm treatment with timbers replaced throughout. 

Whilst this was happening I set to to work tearing our house internally back to brick throughout which meant we spent our first couple of months in Little Avalon. As soon as our house was vaguely liveable attention was turned to Little Avalon itself. We also took that back to brick, repainted the lot and put in new flooring and a new kitchen and furniture. 

I was in a race to get the cottages up and running for the summer. During 2021 it seemed like every man and his dog wanted to come to Cornwall so we really wanted to get in on the action.

We (stupidly) had listed with an agent so head a deadline to be guest ready. The photo below is the day that our first guests came. By this point I was absolutely running on fumes! 

Despite being open there was still lots of work ongoing. Not least turning the buildings from pink to white. It preparation for this I spent 5 full days up a ladder scraping ivy tendrils off the wall with a chisel. This is by far and away the worst job I have ever done. My hand was in agony every night to the extent that I could also barely sleep. 

The previous owners had very green fingers and had spent the previous thirty years planting out what is now the garden which we love. However in the middle of the garden (in what is now a sitting out area) there was a “pond” that was completely overgrown and inaccessible which had largely turned into a swap due to no drainage and years of leaves from the bamboo (which had taken over swathes of the area around it) settling into the water. 

To take ‘breaks’ from the building work I started work on chopping back and clearing parts of the garden. I tackled a huge Pampas which was finished off by my Dad (who’ll you meet a few times in this blog) with his chainsaw! 

I also had to remove masses of bamboo which had started to run throughout the lawn. Yep, lots and lots of digging involved!

The garden is something that has just been ‘managed’ up to now but I’m hoping that 2025 will be the year I can really start to get to grips with it. 

When we first moved in there were several large but very rotten sheds in what is now the parking area. I knocked the sheds down and set to work putting a new roof and extending a small outbuilding. This also enabled me to enlarge the parking area. We also got planning to convert a double garage next to The Pigsty into what is now the Tractor Shed so needed to ensure we had space to expand. 

Next up was building a barn to store some of our agricultural kit with a long term view of being able to make some cider on site!

At the beginning of 2023 we got a grant to plant 1,000 trees so I spent a large part of that spring planting saplings. Once they were in the ground we kept getting deer coming in to eat them so I then had to fence the planted areas off. You can read more about that project here

The owner of Trewena Cottages in Falmouth standing in front of a field that has native Cornish hedgerows planted in it.

In later 2023 I quit my job so that I could really hit some of the big upcoming jobs and commit all my time to them. The Tractor Shed was converted and this also gave us an excuse to install new services and again remodel the parking area. 

During winter 2023 we also set to work complying to the new fire regs for holiday lets so I used that as an excuse to turn Little Avalon into a 1 bed rather than a 2 bed. 

As of summer 2024 we’re pretty much where we want to be with the cottages (for now) so I’ve turned my attention back to our own house.

In the long term I’d like to build a couple of log cabins in the back meadow but Hellen has asked me to take a pause for now.

We’ll see how long that lasts… The story continues!