What is Cotna Like?
We are an organic smallholding, specialising in salad leaves to sell locally while growing enough veg and fruit through the year to sustain ourselves and our visitors. There are 3 polytunnels, about 2 acres of productive garden and orchard, 4 acres of woodland and lots of open space – 14 acres in all. It is a place for people to come on retreat and quiet holidays in our straw bale barn and 2 yurts. It is a place where people can learn about and participate in a lifestyle that is attempting to be sustainable, in terms of food production, energy and the various projects that keep Cotna going. We run courses including wild food foraging, yoga, dowsing; through classes and also just being here it seems to be a place where people find inspiration to take away with them to their own lives.
In the past year and a half, we have started to invite in WWOOFERs to help us out, and this has absolutely transformed the place. We had already made progress in the previous 4 years with the kind help of friends and paid expertise, but it was too much for the two of us to fully develop our vision of Cotna, at the same time as working to bring in an income to keep the place going. It all came down to time and money, and there never seemed to be enough of either!
Through having volunteers here, mainly WWOOFERs, we have made some great progress and at the same time met some amazing people whose presence has really enhanced our lives. These people have come from all over: Italy, Spain, France, Chile, Galicia, South Africa, Latvia, Wales and also around England & Cornwall. They have gone on to other places such as Indonesia, Patagonia, Kerala, Russia, Italy, Greece, other UK farms, festivals … and Manchester! The international element permeates the atmosphere here – the fantastic food, the open-minded conversations, the whole culture of the place. Several people from overseas have commented, “This is not typical England,” in a good way, we hope! Projects our volunteers have helped with, or even initiated and run, include the barn decking (thanks Tom), the round-oak railings around the barn and various handrails, beautiful gates, Woodhenge (thanks Rees, Graham, Max & Matthieu), the Shower Cabin & compost Loo (thanks Dave & Iona), the Chilean pond of curses! (thanks Jesu, Carlos – and Veronica for the calmer phase 2!), the compost bins (thanks Julia & Neil) & preparing beds (gracias Sergio & Marta), woodland work and hedgelaying (thanks Dom, Dave, Steve, Pete Rowe at al) the strimming & scything (cheers Toby!) – and the endless planting, weeding, picking, bagging, labelling, cooking and bottling (thanks to all especially Iona, Helen, Verena et al. Thank you Bronwyn for reminding us to talk to the trees, thank Cotna’s amazing water & listen to the earth more deeply. And finally, WWOOFER of the year (and possibly lifetime) prize must go to the wonderful Matteo who has immersed himself into Cotna and family life for a whole year, with unfailing positivity, humour, kindness and endless hard work in the veg gardens– thank you so much!
We ask that people maintain a fairly quiet and calm atmosphere while they work and relax, as we do have people on retreat here, sometimes in silence. Work opportunities here vary, but will always include all kinds of gardening, composting, carpentry, cooking and food preparation, plus whatever else you see that needs doing. We try to play to people’s strengths and if there is something that inspires you and is helpful to us, then go for it! We ask that you commit to a minimum of 2 weeks, ideally longer, that you are flexible and willing to do what is needed but that you also find your own niche. We don’t count the hours but trust that you will put in whatever time is needed and fair – some days this may be more than others, depending on what needs doing and the season. Winter tends consist of more structural and preparation work, often in the woodland – with short days, long evenings and time by the fire. But there is always plenty of strimming, hedge-trimming, composting and veg-bed preparation for next growing season. Spring involves a lot of weeding, sowing, bed preparation, willow work. Summer is all hands to the deck with picking, weeding, bagging up salad … and weeding.
Life at Cotna
In return for your input, we can offer you a stunning place to stay in a beautiful location, with easy access to the Cornish coast path, lovely beaches, tranquil walks and a very nice local pub in the village. We are hospitable, open-minded and friendly hosts who provide good support and tuition both on the gardening and culinary side. Our food is renowned for being delicious, fresh, abundant and international. We sometimes eat together but there are also good cooking facilities for you to cook for yourselves – food still provided by us. We are vegetarian, can cater for vegans and ask that people maintain a vegetarian diet while working here. The accommodation will be either in caravan, tents or the barn depending on availability and season. We generally have between 1-4 WWOOFERs on site, again according to seasonal needs and accommodation availability. We can make advance bookings, but always with the proviso that plans may change both on our side or yours; sometimes WWOOFERs come and stay longer than planned, which may affect how many other people we can take. Other times people cancel because they have found somewhere else they want to stay.
In future we would also like to encourage artistic volunteers to help develop the beauty of the place through willow work, wooden sculptures and whatever else that might inspire you. A new venture so we will see how that develops! In the meantime if you are interested do get in touch by email or calling us and hope to meet you sometime!
NB CARPENTERS in particular are very welcome at the moment!!
‘Heaven on Earth … thank you for sharing this magical piece of spaciousness. My nails are dirty and my heart is happy!!’ (Bronwyn, South Africa)
‘It’s been a privilege to be a wwoofer here at Cotna and be a part of this little paradise for a few short weeks. I feel like I have learnt a lot – new skills like salad-growing and bread-making, and also had the chance to do some thinking, to eat your delicious meals every evening, walk your adorable dogs, explore the beautiful neighbourhood and get to know you. It’s been such a pleasure, and I’m sure I’ll be back!’ (Veronica, London)
‘I learnt that nature teaches a lot and is a cool timemaker, so good!’ (Matteo, Italian Alps)