Deciding you want to go away for New Year about three weeks before the big day isn’t a great idea. Especially if you’ve got a bit of an idea of what you want to do – what are the chances of getting exactly what you want, at a reasonable price, at such short notice? Slim to none, I know.
With this in mind, I’m not sure how it happened, but Mr M and I managed to have an absolutely perfect weekend away. After a manic year and what was due to be an equally chaotic Christmas, we decided that a few days piece and quiet would be a far more preferable new year than any alcohol-fuelled shenanigans which would inevitably leave me feeling ill and both of us exhausted ahead of a busy January moving house.
Me being me, I got it in my head that I wanted to stay somewhere a little bit different – a bit of an ‘off-grid’ break as Kevin McCloud would say. It turns out there’s loads of these around, from yurts to tree houses, to little log cabins. It also transpires that they’re massively popular – most of the ones I enquired with had been booked up for new year since the previous new year.
And then, by chance, I happened on Lake Farm Shepherd’s Hut. Shepherds Huts were used in the 19th and 20th century during the sheep raising and lambing season. They had wheels and corrugated iron roofs, as well as a stove in the corner, window on each side, and a stable door. Basically they had to be kitchen, bedroom, sitting room and storeroom all in one. Nowadays, they’re seeing a resurgence whether it be as a home office, a summer house, or a little bolt hole to escape to.
It ticked all the boxes. Cosy, secluded, not too far from home (it’s near Welshpool, about 1hr 45mins from us). Oh, and its own en-suite bathroom which lots of these places don’t have. More importantly, it was available! After speaking to Charlotte the owner, I booked online and started researching things to do (and places to eat) nearby.
The plan was to arrive on December 30th and stay two nights, going home on New Year’s Day. At £95 a night for our break, I didn’t think it was too unreasonable for a New Year break at such short notice. That also includes breakfast – any other time of year you can choose between continental brekkie and a breakfast cooked for you in the owner’s home (just across the garden), but since it was new year, it was just continental on offer (I say ‘just’ – wait till you see it!).
As usual, the best laid plans didn’t quite happen. If you’ve read my post about Christmas Day and Waters Restaurant (which, come on, you should’ve done!) you’ll know that Mr M was ill for the whole of Christmas – so ill that it threw serious doubt on our prospects of going away.
It was at this point that I knew we were on to a winner. When I asked Charlotte what we could do, she was incredibly accommodating, offering us the chance to cancel, to come later in the month, or to move the trip back. And so, we moved the trip back a day to allow Jamie an extra day to recover and get some blood test results, and off we went.
You know when you have an idea in your head of what something is going to be like – most of the time it isn’t quite like that is it? But on the rare occasion, it’s exactly how you imagined. This was one of them.
Charlotte’s directions were perfect, leading us down windy roads and a teeny weeny little drive to their home. We were met by Martin who led us round to our home for the next two nights. Here it is peeps, how cute is that!
It turns out Martin makes these lovely huts for a living, using his 25 years of carpentry experience to combine the 19th century design with 21st Century comforts. Beautifully finished inside, with handcrafted oak windows and doors, a lovely comfy bed, a cute (and incredibly efficient) little hobbit stove, a little table and two chairs for you to sit at if you really want to, plus anice leather chair, and a chest of drawers for a bit of storage and somewhere to put the kettle.
Everything’s on hand for the stove, including wood, kindling, firelighters and matches. Fabulous little shelves scattered around the hut provide homes for things like tea and coffee, a little radio, some games, and various pretty little ornaments to give that home from home feeling.
The bathroom isn’t big of course, but big enough for a shower, sink, toilet, and dinky little baskets of toiletries. The hut’s got electricity so you’ve got lights, a plug for the kettle and hairdryer (which they provide) and to charge your phone – although you’ve got hardly any signal, so this is the time to just turn it off and forget the world.
