Interview: Tia Tamblyn — Botelet Farm

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Interview, Story & Images
Marie Zieger
& Katharina M.

Topophilia derives from the Greek and means »the love for a place«. It is the most suitable word for what we felt when first arriving at the gate of Botelet Farm. After following the winding and narrow Cornish roads, one arrives at – well, rural paradise.

A friendly sign reveals the way to stony guardians and we enter the pathway with lush Cornish fields on each side. Slowly our minds and hearts start to comprehend what our eyes can see: A 19th-century farm built to last. Old street lanterns form a street of honor and a genuine British telephone booth caters for a color dot. The time is spring, so Cornish soil seems to explode with bluebells, wild garlic, wisteria and oh so many other blossoms. But back to »topophilia«: Botelet touches you deep inside. Whether heart or soul, you won’t be able to tell – but it’s there.

This warm feeling of belonging, of being welcome, the notion that something inside has changed forever.

In this fairy-tale-like scenery, there lives a family. The Tamblyns. Barbara, Julie, Richard, Tia, Cyra, Otto and Nell. They all share the main house, built in 1884, which is the center of the 250-acre farm. Inside, a fire is almost always crackling and a pot of tea is never far away. The Tamblyns have farmed, nurtured and taken good care of the farm for decades, and it is ever evolving, ever changing as new ideas find their way into Botelet’s business. New ideas, like a monthly »Vegetarian Breakfast Club«, hosting retreats, shifting the farm’s energy supply to wind power or offering alfresco massages in the Cornish countryside, and so on and so forth found their way into daily business.

A lot to grasp. So we decided to meet up with Tia Tamblyn, former teacher of sociology, psychology and world development, who is now a massage therapist, the mastermind behind Botelet’s communication, wife and mother of three adorably wild and creative kids.

At Botelet, hosting has been a long tradition. In the 1930s the farm was already used as a B&B. Does that make the whole thing easier, or does the tradition weigh heavily on your shoulders?

That’s a big question. And when I give it thought, in some ways it really does. I have a huge respect for everything that has happened before. The Tamblyn family has lived here for so long. My husband Richard, his sister Julie and their mum Barbara are always talking about how things were in the old days, when their grandparents were still alive. And together we draw comparisons. Everything that is going on now, is happening with respect to what has been done before. It’s living history. Before the 80s, David, Barbara’s late husband, was looking after the animals, but then they sold them because they wanted to scale down. Almost everything that is built here at Botelet is done with recycled materials. Richard works with different materials that he finds in the shed.

Also, having children was a major change, before them I was teaching sociology in college. For me, it was a 100 percent logical decision to put my focus and energy in this place – in order to let it grow.

»Everything that is going on now, is happening with respect to what has been done before. It’s living history.«

Botelet is not easy to explain to those who don’t know it. When I stepped into this special place for the first time in 2012, you were still operating a B&B. But there were also the yurts, a camping site and the self-catering cottages. Now, retreats, massages, a breakfast club and meditation have been added. How do you see Botelet? And in which direction is it heading?

A lot of what happens here at Botelet is based on instinct, feelings and intuition. We work together as a family unit and we evolve together with the place and the people who visit us. We try not to be afraid of changing things. But we are giving it time. We break apart the elements and try to find the best solution for all of us. After I had Cyra, my oldest daughter, I wanted to have something that was my own. As I used to do long-distance running, I was always fascinated by how the body works. And how powerful a place for healing can be. Not in a spiritual, but in a practical way. For me starting to massage was a contrast to caring for young children. I created my own quiet space that I could go to. By offering massages, other people started coming to us. Many of them are friends now.

This also happened with the B&B, that was created with the rooms we normally lived in during the summer months. Richard, the kids & I moved to the former pig house. We loved that at the beginning. It felt adventurous – we had the outdoor shower and just one room where we all lived together. But after years of moving out during the summer, it didn’t feel right anymore. It was a wet season and with three kids and no proper bathroom, just living turned out to be hard work. So, it became hard to get things done. Still, the B&B was a tradition that started 20 years ago. It was not an easy decision, but we had to take steps that were geared around family. Thus, we stopped the B&B and the breakfast for the cottages & the campers, and we turned it to a pop-up café, including those not staying at Botelet.

How do you come up with the ideas for Botelet?

No ideas are new, but there wasn’t a breakfast club happening anywhere else in the area. Especially not with the focus »healthy body, healthy mind«. I have been a vegetarian since age 8. Healthy eating and cooking have always been a part of me. The retreats we host here are led by dedicated, creative people like Joey Hulin ( As long as everything is in balance, it is right for Botelet. And of course – it is a work in progress.

As Botelet is an operating farm with three generations living under one roof, there is a lot going on. Can you explain your daily routines and dynamics to our readers?

Every day is really different. And I thrive on that. But often I would like to double the hours of the day. I start the day early with moments of calm. As soon as the kids get up, it isn’t quiet anymore. Some days we have photo shoots all day, others I spend in the massage room or preparing food for the events. But most days are a fusion of all of those things. I am very conscious with work stuff as I want to be present with the children. Often, when they come home from school, they are tired and grumpy. So that takes up some energy. And there’s the daily juggle, because Botelet has always had an open door policy. That’s quite challenging as well, because you don’t know who’ll come knocking next. I love to work, but I mostly do it when the kids are in school or in the evenings. And I’m very conscious of it. Also, there’s a big overlap between work and personal life – for me, and for Richard. Botelet is our work, our home and fuels the creative drive in us.

