Higher Holcombe – one of the newest and most unique free-spirited venues to appear on the wedding party horizon, didn’t set out to be a wedding venue at all. Our curiosity piqued and we were keen to get alongside owners Jo and Gary to discover how this gorgeous relaxed Devon venue came to be. It’s clear from their story, which started in Kenya building a primary school, that they’re adventurous and creative with a passion and determination to make things happen. Their experience and hands on approach in developing their venue, so it offers something completely unique, is endearing and we couldn’t think of a more supportive team to have on your side for your wedding.
With glamping, woodland, a licensed converted diary milking parlour, 30 acres of countryside and an eco-friendly and sustainable approach, Jo and Gary talk us through their beautiful blank canvas venue and everything it can offer for your wedding.
Tell us how Higher Holcombe came to be?
On our return to England from a few years working in Kenya (Jo started a primary school and Gary grew flowers and vegetables for supermarkets), we wanted our 3 children to continue enjoying countryside living – and chose Devon – it seemed as wild (in parts) as Africa – but easier to reach!
We bought some land (which began as a medieval smallholding), built a house and started, as a family, to plant trees (with the help of a woodland creation scheme) on some of the 30 acres of pastureland. 10 years ago, glamping was a newish concept – and we thought our newly tree-fringed fields would be cool for glamping holidays and began saving up to renovate the old milking parlour – recently renamed ‘The Old Dairy’. With rustic chunky beams, slate coloured floors and an eco air source heat pump – it soon became clear that this was evolving into a rather beautiful place and our many low-key parties began to feel even more special!
The perfect venue for wedding festivities (with glamping facilities) was born and we hosted our first weddings in 2019. It’s been such fun helping couples have a wonderful time!
What kind of couples would like Higher Holcombe?
It’s very much a ‘blank canvas’ venue rooted in the Devon countryside – and will suit free-spirited outdoorsy couples who want an extended stay party venue where they can relax and enjoy being with their friends and families for their big day. Our couples are likely to want the opposite of a ‘corporate’ wedding where everything is ‘ringed and arranged’. They will want flexible suppliers, no corkage and lovely woodland. We want every couple to to express themselves with the way they style and plan their festivities – and we are there to help! Keep it green – as much as you can – and we will love you even more!
What special ceremony facilities to you have?
We are licenced for marriages and civil partnerships and wanted to make the most of the woodland glades for ceremonies. We have created a meandering willow walkway ‘aisle’ that leads to a 3 chapel hill-top willow ‘cathedral’ which we planted in 2018. It’s also lovely as a gathering space to sip fizz, serve afternoon tea, play games or watch the sunset (and much else, besides)!
The more secluded silver birch ‘church’ is also perfect for outside ceremonies; hidden in the wooded glades with dappled shade and with sunlight slanting between the trees. Both look pretty with festival-style ribbon bunting and seating can be as simple as bench seats or hay bales. Gorgeous photos are guaranteed!
Our wildflower meadows are gradually asserting themselves and becoming more prolific – and we encourage you to forage for botanicals in the hedgerows and woods to add to your wedding party decorations.
We’ve also started a small cutting garden for ‘jam jar’ arrangements and will ask if you have favourite colour or types of flowers for you to add a pretty DIY touch to your big day.
What about food and drink?
We are flexible about suppliers and have a no corkage policy as we think each couple’s wedding party should be all about the couple – and all their favourite food and drink! Whether it’s a mobile pizza oven, picnics in the woodland glades, sharing platters on the terrace or a more formal sit-down menu. We are building up a list of suppliers that we enjoy welcoming to Higher Holcombe – and most importantly, want you to please yourselves!
There are lots of fridges to cool your beer and wine supplies and a freezer to stash your ice! You can choose to hire in a bar, ask us to help you serve and clear away or even have a ’bring your own’ invitation.
And remember – no corkage!
What are the party facilities at Higher Holcombe?
The main party barn ‘The Old Dairy’ is elegantly rustic, clean and minimalist and perfect for your main party (unless you’re dancing under the stars)! We provide vintage style chunky wooden tables and a mixture of benches and folding wooden chairs and will get them into position for you to style as you choose. The beams have a variety of spot and twinkly lights for you to switch on.
There’s a bar area by the kitchen for serving drinks and food as you wish – and a catering standard kitchen.
How about a ‘chill-out’ zone?
The terrace has a quirky weather-proof stretch tent, chunky wooden outside furniture and a space for you to set up an additional bar. Within sight, there’s also the ‘bonfire boma’ – with logs to burn and low bench seating so you can take the weight off your dancing feet and enjoy looking up at the stars!
Do you have festival style accommodation?
Yes! This is how Higher Holcombe began! Included in the venue hire are five huge 6m diameter glamping style Lotus Bell tents. They are shaped like gigantic lotus flower onions – a sort of wonderful cross between a yurt and a bell tent. There are three on the woodland fringes and they are furnished with a double bed and two singles. There are 2 more Lotus Belle tents in the meadow within view of the party barn – and they each have 5 beds.
Couples have the option of staying in our quirky wood clad ‘hobbit house’ honeymoon suite with its curved roof and private facilities and views of the woodland fringes.
There are also 5 bedrooms in the spacious and funky farmhouse – great for the main wedding group or those who just aren’t into glamping! It’s also a great base for you to enjoy getting ready on your big day! It’s kind of funky and decorated with bits and bobs from our travels over the years.
What other plans do you have for the venue?
Well, we are keen to expand the woodland (and will be planting another 1500 trees this winter) (if you fancy coming along to help) – as part of our efforts to capture CO2 – and make the venue even more diverse and dynamic. Planting more bluebells, coaxing the wild flowers and maybe getting ‘Wally’ (a wallaby – who was on the loose – who took up residence for about 5 weeks last summer) to revisit would be cool (he ran away when the hay balers rocked up). It was tame and self-sufficient – much easier than a real ‘pet’!
What about giving back?
We’ve been told, ‘You’re not very corporate’ (which we take as a compliment) – but we take our ‘start up’ business responsibilities very seriously. Gary and I met (back in the day) in Nigeria (doing Voluntary Service Overseas – VSO). Gary was doing dry season crop research and I was training primary school teachers. Giving back has always been a part of our life-style.
We share a passion for supporting education in its broadest sense – and having spent most of the past 10 years in Tanzania – where Gary (with a 95% female staff) still grows chillies, (and makes chilli sauce) (that’s another story) and I taught at an international school – we are keen to build on relationships we have with projects and schemes that we know are working and which really bring benefit to communities.
Look out for active engagement with and contributions (from Higher Holcombe) to The School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania – where bright Tanzanians with few resources are given a free top-quality education from Grade 1 to university graduation. It’s all about individual possibilities. And that’s what we like!
We are very proud to have Higher Holcombe as a member of our Festival Wedding Supplier Directory. For more information on everything they have to offer, please visit their listing: Higher Holcombe | Devon Wedding Venue
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