Originally published in Arkadia magazine, July 2014.
In a beautifully remote spot, at the end of a long lane that hints at the adventure to come, lies Downhouse Farm, at Higher Eype, near Bridport. Visiting recently, I immediately fell in love with the farm’s unspoilt surroundings, its old stone barns and its rustic charm.
Nearby, a lovingly restored shepherd’s hut sits at the top of a field that slopes gently towards the coast, enjoying stunning views out to sea and across to the village of Eype and beyond. This was to be home for the night and I must confess that, having always had a thing about shepherd’s huts, I was more than just a little excited!
The original plan had been a romantic night away, but a last-minute cancellation from the babysitter put pay to that idea and a ‘Plan B’ was required. I thought of making the most of the peace and tranquillity to catch up on some writing, on my own, but hearing my youngest daughter’s voice in the background made me think again. Georgia not only shares my sense of adventure but is usually at the back of the queue when it comes to spending quality time with Dad, so… countryside adventure, here we come!
Upon arrival, on a glorious June evening, we were greeted by Nikki and her future son-in-law, Craig, who provided all the information we needed about the hut, the farm and the surrounding area. Nikki and husband Dean have been farming here, on 350 acres of the National Trust’s Golden Cap Estate, since 1991. They run a large herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, a flock of Welsh, badger-faced Tordhu sheep and a small herd of pigs, as well as running their award-winning Garden Café and hiring out the shepherd’s hut.
The hut is beautifully decorated, its tongue and groove interior washed in a lovely shade of cream, with soft furnishings in blue Toile de Jouy, adding to the shabby chic feel. Despite its size (approximately 6’ × 12’) it feels remarkably spacious and offers plenty of room for two. A stable door opens into the living area where a pine table (complete with vase of freshly picked flowers), provides space for dining, or playing the board games that are thoughtfully stowed in the drawer. There’s also a chest of drawers containing other essentials, such as a picnic blanket and a supply of tea lights. The bed runs across the far end and is curtained off from the rest of the hut, giving it a cosy, nest-like feel. It looked so inviting, but there was still some exploring to do!
After we’d met the pigs and a gorgeous lamb, simply called Lamb, we decided it was time to venture to the pub. The quickest route to Eype’s New Inn is across the fields and, following Craig’s instructions, we arrived 15 minutes later, to a very friendly welcome. From the blackboard, Georgia and I both chose the freshly caught haddock and took our drinks out to the terrace, to enjoy the view across to the farm and our shepherd’s hut! The fish were huge, wrapped in the most delicious batter I’ve ever tasted and nestled on a bed of freshly cooked chips. Despite the epic proportions, we both cleared our plates and, after Georgia had also polished off a bowl of ice cream, we headed home to the hut.
It was soon time to turn in and I must admit that, in such rustic surroundings, I was surprised by how comfortable the bed was. So comfortable, in fact, that we both slept like babies.
In the morning, we woke to the sound of birds and playful piglets and set off for an early morning walk, spotting a fox and lots of rabbits, before returning to the farm with a camera full of photos and a hearty appetite!
After a quick shower, we headed for the Garden Café for a full farmhouse breakfast. As we tucked in, we realised why the café had been awarded the prestigious title of Best Café in Dorset; the food is out of this world!
After breakfast, Craig showed us the newborn piglets and two-week old calves – adorable! Sadly, it was time to leave, but what a time we’d had. The shepherd’s hut is beautiful and Nikki and her family had looked after us like we were family too, making the whole experience so relaxed and, well, just perfect really!
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, peaceful retreat or just some quality time with someone who deserves to see a little more of you, treat yourself to a stay in the Downhouse shepherd’s hut. For more information visit http://www.downhousefarm.org or call 01308 421232.
A one-night stay, for two people, is just £85 during high season including a full farmhouse breakfast.