These guys really have thought of everything – a tray to put your muddy boots in by the door, a torch hanging on a hook by the door in case you need to go outside, storage boxes under the bed so you can stow everything away, and an OS map of the local area. These little touches show a bit of thought which goes a long long way.
A quick lesson from Martin on how to use the fire and we were left to our own devices. Lake Farm’s got beautiful views across the valley, and is within walking distance of Offa’s Dyke path as well as some great walks along the nearby canal. Charlotte and Martin can organise clay pigeon shooting for you if you like, and if it’s slightly less outdoorsy things you want to do, there’s plenty of other stuff nearby, like the light railway at Welshpool and Powis Castle.
For us, it was all about the rest and relaxation. To be honest, it’s hard to leave a place as idyllic as this. We spent the afternoon sitting around, enjoying the views, and loving the cosiness of being holed up in a hut miles from the ‘real world’, with our little stove burning away while the rain fell outside.
We were so happy, in fact, that we didn’t leave for the rest of the day. We’d had a massive lunch at Smoke Stop on the way so didn’t really need any more food, and we spent our perfect New Year’s Eve listening to Radio 2, drinking tea and munching on cookies and playing chess (using their chess set). We went to sleep at about two minutes past midnight, confident that we’d be up long before 9.30am when we’d asked for our breakfast to be brought to us.
Erm, not quite. At 9.30am we were still fast asleep – thanks to the stunning silence we are so unused to in our day-to-day lives – when Charlotte knocked on the door with a cafetiere of coffee and whopping great big hamper.
When someone says ‘continental breakfast’ it conjures up images of a few croissants and jam, some juice, and maybe some cereal. Not here. Our hamper was packed with cereal, fresh fruit, yoghurt, a plate full of cold meats and cheese, tomatoes and eggs, bottles of juice and milk, and a stack of warm bread, croissants and pain au chocolat. Not to mention the lovely little bowls, plates, bread board, and jars of jam and butter. Oh, and specially for New Year, a bottle of Buck’s Fizz and two champagne flutes. Fab!
After we scrambled out of bed and filled our faces, we decided on a walk – Mr M’s first foray into fresh air for a whole week. We packed up some of our bread and cheese, Famous Five-style, and set off with the map for a little mooch. As we all know, the weather’s been a bit dodgy over these last few weeks and there were plenty of signs of the heavy rain in the area, but we managed four hours of yomping around in the wet with our wellies on before we headed back just in time to miss the next downpour.
There’s nothing quite like coming back to a cosy little hideaway when it’s wet and cold outside, and this is the perfect place to do just that. As the year goes on, you’ll see that Mr M and I are big fans of camping – there’s usually a trip to Cornwall or the coast in our tent at some point in the summer – but it’s not something we can do in the cold winter months. So this is the best of both worlds – the cosiness of camping without the canvas. Perfecto.
I won’t go on and on about the next 24 hours – it was pretty similar to the first. Lots of chess and card-playing, radio listening, munching on snacks, and drinking of tea. We were left to our own devices, whilst knowing that Charlotte and Martin were close enough for any help, or a phone call away, if we needed them. The hut was absolutely perfect – so perfect that Jamie now wants one in our own back garden (not quite sure it would have the same feel…).
I really can’t rave about our break at Lake Farm enough. Before we came, one of my friend’s paraphrased my description into, “Ellen and Jamie are going to stay in a shed on a hill in Wales”. I suppose that’s not factually incorrect, but when it comes to what this really was, it was world’s away from that.
When it comes to surroundings and service, this is a pretty high end bit of accommodation, at an affordable price and without any of the airs and graces you might get from some places that are as perfectly finished and well thought out as this. If it’s relaxation you want, and a cosy little escape in idyllic surroundings, I can fully recommend Lake Farm. I know we’ll be heading back!
We paid in full for our stay at Lake Farm and Charlotte didn’t know I was planning on writing about it. You can book to stay at Lake Farm through Trip Advisor.