Rose Cottage - our baby - is the smallest of our cottages; sleeping two. In any other sense Rose is anything but small: it…
We feel it's man's duty to leave the world as good or better a place as we found it; not just for mankind but for all of life and nature. Earth, big as it is, is only a small body in the universe, and it is the only one we have to keep us alive. We owe it to future generations not to spoil the world for them to find.
We like to think that our Dutch background gave us a head start as the environmental impact of everyday living was already high on the agenda of our home country when we moved to Pembrokeshire at the beginning of 1998: reducing energy and water needs, using alternative sources of energy, improving efficiency of heating systems, minimizing waste, recycling and waste disposal were (and had been for years) part and parcel of Dutch living.
We strongly felt then - as we do now - that we must try to leave as little of an environmental footprint as possible; in our personal lives, as well as in the accommodation we are letting, and the holidays for which our guests come to Rosemoor.
From the moment we came here we set about turning Rosemoor into an eco-friendly holiday destination, which would offer our guests the opportunity to enjoy all of its and Pembrokeshire's wonders, in a responsible and sustainable way. We want future generations still to be able to walk the Coast Path, go visit Skomer, enjoy birds, seals, otters, sea and beaches in the same way we and you are able to at the moment, and we want Pembrokeshire to be preserved for that.
Rosemoor as we found it
We found Rosemoor much more energy-inefficient than we liked: relatively low levels of insulation, single glazed windows, below spec draught proofing, inefficient boilers, et cetera.
All of this required unnecessarily great fuel use, to provide guests with the levels of comfort they had by then come to expect. And from a business point of view: even at the much lower prices for gas and electricity we were paying at the time, energy bills were unacceptably high.
Of course Rosemoor also had much to recommend itself from an ecological point of view: the Nature Reserve was as much of a gem then as it is now. There was plenty of space for a small - or even a big - kitchen garden, there were some fruit trees, and there was a greenhouse. And the greenness and open space all around, the relative lack of intensity with which most neighbouring fields are being farmed, and the clean Atlantic air are all very big plusses.
From the very beginning we have been recycling paper and glass and composting our own garden and kitchen waste. As it is important that a compost heap isn't contaminated with the wrong ingredients we like guests to consult us first before using this facility.
Since the County Council has improved its recycling facilities we now also recycle cans and tins, plastic bottles, tetra packs, and cardboard.
On a totally different note: we encourage guests arriving without their own transport by offering a pick up from and drop off at the the nearest railway or bus station, as well as a trip into town so they can do a big shop at the beginning of their stay.
During the first eight years of our stay we have mostly concentrated on improving the fabric of the cottages, their energy efficiency, and the quality of the central facilities.
In this process (still ongoing, as we haven't completely finished it yet) we have been and are paying special attention to the following:
- Sufficient insulation
- Lofts are insulated to 350-400 mm mineral wool (latest Building Regs. require 270 mm).
- Where possible walls are insulated to the maximum thickness possible (up to 100-150 mm PU/PIR) - either inside, or outside, with slate rainscreen cladding.
- Where possible all central heating and hot water pipes are insulated to 40 mm mineral wool.
- Underfloor heating (wet system; on 100-150 mm PU/PIR insulation) is installed where possible. This creates an extremely comfortable living environment, and saves around 20% energy as thermostat settings can (have to) be approx. 2° C lower than with radiator systems for the same comfort levels.
- Reflective foil is mounted behind radiators on solid outside walls.
- Radiators are replumbed to have flow at the top and return at the bottom. This gives 3-4% more heat output for the same energy input, compared to flow/return connections at the bottom.
- Proper controls for all central heating circuits: thermostats/timers, and thermostatic radiator valves; bedrooms and bathrooms on circuits regulated separately from living spaces.
- Wooden windows and doors to replace old ones, double glazed with low-E Argon-filled panes; all properly draughtproofed.
- Well insulated indirect mains pressure cylinders have replaced all unlagged and insufficiently insulated hot water cylinders.
- Aerators are fitted on all new kitchen and bathroom taps.
- Low volume flush toilets (6 l / 3 l for large/small flush) are used to replace less efficient models.
- Showers have replaced baths in some cottages.
- Electric showers have been phased out completely. All bath/shower mixers are now fed from the hot water cylinder.
- A wood burner is installed in living rooms that have space and a flue for them.
- A-rated appliances are chosen when replacing fridge/freezers and other appliances.
- Natural rather than man-made materials are used where possible. E.g. slate for worktops, slate or wood for floors.
- Low energy fluorescent bulbs (now LED lamps) replace filament light bulbs when they fail.
- High efficiency condensing boilers (combi, in some cases) were initially used to replace inefficient boilers, before we installed our new biomass boiler (see below).
- A solar panel array provides hot water for the laundry room and Holly Tree.
- A Maytag High Efficiency washing machine. Rather than have numerous small washing machines in the cottages we have this centrally located washer that takes care of the laundry on site. It is an energy efficient machine and adapts its water usage to the size of the load. It is fed with hot water from the solar panels.
- Washing lines are used for drying laundry whenever the weather allows.
The above has proven to be a very successful approach indeed.
Between 1998 and 2006 LP gas prices more than doubled. Even so, with higher occupancy rates and much improved levels of comfort for our guests, Rosemoor's total energy bills remained essentially the same over these years. In other words, price increases were effectively cancelled out by the increased energy efficiency resulting from these measures.
Our Biomass Boiler
After having examined the possibilities for a number of years, we decided in 2006 to make a major leap (especially for a small business like ours) to turn Rosemoor into truly eco-friendly holiday accommodation.
It was decided to change the whole of the heating system, by replacing all existing boilers with a single state-of-the-art centralized biomass boiler facility. Burning logs, wood chip and/or wood pellets, this would provide heat and hot water for all of Rosemoor, through a mini district heating system.
After a long and arduous planning procedure we finally got the green light (excuse the pun) towards the end of July 2007. By the beginning of March 2008 the boiler was commissioned, and at the end of May the last cottage was linked up to the system.
The system is planned to be fed with timber from thinning and coppicing in the Nature Reserve and slab wood waste from a local saw mill. At the moment we burn wood pellets, made from waste sawdust; on a temporary basis.
Compared to the previous (LP Gas) situation, this set-up reduces Rosemoor's CO2 emissions by approximately 25 tonnes annually.
When installing the biomass plant we allowed for future incorporation of solar hot water panel inputs into the system. We are now studying whether this can be done cost effectively. Although it would not significantly reduce CO2 emissions any further, it would reduce the quantities of wood burned, thereby reducing secondary (labour and electricity) inputs.
Solar Photo Voltaic Panels
With heating and hot water covered by our biomass boiler, the largest remaining source of greenhouse gases at Rosemoor was our electricity consumption. Since our arrival this had already gradually been brought down by almost 15% for the whole property.
In the summer of 2011 we decided to install photo voltaic solar panels at Rosemoor, to generate our own electricity. In November 2011 two arrays were commissioned, with a combined generating capacity of almost 14 kWpeak. On a yearly basis, they generate well over half of all the electricity consumed at Rosemoor. Any surplus electricity is exported to the grid.
With all of the above in place, staying at Rosemoor is now a truly green way of holidaying, without compromising any of the comforts and luxury you may expect from quality self catering accommodation!