What it’s like to stay at this shepherd hut in Oxted
- Credit: Archant
A weekend without modern luxuries in the heart of the Surrey countryside doesn’t have to mean going back to basics, as Rebecca Younger discovered when she stayed in a shepherd hut on the North Downs
Spending a night in a 12ft by 6ft wooden hut may not sound like the epitome of luxury but when it’s made from the highest quality oak timber, is furnished with sheep skin rugs, has a wood burner and is surrounded by miles of unspoilt countryside, it’s not far off heaven.
Situated at the end of a single-track lane off the A25 at Oxted, on farmland which forms part of the Titsey Estate, North Downs Shepherd Huts aims to offer the ultimate getaway in the heart of the Surrey Hills. Here sit just two huts – named Clarice and Dorothy – each with their own gardens overlooking open fields with shire horses and incredible views of the rolling countryside – it’s wonderfully idyllic.
Holidaying in a shepherd hut is by no means a new idea, there are a number of companies across the UK offering similar accommodation but I’m doubtful many showcase such attention to detail as Clarice and Dorothy. Each hut has been hand-crafted in Somerset with Shaker-style interiors painted in Farrow & Ball colours. Solid oak flooring and worktops add to the sense of luxury and sheep’s wool insulation keeps the huts cool in the summer and, along with the aid of a wood burner, warm in the winter. Owners Neil and Sheila have ensured that everything is catered for, there’s an induction hob, fridge and a fantastically powerful shower to rival that of many a five-star hotel. While the bed may be a pull down one (converting the dining area into your boudoir) it’s king-size with a wonderfully comfy mattress.
If you fall in love with the furnishings as much as we did then you can get the look by stopping at The Sheep Shed gift shop at Botley Hill Farmhouse, located about 2.5 miles down the road in Warlingham, which stocks many of the quirky accessories you’ll find in the hut.
This farmhouse pub sits on the highest point of the North Downs Way – an official National Trail which attracts walkers from across the country – and as such has some of the most spectacular views in the county. Historically, the North Downs Way was used by pilgrims travelling from Farnham to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral and follows the natural causeway for 153 miles east to west on the southern slopes of the North Downs. For those following a similar pilgrimage, it’s worth a stop at Botley to get your National Trails passport stamped.
The pub is an hour’s steady walk from the shepherd huts so is a great place to stop for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea. Much of the walk is quite steep so if you want to take things slowly, allow more time. We ended up having to race the last mile in order to make our reservation on time but the views are well worth the hike.
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Botley Hill Farmhouse is part of the Titsey Foundation, a charitable trust set up in 1979 to manage and preserve the Titsey Place house and grounds for public benefit. The estate covers some 1,800 acres of farm and woodland, as well as 26 cottages and farmhouses, of which Botley Hill Farmhouse is one. In the 16th century Sir John Gresham bought the estate from Lord Berners, who had been granted the estate by King Henry VIII, and it remained in the Gresham family for over 450 years. In more recent times the farmhouse was a tea room but began to struggle with footfall until it was converted into a pub around three years ago.
Having heard about the mesmerising sunsets, we went for a late afternoon reservation and managed to bag the best seat in the house – ask for the table by the window next to the garden entrance but if that’s booked there are plenty of tables outside that make the most of the views. However, it’s not just the vistas, which make this watering hole a must visit. Produce from the surrounding estate features heavily on the menu; highlights include Titsey Estate pan fried spiced minced lamb and lasagne and burgers made with Titsey Farm minced beef. Sunday roasts are a particular crowd pleaser with roast beef and pork, also from the estate, on offer. All can be washed down with a pint from Titsey Brewing Co, the microbrewery around the corner.
Back at our base for the night and, with the sun down, twinkling fairy lights led the way to our hut, where we gathered around the fire pit to play cards and dominoes (found in a stash of games tucked above the bed) and reminisce over carefree childhood holidays when board games were enough to keep us entertained for an entire week.
Nowadays, the luxury of a posh shepherd hut is definitely a welcome addition to a countryside break but aside from that we were more than happy to embrace our surroundings and live without the mod-cons we rely on so much today. At least for a day or two anyway.
Need to know
• North Down Shepherd Huts, Broomlands Farm, Broomlands Lane, Oxted RH8 0SP
• Prices from £114 per night per hut Monday to Thursday and £125 per night Friday to Sunday including breakfast basket, wood for the burner and charcoal for the barbecue
• Botley Hill Farmhouse, Limpsfield Road Warlingham CR6 9QH. Plans are afoot to introduce more shepherd huts here along with a barn for licensed weddings.
• For more information and bookings at the pub or shepherd huts, call 01959 577154 or visit: botleyhill-farmhouse.co.uk
• A weekend away in the Surrey Hills: Staying at Surrey Hills Barn - The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the perfect place to spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life