Happy Weekend! This week I've only got one link to share and it is from our stay at The Shepherds Return.
It was years ago that we had first read about The Shepherds Return and had tried to book in for a weekend stay but couldn't get in. So when the long weekend in May rolled around and we had planned to take Gina for her first long drive out of London, The Shepherds Return was the first place that came to mind.
Located in West Sussex, in the country garden of Lizzie Staples cottage, sits The Shepherds Return. Normally it would take just over an hour or so to get there, but we took our time with Gina and a few hours after leaving London finally pulled up off the road and ventured through the main driveway, to meet Lizzie.
After introducing Lizzie to Gina, Lizzie kindly took the time to walk us through the property explaining the huts to us. The main hut, the Shepherd's hut, which initially was the only hut on the property is set up to provide you with an overall experience of what is what like to live like a Shepherd on a farm. In keeping with the authenticity of the experience, the hut is furnished simply but thoughtfully. Lizzie has used only organic materials where possible, with wool for the bedding and without electricity, lanterns and candles are provided for light along with a wood burning stove.
The mini hut which was built sometime after the Shepherds hut, sits just a few steps to the side of the Shepherds hut with a camping toilet, and small wash bowl. A shower and proper toilet are provided in Lizzie's main cottage just across the garden. Lastly, we were introduced to Matilda and Florence, ("the girls") her two chooks who would apparently be providing us with eggs for our breakfast hamper that would be delivered in the morning.
Not long after we were settled in to the hut, we got a knock on the door telling us afternoon tea was set up for us outside. It was perfect. We sat outside in the late afternoon sun enjoying cups of tea, as Matilda and Florence wandered around us. It didn't take long to relax and feel as though we were a million miles away from the busy city life of London. We had a wonderful time.
I was lucky enough to have a few conversations with Lizzie over the course of the weekend, and each time I was struck with a sense of gratitude to be experiencing something that she clearly has so much love for. She went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable throughout our stay, a sheepskin hot water bottle was placed at the bottom of our bed each night and the wood stove would be put on so the hut was warm for us on our return from dinner. I felt so well looked after and we certainly both felt like we could have stayed longer.
Lizzie was kind enough to answer some additional questions which I have included after the images below - I hope you have a wonderful relaxing weekend!
I read that you started The Shepherds Return over 6 years ago, what was it that initially drove you to want to set up and run it?
Lizzie - Yes, I started running The Shepherds Return in May 2009. I wanted to own a Shepherds hut and make it an authentic place for people to come and stay. Furnished with New Zealand wool duvets and pillows, and no electricity, I wanted to create a place for people to really embrace stepping back in time.
The craftmanship of the huts are beautiful. How did you came across the maker, Eddie Butterfield, and why was it important to have him make the huts for you?
Lizzie - I spent a long time sourcing the right hut and saw quite a few, but as soon as I saw Eddie and his huts in Dorset, I knew he was the man to build The Shepherds Return for me. I was looking for someone who had real passion for his craft and Eddie had it in bucket loads. He is a true craftsman in a very old fashioned way, using only wood making tools that have been handed down through generations.
He made the main hut for me and gave me the mini hut as a present. He knows the exact tree that was used to make the hut, and he made all the iron work. He loved the fact that I embraced the whole concept by buying wool duvets, pillows to create an experience for people to be able to step in to the shoes of how a Shepherd would have lived. He is also an incredibly nice man and I feel his passion for his craft comes across in the hut.
What is your favourite thing about The Shepherds Return?
Lizzie - The huts simplicity - no frills but linen and wool products.
What do you hope guests take away from their stay at the Shepherds Return?
Lizzie - Complete rest, a tonic offering peace and quiet looking across a valley that has been untouched for years.
When we pulled up to the front of the property we noticed a small structure being built? Will this be a part of The Shepherds Return?
Lizzie - Yes, the barn is a self-contained annex offering the same tranquility. It offers a king size bed with bathroom en-suite, kitchen and sitting room. The bedroom has a wood burning stove in it, with french windows opening up onto a little patio with views across the valley. At the moment I will be offering bed and breakfast and by October will be offering weekly lets.
It was so nice to be able to get back to basics, enjoy the quiet of the country and completely switch off. Your passion and love for The Shepherds Return made us feel so at home during our stay, thanks for having us.
Lizzie - Everyone feels the same as you and a lot of people seem to get clarity, with a great sense of peace after leaving the Shepherds Return. I know the barn will give people the same experience.
Thanks again Lizzie! Hopefully we can return again with Gina for a longer stay!