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Shepherd’s Delight

Glamping in the North Wessex Downs. Oh, how I love a hut, a hot tub and the sun on my back...

It is early spring, oxygen-clear, and our gorgeous Muddy Hant editor Mary is ambling through Frenches Farm in the North Wessex Downs. Here is her review:

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.

 

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, [email protected], escapeandretreat.com.

 

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