As a couple, we’ve got this thing with shepherd’s huts. For proximity, familiarity, the simple pleasure of pretending we own a herd of goats and live off the land…
Maybe it’s because I grew up caravanning with my grandparents, outgrew this in my teens, then re-visited the concept. I spent so many savoured holidays down in the New Forest, catching minnows with little bits of bread, riding around on my bicycle with my rag-tag crew of fellow caravan kids, having close encounters with ponies and eating fish and chips from the paper as the windows steamed up… my most blissful childhood memories are of tea’ing up with portable gas burners, wheeling the ‘aqua roll’ to fetch water and going for a wash at the communal showers with my grandma in our flip flops and beach towels. It’s also lovely getting back to nature, any excuse really – hence the huts. The perfect blend of luxury and practicality, with the dose of whimsy that attracts me to such spaces. It’s good to go minimal when you’re away – creature comforts are welcome, but, being pared back can keep you laid-back. The fewer things, the less there is to worry about. To boot, the tiny house and van renovation movements only add fire to our choice of chilled hut holidaying. Living in a standard house that suits us down to the ground, it’s nice to make space for escapism here and there with our holidays.
So, shepherd’s hut in our sights, we took to Airbnb to answer the twin calls of nostalgia and adventure. We settled on a stay in St. Veep, Cornwall – partly on a personal Daphne du Maurier pilgrimage, partly for the clotted cream teas, a Poldark fantasy and Roly’s Fudge in Fowey. The heart wants what it wants. We loaded our car like a couple of weekend hobbyists with watercolour paints, colouring books and one of those oversized badminton sets and hot-footed it to catch a glimpse of the coast. A word on the roads – they’re a tad narrow. As we wound our way up to St. Veep, the hedges seemed to close in and it all became rather wild; was it a road or was it a footpath? Who knew. As newcomers with no idea of what we’d do if a tractor came down the other way, it was with great relief that we found where we’d be staying: right at the top of the hill, with a view worth seeing.
Near to us, there was a tiny village with a convenience store selling homemade cakes and what I suppose you might call a tidal river, Lerryn – effectively dividing the parishes of St Veep and St Winnow. Beyond that, we were surrounded by rural hamlets. Lerryn rather took us by surprise, appearing from nowhere in particular but providing a beautiful spot to park up and rest en route to our little hut down at the bottom of someone’s garden.
Picture postcard-ready, there was also a very quaint honesty box shop filled with nick-knacks; it was unmanned and the door appeared to always be unlocked, should you wish to go in, bring or buy. This struck me as something from another time altogether.
Within our hut, we found a ready-made nest. Light, airy and with a raised, very comfortable bed for a couple of above-average height. We loaded some films and shows onto one of our laptops so that we could close the curtains in the evenings and snuggle up with something to watch. Either this or I’d read while Darren tried his hand at painting on the deck outside. The hut was a retreat in every sense of the word. We quickly made the space our own, I by finding a shelf for my holiday reading and Darren by delegating shelves.
On our first night, we walked an adventurous rural circuit as if out on an expedition, dipping down into valleys, passing waterways and quietly manoeuvring our way through a field of suspicious-looking cows. Rather comedically, whenever we inched forwards, the cows in their huddle would also inch forward in kind. It was something of a ‘last man standing’ situation. Without our phones, some kindly locals pointed us in the right direction to traverse back through a field that connected to our hut. If you’ve ever read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, you’ll have some idea of that feeling of beating a hasty retreat and shutting the door against a herd of menacing-looking cows.
We drove to a fair few places during our stay, which included a couple of novel water ferry crossings to get from A to B. These were inexpensive and extremely novel. We made a point of visiting Fowey, Daphne du Maurier’s hometown, pretty as a picture with its waterfront and fishing village feel. Meandering through here was lovely and a page out of storybook Cornwall, down to the narrow cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy cottages.
To get my country house fix, we visited one that had a name I could not for the life of me pronounce Lanhydrock – an estate in and of itself, blending architectural styles and presenting some pretty impressive cut hedges that looked as if they belonged in the Queen of Hearts’ grounds. Darren indulged my National Trust membership and we dutifully took in all of the wonderful rooms, with delightful commentary from myself courtesy of a degree in Art History and license to gesticulate.
Cultural enrichment taken care of, we sought the seaside with an excursion to Looe, site of entertainment and good old-fashioned pleasures. The sun made an appearance for our visit here, which was wonderful. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the joy of sitting in a sunny spot for an extended amount of time.
We visited Charlestown port of Poldark fame, where our first scones of the holiday made an appearance, along with builders teas from our tourist mugs.
Often, the nicest restaurants that we found were the unexpected ones. I could kick myself for not remembering the name or location of the above pub, but, after much searching, we settled on this little spot that was only serving the house bolognese. The house bolognese was very, very good! We were actually quite thrifty otherwise with the hut, bringing along our own food shop to cook in situ for the duration of our stay. The hut was such a nice place to be that this worked out well for us.
Quite literally off the beaten track (and uphill) in Looe, we found a hidden treasure – The Old Hall Bookshop. Not only were the owners friendly and informative, but the space, for a book lover like myself, was magical. Darren wandered off for a sit on a nice sunny bench while I explored the converted chapel spread across two floors with second-hand tomes from toe-to-top and a speciality sideline in rare books. Off the bat, I managed to magpie a book that was being unpacked and admired at the front desk. The book in question was an old gardening book, actually packed with little notes, clippings and cuttings from the original owner – in the 1930s. The owners were most accommodating and let me buy the book on the spot!
The highlights? Larking around with Darren, long lazy mornings, attempting to cook a pizza on the BBQ… it was all a wonderful way to celebrate our engagement and the life we’re going to build together. I also got to experience the full spectrum of scones: from light, fluffy and bun-like to delightfully dense, crumbly and the size of my fist. What bliss.
Eventually, we’d love to delve deeper into Cornwall, experience more of the rugged coast. We only really dipped our toes in with our short break, but it was still wonderfully restful and restorative. It’s so important to switch off, to disconnect so you can reconnect. I found that the uninterrupted, quiet moments were my favourite – being in a field, lying in our hut at the end of the day with the windows ajar and nothing but the breeze to disturb us. We set out to find a retreat from the world, something that we wholeheartedly achieved.