»Richard doesn’t have a smart phone and I try to use mine as little as possible in front of the children. Our kids grow up without television. I want them to go find a book first, not a screen.«

You have three kids – Cyra, Nell and Otto. Could you imagine a better place for them to grow up than here on the farm?
We are very happy and also highly aware of how lucky we are. Our kids can play outside the whole summer. I wanted my kids to grow up in a place with a garden like this. Especially Otto has a lot of energy, and here at Botelet he can just get on his bike and cycle around. Of course, it was a bigger challenge for us, because we have no fence and one of us always needed to watch the children, when they were outside. Now, as they are older, they can roam free within certain limits. Richard doesn’t have a smart phone and I try to use mine as little as possible in front of the children. Our kids grow up without television. I want them to go find a book first, not a screen.

When growing up, would you have imagined yourself being part of a place like this one day? Which path led you here?
The west coast of Scotland, where I grew up, is an even more rural setting than this place. The childhood my kids have is like the childhood I had. In Scotland, we had to drive 40 minutes to get to a place like Liskeard (9.500 inhabitants), which is our nearest town to Botelet, 15 minutes away. When people talk about Cornwall being rural, I can confirm it’s not that rural after all (laughs). But I also know other circumstances, I went to Leeds University and afterwards lived in London for a couple of years.

Botelet has its own magic. When I first came to Cornwall, I lived in Lostwithiel and found a ton of people with similar backgrounds like mine. I lived with my ex-partner then, but I already knew Richard and Botelet, because they had legendary parties here. My relationship with Richard started out as friends, back then I lived in Hayle. But we knew when it was the right time to move in together.

You recently went to Denmark to visit some friends there. How is travelling with three kids?

My favourite kind of holiday is just one hour away. As soon as we’re 5 minutes in the car, I hear someone asking: »Are we there yet?«. So, we sometimes just go some place to the seaside. I truly love being in nature.

By a river, near the sea, sailing, camping – that is my absolute favourite.

When the children are free to roam, everybody’s happy. But I also loved being in Copenhagen, the weather was great.

Of course, we had a conversation about travelling in regards to the environment. Visiting family in Scotland is far easier to reach by plane, but there is also a night sleeper train from London. My younger brother lives in Australia, and we’re thinking about taking a few months off and visiting him, but also going to New Zealand, and maybe India. My husband is the only one who knows where all the drains in Botelet go – so certain preparations would be necessary. But we definitely want to do some travelling.

You do one of the greatest massages we’ve ever had and you are a really good cook – lots of manual work. Have you always been a hands-on-person?

I have never drawn that connection myself. I turned vegetarian as a child. That was in the 80s, and I simply couldn’t understand why not everybody ate solely free-range eggs. There wasn’t even an organic section in the supermarket. I started writing to the local newspaper, because I was really concerned about that stuff. When I told my mum that I wanted to be a vegetarian, she said: »That’s fine – as long as you cook.« She was not cruel, but she didn’t want to cook something extra every time.

Also, music was a big part of my youth. I played the clarinet and the violin. But when I decided to study sociology, I focused more on the academic stuff, especially social research methods.

I was always interested in people, and maybe what happened is that I’ve worked with my hands in order to connect with them.

I have always been a jack of all trades, but master of none – and sometimes I hate myself for juggling too much. But I’m fascinated with learning. And I don’t always manage to balance all of those things at the same time.

You grew up in Scotland, but you’ve travelled a lot. Which places left the biggest impressions on you and why?

Between my second and third year of university, I went to Ghana for my dissertation. My mum was brought up in Kenya, of course that raised my interest in people living in Sub-Saharan-Africa. I studied the musical life in a small village. That probably prepared me for pig house life (laughs). I gained so much knowledge there. Lots of what we hold dear, was turned upside down. I lived a very simple life in Ghana, together with a lady that felt like my mother. At night we would sit together by the fire, eat a simple stew and talk. Simply share connection – that are the fundamentals there. Things, that are precious in our western world, don’t have any meaning for people there. Even worse – communities wrecked by gold mines. And I’m saying all of this from a very privileged position. I worked in Peru as an educationalist and at an amazing charity when I lived in London.

»I have always been a jack of all trades, but master of none.«

Botelet is a farm in the middle of nowhere – nevertheless many interesting people from all around the world are coming over to stay and enjoy the beauty of this place. Do you ever miss anything here?

The short answer is: No! I’m lucky enough that I have my mum just 15 minutes away. She moved down here from Scotland recently. I connect a lot with the fantastic community here. The family is amazing. In some ways I feel that I can access everything. A supermarket can deliver in the morning, that makes food shopping much easier. Also, we have a local guy who brings fruit and vegetables.

What makes Cornwall such a special place?

It’s the combination of land and people. It is so beautiful. In Cornwall, the coast is much more accessible, because the South West Coast Path circumnavigates the county, whereas Scotland is a lot more remote. The incredible lushness, the colors in May simply blow my mind. But it’s the people as well. People in Cornwall are generally welcoming, many of those I’ve been lucky enough to meet are so interesting, families who have moved here from a 24/7-career-driven lifestyle. Now they don’t want to work every hour of the day. I could find someone to go for a walk with me any day of the week. So many people in our community are concerned about environmental issues and are trying to live a conscious life. The beauty of Cornwall and the community of like-minded souls. And that community is constantly growing.

At Botelet, you arrive as a stranger and leave as a friend.

botelet farm
Tia Tamblyn