A gentle eyrie in the North Wessex Downs
Glamping in The North Wessex Downs
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.
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.
07887 484 088, firstname.lastname@example.org, escapeandretreat.com.