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Meet the women who say that a shepherdess hut is their perfect refuge from Covid cabin fever 

From an artist’s studio to the ideal spot for stargazing, meet the women who say that a shepherdess hut is their perfect refuge from Covid cabin fever. 

When your boss is the future King, you might expect to have a palatial home. And shepherdess Charlotte Darwent, who looks after Prince Charles‘s Scottish flock, says her new hut at Dumfries House in Ayrshire is fit for a princess, with its stained-glass windows and wool walls. But you don’t need sheep to own one. 

These women tell SADIE NICHOLAS why a shepherd’s — or shepherdess’s — hut can be the ultimate cosy escape at the bottom of the garden…

Cosy nook for lockdown takeaways

Gemma Holmes (pictured), 45, lives near Tenterden in Kent with her partner Ross Cooper, 43, a carpenter, and they have four children between them, aged 19, 16, 13 and 11

Gemma Holmes, 45, owns a clothing boutique and is a freelance presenter on QVC. She lives near Tenterden in Kent with her partner Ross Cooper, 43, a carpenter, and they have four children between them, aged 19, 16, 13 and 11.

Many an evening, Ross and I have sneaked off to the shepherd’s hut for a takeaway or a quiet glass of wine by the firepit. It lets us escape the chaos of having four children in the house much of the time.

I’d dreamed of having a quirky hideaway we could both rent out and enjoy ourselves, so Ross made the hut in the first lockdown in the spot I picked, next to a bluebell wood and overlooking the lake in the grounds of our home. He now takes commissions, too.

Holmes' partner Ross Cooper, a carpenter, helped bring the shepherdess's hut to life with features like wooden table tops and cabinets

Holmes’ partner Ross Cooper, a carpenter, helped bring the shepherdess’s hut to life with features like wooden table tops and cabinets

The wool insulation and log burner meant that when we slept in there on a bitterly cold night we had to open the windows as it was so hot! Our first attempt to sleep in there was a disaster, however. Our French Bulldog sat on me in bed, and our working cocker spaniel went bonkers at the sound of pheasants. It wasn’t the romantic evening we’d planned.

The three younger kids are pestering us to let them have a sleepover in it, and I fear we may have to cave in next weekend.

 shomethehut.com

Holiday home in our garden 

Maddie Westrop (pictured), 33, is a primary school teacher and lives in Castle Hedingham, Essex, with husband Andy, also 33, a farmer, and their three children Misty, seven, Piper, five, and Baxter, one

Maddie Westrop (pictured), 33, is a primary school teacher and lives in Castle Hedingham, Essex, with husband Andy, also 33, a farmer, and their three children Misty, seven, Piper, five, and Baxter, one

Maddie Westrop, 33, is a primary school teacher and lives in Castle Hedingham, Essex, with husband Andy, also 33, a farmer, and their three children Misty, seven, Piper, five, and Baxter, one.

Squished up together in the beautiful raised double bed at one end of our shepherd’s hut, it’s the most idyllic place for family sleepovers.

The children adore toasting giant marshmallows on the firepit outside and letting their imaginations run wild.

Andy’s been known to claim he’s off to check on something in the hut and return hours later, having enjoyed a cold beer.

Westrop (pictured) had just gotten into the swing of letting the hut out on AirBnb when the first lockdown happened but it's now a magical, whimsical little holiday home at the bottom of their garden

Westrop (pictured) had just gotten into the swing of letting the hut out on AirBnb when the first lockdown happened but it’s now a magical, whimsical little holiday home at the bottom of their garden 

Once, we managed a romantic date and a glass of wine in the hut with the woodburner roaring.

When Andy took over the family’s 200-acre farm three years ago, we wanted to offer something akin to glamping.

Andy ordered a self-build kit, and he made the metal chassis with wheels and designed the interior. 

It cost £24,000 and took him a year to build with help from friends and colleagues. It has an en-suite shower, solar panels to fire up the electricity and a kitchenette.

We’d just got into the swing of letting it on Air BnB when the first lockdown happened. But, in the meantime, it’s become our magical, whimsical little holiday home at the bottom of the garden. 

hedinghamhuts.co.uk

Hut with bijou bathroom house at the side

Fritha Wolsak, 49, said retreating to her hut to read or write in peace has been her guilty pleasure. Wolsak (pictured) is an art historian and writer

Fritha Wolsak, 49, said retreating to her hut to read or write in peace has been her guilty pleasure. Wolsak (pictured) is an art historian and writer

Fritha Wolsak, 49, is an art historian and writer, and lives in Old Heathfield, East Sussex, with her husband Mike, 50, a doctor, and their sons, aged 17 and 13.

