Treehouses, hot tubs, birdsong, barbecues. You might be thinking of far-flung places. Somewhere in the Far East maybe? Or perhaps some swanky enclave down south where the rich and famous go to play.
What if I told you this rural idyll is right on our doorstep? Yep, nestled in the Warwickshire countryside is a little haven of peace and quiet that will make you feel like you’re a million miles from home, even if you’re only down the road from reality.
Once upon a time Wootton Park was entirely farmland, bought by the McCall family back in August 1945. Fast forward more than half a century and the third generation of McCalls are now in charge, having moved away from dairy farming in the 1990s to diversify the business. Some of the land is still farmed, but much of it is woodland. At its heart is what has become a thriving business that’s nothing to do with farming. The original Victorian brick farm buildings are now offices, the former dairy and milking parlour a business centre and the farmhouse a B&B. The barn is licensed for weddings and they’ve even got a ‘wedding boat’ on the lake where you can tie the knot. Oh, and let’s not forget the wake boarding lake that also operates within the grounds.
But it’s none of that I’ve come for. I’ve come for the jewel in the crown of Wootton Park – its tree pods. Tucked in a copse of trees, these are where your childhood adventurer meets your adult luxury-lover. Wootton Park has camping pods, each with double beds and shared shower and toilet facilities, as well as ‘megapods’ completely with their own hot tub and en-suite facilities, but the tree pods are a whole different ballgame.
Completely self-contained, the aptly-named ‘Over the Moon’ and ‘Heavens Above’ are perched atop steel frames lifting them high into the sky and making them the perfect vantage point to gaze across the countryside vista. Each has its own terrace complete with barbecue and – you guessed it – private hot tubs up there in the trees.
Inside, there’s everything you need – kitchenette with cooker, fridge, toaster and kettle, TV, a little sofa and your cosy double bed. The en-suite bathroom is as good as some hotels, with shower, toilet, sink and heated towel rail. Did I mention the underfloor heating? And let’s not forget all the little extras that make somewhere lovely like the complimentary toiletries, a snuggly robe, and the tea, coffee and biscuits for your morning brew.
In fact, they’ve gone one step further and thought of far more than the basics. Binoculars if you’re a keen bird-watcher. A patio heater outside if you want to sit on chilly nights. Fairy lights for the romance factor. Plastic champagne flutes for evenings in the tub. They’ve thought of it all.
You may think that summer is the best time for an adventure like this. Having tried an autumnal stay, I’d have to disagree. There’s something about waddling across a chilly deck to a steaming hot tub, bottle of Prosecco in hand, to enjoy floundering around underneath the stars.
Turns out it was only about 4.30pm when we started that, allowing hours to get proper pruney before moving a few feet to curl up in onesies and robes under the patio heater and listen to the night-time noises while feeling as if we really were as distant from home as the Far East – just without the long-haul flight (and perhaps the climate).
If we hadn’t eaten our fill earlier that day at The Butcher’s Social (which, by the way, is about 10 minutes down the road so you can definitely tie the two together) we would have tucked into some picnic food we’d brought with us but instead we finished off the night with a cuppa and a bit of TV.
I still can’t decide whether morning at Wootton Park was more or less beautiful than evening, or on a par. Either way, it was pretty fabulous. As a keen camper and campervanner, mornings are usually my favourite time. No alarm clocks, no rushing around to get out the door to go somewhere, no rushed coffee thrown down your throat. Instead, that peace and quiet that comes with watching the day wake up as you do too. Un-rushed and un-hassled.
We feasted on croissants and jam bought the day before from the Co-op in Henley-in-Arden. We watched the wildlife. Drank three back-to-back cups of tea and coffee. Even contemplated a final go in the hot tub. Instead we took a mooch around our hidden little copse, checking out the other pods and the ‘megapods’ – ground-level versions of our own slice of heaven in the tree tops.
I’m told it’s a great place for hen dos and get-togethers and I can see why. Your own little pod. Showers and facilities nearby. A shared hot tub for those without their own. And even a barbecue and wood-fired pizza oven for you to gather around like they do in all the best films.
Our stay at Wootton Park seemed to be over far too quickly, which is always a good sign. As much as I would have loved to stay a second night and lounge around all day, take a walk in the countryside to nearby Wootton Wawen, then barbecue our dinner and spend another evening soaking in the hot tub, reality called. So we packed up our bags, trundled back downstairs to the world and headed for home.
So often people tell me they wouldn’t like camping. Often it’s because they’re stuck on an anachronistic or downright inaccurate idea of camping, full of wet tents, bugs, discomfort and endurance. Times have moved on people, so if canvas doesn’t appeal to you but you want something a bit different, you could do far worse than try one of the epic alternatives on offer like Wootton Park.
Before you ask, no, it’s not dirt cheap. After all, you’re getting underfloor heating, hot running water, an en-suite bathroom and a frickin hot tub. It’s on par with a hotel. But if you want all that and yet to be in what feels like the middle of nowhere, right in the Midlands close to pretty places like Stratford-upon-Avon or Henley-in-Arden, then you’ve kind of got to pay for it. And when you’re sat sipping fizz under the stars, feeling a million miles from home, I think you’ll think it’s worth it.
Our one-night stay at Wootton Park was complimentary. For more information on prices and offers, visit http://www.woottonpark.co.uk/stay.html