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Shepherd’s Delight

You’ve heard about the glamping trend for staying in converted Shepherd’s Huts, right? Have you heard of one with its own hot tub complete with a holder for bottles of booze and glasses? Muddy Hampshire editor Mary took the plunge at this lofty retreat on the North Wessex Downs. Over to Mary….

It is early spring, oxygen-clear, and I’m ambling through Frenches Farm in the North Wessex Downs. In tow, Anna White, the brains and energy behind Escape&Retreat’s glorious shepherd’s hut, two errant daughters (mine), one beautifully behaved granddaughter (Anna’s) and a tiny dog called Giny.


This place is for you honeymooners, tired couples, bouncing families, walkers, authors, horse-riders (you can livery here) and everyone who longs to plug back into nature, with some serious creature comforts on the side.

Cows eye us inquisitively, their bulk protecting day-old calves. This is a real-deal Hampshire farm: all tractors, silage, grubbing bantams and lark song. We’re high-up here and on a clear day, with a good pair of binos, you can see The Rosebowl, Hampshire’s Cricket Ground, in Southampton.

It’s an easy scramble for my three-year-old Lily who is overjoyed by the small calves, although guests can drive if they prefer. And then, there it is, sheltered by woodland, corralled by a fence, cows ruminating beyond; a gentle eyrie for soul-soothing, fire-pit cooking and long hot-tub soaks.

The shepherd’s hut is spick and span in its cream and grey livery, and the hot tub is a Norwegian, wood-fired, affair where you can soak with a  vast sunset for backdrop with the smell of  smouldering cedar and a glass or two of wine.

Inside there’s a surprisingly roomy, luxy, Scandinavian vibe, all retro tungsten lights (powered by the quiet generator); linen sheets; deep pillows; crisp, white dressing gowns; and a heavenly foam mattress: guests wake to sunrise on the curved-earth horizon beyond the hut’s stable doors.

The standard and presentation is hotel-high, easily comparable with places on the far-pricier end of the spectrum.

Don’t expect faceless booking systems, though, Anna is on-hand via phone or email from the very beginning until departure. This is personal service.

There’s a gally kitchen, where you’ll find homemade bread and farm eggs, a small fridge and a seating area perfect for hunkering down with boardgames and a glass of red and when the weather’s wild.

Guests can stay year-round. It’s cosy in here with the beautifully made fire that looks like a wood-burner but is in fact electric so zero risk, zero hassle.

In a woodland glade behind the hut, the magical bathroom has a hot shower, running water and a carpet of bluebells, snowdrops or lily-of-the-valley depending on the season.

The magic continues by the front door, with a tiny fairy garden — made by previous guests or woodland elves, who knows? But my girls were entranced!

Anna, a chef by trade, provides home-baked supplies plus home-made cordials and beef from the farm. Throw a steak on the fire-pit or one of two bbqs, crack open a Merlot and enjoy.

If you can drag yourself out of the hot-tub then pull on your walking boots and zig-zag Hampshire’s foot and bridal paths for miles, there’s a specially made OS map on the wall and another to take with you.

Hurstbourne Tarrant is an easy leg-stretch and The George and Dragon is definitely worth the effort, another option is The Oak in Smannell.

Oh, and did I mention that there is no high or low season and no school holiday price-hike? It’s one special, secret corner of the Hampshire countryside.

The Muddy Lowdown

Price: £150 per night weekends/ £125 per night week days. RATES THE SAME ALL YEAR ROUND.

Sleeps: Two in the hut’s double bed, but children/family/friends can pitch tents in the fenced space for £10 per pitch. Only groups that know each other though, this isn’t a public campsite.

Included:

  • A bottle of something special on arrival.
  • Log-burning hot tub.
  • Fire pit.
  • BBQ x2 — gas and charcoal.
  • Breakfast hamper, including homemade bread and freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • Tea/coffee/milk/sugar.
  • Bathrobes/towels/sheets/duvets/pillows
  • Cups, kettles, tea-towels. etc.

Optional extras:

  • Taxi from the train station. Anna can arrange this or will pick-up herself.
  • Homemade meals, hampers or soups.
  • Homemade cordials.
  • Quails eggs.
  • Frenches Farm beef.
  • Local sausages.
  • Meat boxes.
  • Farm tour.
  • Vegetarian/ vegan/ gluten-/ dairy-free.

Escape&Retreat at Frenches Farm, Little London, Andover, Hants, SP11 6JG.

07887 484 088, anna.frenchesfarm@gmail.com, escapeandretreat.com.

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