Retreating to our little shepherd’s hut during the various lockdowns to read or write in peace has been my guilty pleasure. I’m conscious of how fortunate I am to be able to do that.

We deliberately don’t have wifi in the hut, which means I can sit at the old schoolhouse desk and work uninterrupted but for the sound of a bubbling kettle, or the various deer, foxes and pheasants rustling around outside.

Next to the hut is a mini version measuring 6 ft by 8 ft, which houses a roll top bath, sink, loo and wood-burning stove.

Outside, festoon lights and a cosy firepit make it the perfect place to sit and watch the stars at night.

We moved here from Cambridge five years ago and I decided I’d quite like to have a little rental place in the garden. I thought a shepherd’s hut would be perfect.

Wolsak (pictured) said the hut deliberately doesn't have wifi, which means she can sit at the old schoolhouse desk and work uninterrupted

Wolsak (pictured) said the hut deliberately doesn’t have wifi, which means she can sit at the old schoolhouse desk and work uninterrupted

I bought the hut and bathroom second-hand from a couple who were moving to America.

The huts are situated 50m from our house in a secluded spot in our 2.5-acre field. Family and friends love staying in it when they visit — in normal times. We’ve also hired it out for some photoshoots, and to holidaymakers, too.

But above all, it’s the loveliest, bijou place for me to go when I need to take a break from homeschooling and work for an hour or so during lockdown.

Our romantic hut gives us all a break 

Office manager Annabel Alford-Warren (pictured), 54, escapes to her hut with her husband Philip and spends romantic weekends there away from their three daughters

Office manager Annabel Alford-Warren (pictured), 54, escapes to her hut with her husband Philip and spends romantic weekends there away from their three daughters

Annabel Alford-Warren, 54, is an office manager and lives in Shere, Surrey, with her husband Philip Warren, 57, a financial adviser. They have three daughters between them aged 28, 24, and 16.

During the first lockdown, every Saturday night Phil and I would head down to our shepherd’s hut clutching a bottle of wine and glasses like lovestruck teenagers.

We wouldn’t leave until Sunday lunchtime, giving us a change of scene, and my daughter Lottie, 16, a break from us, too.

Flanked by trees, it sits 40 m from the house, and measures 4.2 m by 2.1 m. I designed it myself, then an artisan producer in Wales made it for us for a very reasonable £10,000, and visitors (when allowed them) always comment on it.

Flanked by trees, the hut sits 40 m from the house, and measures 4.2 m by 2.1 m. Alfred-Warren designed it herself, then an artisan producer in Wales made it

Flanked by trees, the hut sits 40 m from the house, and measures 4.2 m by 2.1 m. Alfred-Warren designed it herself, then an artisan producer in Wales made it

We had it made in 2014, after Phil moved in, as a hangout for his two daughters. Although my 700-year-old cottage has character, it’s quite small for our combined families. We knew one day it would be the perfect romantic retreat, too.

It has a wood-burning stove, a futon and a sofa, a table that folds against the wall and a dresser with a kettle for our tea.

The hut’s been invaluable: Phil’s even used it as an office and Lottie as somewhere quiet to study for homeschooling.

No men allowed in my art sanctuary! 

Claire Fort, 64, (pictured) dreamed of having somewhere to indulge her love of painting without having to tidy everything away

Claire Fort, 64, (pictured) dreamed of having somewhere to indulge her love of painting without having to tidy everything away

Claire Fort, 64, is a nurse and lives near Louth, Lincolnshire, with husband Mark, 59, a garden designer. She has two children aged 35 and 31.

Five years ago, I retired from nursing after 45 years and treated myself to a beautiful, pale grey shepherd’s hut where I could shut myself away to indulge my love of painting.

Although most cost at least £15,000, I found a chap in Birmingham who said he could make one for £5,000.

It measures 2.1 m by 3.7 m, sits by the orchard in the garden of our mock Georgian home, and is my sanctuary.

Painting in her hut helps Fort beat the stress of lockdown while an oil-burning heater set to a timer ensures her space is always warm

Painting in her hut helps Fort beat the stress of lockdown while an oil-burning heater set to a timer ensures her space is always warm

There’s a large glass-topped desk, a chair, some of my paintings on the walls, and a beautiful retro radio my children gave me for my 60th birthday.

An oil-burning heater is set on timer so the hut is always warm and neither I nor my paintings get cold and damp.

I always wanted my own space where I could paint watercolours of animals to my heart’s content without having to tidy everything away at the end of the day.

Like everyone else, I’m feeling the stress of the pandemic but, when I retreat to my hut, light the candles and immerse myself in a watercolour painting, it ebbs away.

Mark’s not allowed in as he’s got a he-shed nearby, which is all his. 


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