We love London but, sometimes, it all gets a little too, well, London, for us.
At heart, we're both countryside kids. Andrew grew up on a farm in Scotland and Emily's house was surrounded by Hereford's famous apple orchards.
As much as we love the capital's ridiculous rents, its £10 brunches and ability to allow us to be slightly ahead on food trends, we're beginning to realise that it may not be our idea of heaven. At times, we yearn for quiet, for fresh air, for no cars, no red buses and far fewer people - not simply out of preference; we need it to keep ourselves sane.
When we returned to the UK, we had dreams of discovering our own country, of exploring its small towns and hidden retreats and re-connecting with its immensely beautiful countryside, and a weekend spent glamping at The Original Hut Company in Sussex looked like it offered the perfect opportunity to fulfill that wish.
Now, you may be thinking that, heading off to stay in the great outdoors in the middle of a British winter is, frankly, a little foolish. However, with UK's worst winter weather now usually occurring in January rather than in the build-up to Christmas, and the weather reports looking like we had a clear run, we took our chances.
And how we were rewarded.
Not only was each day's weather perfect, but we rediscovered just how much we loved the gentler rhythms of British rural life and just how much we had missed it. We guzzled local cider and ale in beautiful traditional pubs, we roasted marshmallows in log fires, we photographed pretty little villages, we hitched a ride on the back of a golf cart, we walked and walked and walked through acres of picturesque countryside, we spoke to strangers without a second thought, we enjoyed the silence, we petted pygmy goats and said hello to sheep, pheasants and gun-dogs and warmed up on the frosty mornings in a welcoming cocoon of coffee, cooked breakfasts, local gossip and Christmas tunes.
For our first taste of glamping in the UK, we really couldn't have picked a better spot.
Anna and Nick, the founders of The Original Hut Company at Quarry Farm, have, literally, built this by hand. After a little trial and error with his first attempts, it now takes Nick only three to four weeks to craft one of the beautiful guests' Shepherd's Hut out of reclaimed or discarded timber. In fact, 90% of all the materials in their excellent new on-site cafe, The Hub, are reclaimed and upcycled to pinterest perfection through a combination of Nick's woodwork skills and Anna's eye for design. The result is a great hideaway in the Sussex countryside for families and groups searching for an outdoorsy summer holiday or couples to escape the city and disconnect.
For us, it was kind of perfect.
A weekend spent glamping didn't only leave us with muddy boots, happy hearts and a completely reinvigorated sense of self, it gave us a timely reminder that we don't have to go far to travel. That getting lost when looking for a hiking trail, stumbling into an unknown bar or pub or just going and doing something a little different to normal, those are moments which we should try to bring into our usual lives so that we always have a little sense that we're travelling, even though we're right on our own doorstep.
things to do in AND AROUND BODIAM
In winter, we were obviously a little more limited in our activities and spent most of our time tramping around the various marked trails and walks nearby. We highly recommend walking to Sandhurst or Newenden for the day but make sure you take a map or a phone with you for GPS (if we didn't have ours, we would certainly have ended up lost in a ditch).
In summer, you have more outdoors options available with fishing, cycle rides, kayaking, paddle-boarding, archery and bushcraft all available on site. Or, you can opt for picnics in the fields, a walk through the vineyards or a visit to the very pretty Camber Sands beach. Those with an interest in history will definitely want to visit the 14th century Bodiam Castle, which is a short walk from Original Huts, or take a drive to the ancient towns of Rye and Battle (you know, where 1066 and all that went down).
For more information on things to do in the local area, check out this very useful pinterest board created by Anna.
Where to eat
You can't miss the excellent 'The White Dog Inn', which is a smashing traditional pub (i.e. fires, dogs, local ales and men just back from a shoot) with a really nice restaurant as well. Everything served is sourced as locally as possible, with suppliers named on their blackboard, which is a really nice touch.
The Castle Inn is an excellent choice if you don't want to walk too far from your orchard base for dinner. The portions aren't huge on some dishes, but there are plenty of veggie options (they even cater for vegans) and it's a wonderful homely place for a quiet pint or two.
If you're looking for a killer breakfast, you need venture no further than 'The Hub'. Popular with local and visitors alike, they make a mean eggs florentine and have excellent coffee and all sorts of home-baked goodies to work off on your walk!
If you're looking for somewhere to stock up on supplies for your campfire make sure you check out The Etchingham Shop & Deli. This local shop goes above and beyond what you normally find on your street corner, with locally sourced goods, homemade savoury and sweet treats, fresh bread and coffee. It's also surprisingly good value, with the friendliest staff to boot!
the original hut company
We had a genuinely lovely stay at The Original Hut Company on Quarry Farm and highly recommend them.
The Shepherd's Huts can sleep up to five people but, if you're a couple, then they're adapted to leave you with a double bed and more space. All kitchen equipment and bed linen is included (and it's of very good quality), as well as logs for the indoor stove and other little essentials. For cooking, you can opt to use the Dutch over in your hut or the open campfire (again, proper equipment is supplied).
Note that the huts have solar powered lighting, but do not have charge points or wi-fi; for that you will have to use the facilities at The Hub. The Hub also sells a nice range of items and foodstuff for guests, but we'd recommend taking a good supply with you as well.
In addition to glamping in the Shepherd's Huts, camping is also available on site.
To reach the site from London, you can take a direct train to Etchingham or Robertsbridge. You then need to take a taxi onward to the site. Or, if you have a car, you can easily do the drive in under 2 hours.
Visit their website for further information or to make a booking enquiry.
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We were guests of The Original Huts Company, but all opinions are our own.