Shepherd’s Delight, Hants
Hmmm… and relax at this gentle eyrie in the North Wessex Downs for soul-soothing, firepit roasting and hot-tub soaks.
We’re all guilty of swiping and scrolling too much, so checking out of the digital world and reconnecting with simple pleasures in life – fresh air, fizz and fresh baked goods – can really hit the spot. When Muddy Hampshire editor Mary, went to stay at this cute Shepherd’s Hut, it proved to be so good, we had to drag her back to her Muddy desk kicking and screaming.
It is early spring, oxygen-clear, and I’m ambling through Frenches Farm in the North Wessex Downs.
In tow, two errant daughters (mine), one beautifully behaved granddaughter (Anna’s), a tiny dog called Giny and Anna White, the brains and energy behind Escape&Retreat’s glorious shepherd’s hut.
This 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.
Wet-nosed cows eye us inquisitive, 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, blue-dome skies and a galaxy of daisies stretch telescopic. On a clear day, with a good pair of binos, you can see The Rosebowl, Hampshire’s Cricket Ground, in coastal Southampton.
Up we go, an easy scramble for my three-year-old Lily overjoyed by small calves, although guests can drive if they prefer. And there it is, sheltered by woodland, corralled by a fence, cows ruminating beyond; a gentle eyrie for soul-soothing, fire-pit roasting and long hot-tub soaks.
The shepherd’s hut is spick in its cream, grey livery, and there’s a Norwegian, wood-fired, hot tub where guests soak, lulled by vast sunsets, smouldering cedar and a glass or two of fizz. 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 hostelries 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 breakfasts of 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 stay all year round. It’s cosy-toes 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. Sorry did someone say safari? 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 cynical school holiday price-hike? A policy that says it all about this 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.
- 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.
- Cups, kettles, tea-towels. etc.
- 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.