An organic farm and wedding venue with a deep routed culture of sustainability, and its own stone circle!
John and Lizzie Redout’s family have farmed Huntstile since 1951. Today the Redout family hosts an array of weddings from the 15th Century farmhouse and adjoining marquee, while maintaining its organic farming activities. We talk to Lizzie about the venue’s unique offerings including its homegrown cut flowers and ‘zero food miles’ menu.
When did you start your venue business and what is its history?
John and I began our adventure into hospitalities in 2005, when John’s sister and her fiancé wanted to build a stone circle on the highest point of the farm, for their own handfasting ceremony at dawn. I had always enjoyed hosting large dinner parties and sharing the house with our ever growing family and friends, however this was a whole new ball game for me – a steep learning curve!
Huntstile was built in 1435 as a manor house. There have been several additions over the centuries, including a Tudor granary and stables, a stone and brick barn, and a Victorian wing. In 2012 we built the Garden Room, a lovely light conservatory overlooking the pretty gardens here and the adjacent 10 acre wild flower meadow.
My husband’s father came here as a tenant farmer in 1951. John was born here, along with his four sisters, and he has remained as the farmer here ever since. He managed to buy the manor house from the estate in 1986 and started upon a huge era of restoration work – and here we are today.
Tell us about your location and site
Huntstile is nestled into the foothills of the Quantocks, in the centre of 270 acres of organic farmland. We are in an elevated position with breathtaking views across the countryside. It’s a working family farm still and John spends a lot of time tending his animals and growing organic crops. We have sustainability at the heart of everything we do.
Huntstile is Grade II listed and this restricts the alterations one can do, however we have always had lots of support from the conservation team at Sedgemoor Council – and of course we endeavour to complete our works in sympathy with the original aesthetic, which would never compromise the historical or heritage asset.
We have an acre and a half of organic kitchen gardens and a 100ft long polytunnel where we grow salads, vegetables, soft fruit and herbs as well as an array of edible flowers. Our menus are based around fresh, seasonal and locally sourced produce, much of it coming from the farm itself with zero food miles.
What facilities for outdoor functions do you offer?
For wedding ceremonies, one option is the Garden Room which is licensed. It’s a very elegant building that opens onto a stone platform, where the marriage takes place. This has a short run of local stone steps (five steps in total) leading down into the main gardens, where the guests are seated. It’s a beautiful setting. And of course we still have our lovely stone circle circa 2005! We take the guests up the field to the stones on a hay bale ride on our old tractor; it’s great fun! The stones are set on the edge of a beech woodland, right on highest point of the farm. There are incredible views of five counties on a clear day. If the weather permits we have drinks and nibbles up here too.
This year we have planted a 10 acre wild flower meadow next to the gardens and marquee – very exciting!
We have a pretty dining marquee that is attached to the manor house. It’s fully carpeted and heated, with a fairy-light lining and mood lighting in the evenings. There is also lighting throughout the gardens and grounds, festoon lights, and coloured uplighters through the mature trees and shrubs. Firepits are included – and the option for a big bonfire, which always goes down well!
What services do you offer?
Whatever is needed we can provide it. There are two outdoor ceremony options – the Garden Room for a civil ceremony, or the stone circle for a humanist ceremony or blessing. The team can also assist with any planning required.
We have three wonderful chefs working at Huntstile and can provide everything from the very simplest of cream teas to a mouthwatering seven course banquet. We also have the facility for an outdoor rustic bar in the garden, cask ale on hay bales, kegs of cider, a Pimms bike – even gin and tonic kilner jars dispensing delicately flavoured botanicals into pretty glasses with paper straws.
Several years ago we planted a cutting garden and from the beginning of June we can supply buckets of stems for use in the marquee and house. We can arrange pre-wedding dinners, activities such as clay-pigeon shooting, therapies, pizza nights, picnics, treasure hunts – whatever the couple needs.
Describe how you researched and sourced your structures
The dining marquee is ours, we had it made to measure especially for Huntstile. It’s an all weather structure which is fabulously resistant to everything Mother Nature throws at us. The marquee is a tasteful blank canvas for whatever is required and we can easily change its nature with lighting, flowers, furniture, plants and materials – or it can remain in its natural elegance.
How do you work with your customers to make their event unique?
Every event is unique. We have lots of suggestions, however we want to create the day that a couple has been dreaming of – not coerce them into doing what we want them to do! It’s very important to listen to clients, to listen to their ideas and the dreams they have for their big day – then we arrive at the true nature of what they really want and can translate these dreams into workable models and build from there.
How would you describe your ‘style’ or unique selling point
Huntstile is unique in itself – a beautiful old manor house with exquisite accommodation set in glorious countryside with a welcoming team of staff.
Our kitchen team is amazing, drawing on talent from around the globe. Our food is delicious, colourful and varied – we cater for all tastes – and we grow most of it here on our organic farm; our effort in striving for sustainability is key!
What challenges have you faced?
Using the stone circle was lovely, however we wanted to obtain a civil ceremony license (as we wanted to be married at Huntstile too!). That was a challenge because of our Grade II listing, however with the help of the conservation team at the local council we got there and John and I were the very first legal ceremony to take place.
One year we had snow just before Christmas and had to tow all our guests in their cars from the A38. We have since invested in a snow plough! (…needless to say it hasn’t snowed since then).
What are your plans for next season?
This coming year sees a change in accommodation with some new bedrooms being added throughout the year, and a new bar in the dining marquee (John is particularly pleased with his recycling chutes!).
We have always had good green credentials but we are increasing this with several farm-wide policies of no single use plastic, recycling all materials as much as we can, increasing our green energy generation, and reducing waste in general.
Why do you enjoy the business?
The people we meet here are just the best. John and I have made many friends over the years and we are very lucky. We now have previous wedding couples returning with their children, staying in the B&B or camping in our little orchard – it’s wonderful to see them again and get to know the next generation.
I really enjoy the excitement of the build up to the wedding and helping to plan a perfect day. Each event is unique and it’s a wonderful privilege to be able to share the excitement of the couples, bringing their ideas into being. Correct and complete planning means there is no stress on the day and nothing for anyone to worry about.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
We have an apple orchard that we use as a camping field for up to 20 tents, two gypsy wagons as well as a furnished teepee tent. We also have nine bedrooms in the manor house and two log cabins. Because all our bookings are exclusive, we include all of these within our venue hire fees.
Huntstile is a B&B all year round, we have foodie events throughout the year including seasonal Food Feasts which are very popular and Pizza Night every Friday.
What are you most proud of?
My family – they are all here to help and work very hard! Particular mentions for our son Nathaniel who is one of our esteemed chefs (he makes a mean pizza too!), our son Joseph who, despite being a top barman every weekend, managed to graduate with a masters degree in mathematics last year, and of course my lovely husband John, without whom none of this would be possible. He has rebuilt part of every room, outside wall, renovated all the roof and built new ones at Huntstile. He has an artist’s eye, is an amazing architect, carpenter and builder, and he is my rock.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Make sure you like people and enjoy entertaining. If you make promises, make sure that you can provide them on the day. Get the best possible insurance – you may need it one day and it’s always best to be fully covered. Be prepared for the biggest learning curve of your life!
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Huntstile Organic Farm
Bridgwater, TA5 2DQ