I am a massive fan of ‘doing presents’ – hiding in the birthday present pile looking like another card in a nondescript envelope, until you open them up and unravel a delicious treat. Or you unwrap a weird present that makes no sense, until you work out that it’s a clue for something really cool. This year I had a card with a pic of some champagne on it… inside there was a plan for a night in a Shepherds Hut near Rye. Yay! I gave him an American school bus toy with Travelling Chimps on the side, which was actually a present to go down and hang out with a guy who I’d found who owns an American bus in Devon. It’s a chance to see a bus for real, imagine what it will be like to live in one and find out more about the pitfalls and pleasures of buying and travelling in one. That’s a blog for another time though – back to glamping in Rye.
Rye and Winchelsea walk
We arrived early and downloaded a 7 mile walk that would take us to Rye and Winchelsea in a loop. It was glorious sunshine as we parked up on Dumb Woman’s Lane – such a good name – and strolled along to Rye. We’ve visited the town before with the boys but fancied going back for a mooch among the antique shops, cobbled streets and pubs without them. On a sunny day it’s a lovely spot for a beer and we had to try very hard not to have a second!
The ‘Shifting Sands’ walk that we downloaded from Discovering Britain officially starts and finishes in Rye but we joined at point 17 and looped from there. It took us all around Rye (which we realised after we had already walked around it), past Camber Castle and via a bird hide that looked out on a surprising marsh land, and on to Winchelsea where there were apparently lovely views of the sea and the shifting sands, which was not apparent to us even though it was a perfectly clear day.
The route is full of commentary from ‘Raymond Molony a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society’ and you can actually download the audio guide or a massive booklet of written commentary. Most of his notes we ignored as it took too long to load up, but we did find some interesting stops using our own eyes! Sutton’s was a treat – a seafood and fruit shop just outside of Winchelsea that served up the loveliest cherries (for me) and cockles (for him), and we saw a great view of Dungeoness, ominously sitting on a peninsula and kick-starting a big discussion on nuclear energy.
Winchelsea didn’t have much going on but we found the one thing we were looking for – Spike Milligans Grave. Oh ok, we didn’t bother with that but we did find a pub. Again, a gorgeous beer garden and an icy beer. It was so delicious we failed to stop after one and found ourselves wandering round a ‘upcycled’ thrift barn where we bought a lamp. Useful for a walk!
Glamping in The Hut
We stayed in a Shepherds Hut owned by Extraordinary Huts., following a path through woodland into our secret home for the night. From the deck of the Hut, set in the clearing of a wood on a slope, you can see nothing but green hills and sheep. It feels very private and remote, even though you are only a short distance from the road.
The Hut was billed as luxury accommodation that has ‘everything you need’ for 4 people but i’d argue that it was probably better for two and it was more ‘glamping’ than ‘luxury accommodation’. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by a remarkable stay in Boutique Bothies in Scotland, where Jane, the owner, had laid on strawberries from her garden, home-made jam and bread, as well as toiletries. The Hut, in comparison, had lamps with missing batteries, burnt out candles and not a local delicacy in sight! It was still lovely though – a fine balance of nature and comfort – and after a brief spin back to Rye to stock up on snacks, we settled in.
Inside and out
Inside The Hut there is living space with a sofa and a woodburning stove, a fully equipped kitchenette with sink and a gas hob, a wet room with a good shower and a flushing loo, and an upstairs mezzanine level with a low double bed on one side and two low singles on the other. There’s a ladder up to the bed level and it’s all open; we had toyed with the idea of bringing the kids (for 5 minutes, honestly!), but I’m glad we didn’t as without a guard rail to stop you falling down from the platform as you try to go to the loo in the dark in the middle of the night, one of them would have had an injury!
Outside the Hut there is a fire pit and a hammock, with plenty of wood and firelighters. We had a lovely campfire when we got home from the pub – screeching away to Radiohead until the early hours. Hopefully our neighbours weren’t in earshot – we discovered in the morning that The Hut’s older sibling, ‘The Hide Out’, offers a glamping experience just a thicket of trees and bushes away. Oops!
Dinner at the Plough
Although we could have cooked at The Hut, we opted for The Plough pub. It was a short walk and a lovely pub, although we had to order extra chips because the portions were small . This happens regularly… I’m beginning to think it is our appetites that are at fault and not the pubs we eat in!
If you do go with the family and you van…
Incidentally, If you are looking to stay in Rye in your campervan, the River Haven Hotel charges £10 for an overnight in their car park. It’s no glamping – there’s a fair bit of rubbish and a car wash operation going on in the corner – but it felt safe enough and if you hop over the wall it takes just 5 mins to walk riverside to the pretty parts of Rye. Bargain!