Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: author's own (otherwise by Matilda Delves Photography)
Has a sheep ever looked you dead in the eye, baaah'd, and urinated? How about two at the same time?
Such was our welcome to Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts in Kent; a scene reminiscent of Francis Lee's sublime, gritty 2017 drama God's Own Country, about two shepherds who fall in love.
While I didn't birth any lambs during my stay, up to 1,200 ewes - both adorable and slightly terrifying - surround the huts, which overlook Walland and Romney Marshes' Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As per that other movie about handsome herdsmen getting up close and personal with nature (the Canadian Rockies-filmed Brokeback Mountain) the huts' cleansing, the remote location is the big draw here.
The surrounding landscape is existentially healthy in its simplicity, while the fresh air is intoxicating, along with the silence - save for the sheep. You feel on the edge of things. Attitude enjoyed an almost completely dry stay last month but would be interested to see this patch of the Garden of England in autumn and winter.
If I make the experience sound remotely like slumming it in the middle of nowhere, by the way, that's really not the case. My guest and I arrived via a 15-minute taxi from Ashford International train station in Kent, to which the average train time from London is one hour, 19 minutes. The charming beachside town of Folkestone is meanwhile reachable by bike, as are several quaint country pubs.
What's more, should you run into problems (I forgot an iPhone charger - who does that in this day and age?!) civilisation is but a stone's throw away... You're actually residing on a family farm. Sister brand Romney Marsh Wools also has a base on-site, selling luxury British wool products like rugs and wool-fat soap; the huts are stocked with their sumptuous toiletries.
But if you want to disengage with humanity, you're all set. You even check yourself in and out with a key lockbox à la Airbnb. Although that's where similarities to the homestay behemoth end.
These self-catering huts - we stayed at the chic, cosy Lookerer - are pretty luxurious, boasting a staggering number of amenities given their minuscule size: a two-ring electric hob, a fridge, a heated towel rack. You never feel cooped up, perhaps owing to the folding furniture or the expanse of space beyond the little windows. The shower is a tight squeeze, granted. But the fact it exists at all is such a novelty, you don't begrudge it.
What makes it, though, are the homely details - the wood burner, the lovely crockery, the biscuit jar. Items such as tea, coffee, and granola also come with the hut; we furthermore ordered a locally-sourced breakfast box (£15) and it was delicious. Other gourmet meals from local partners are subject to availability, but we made do with the firepit, roasting everything from seafood to marshmallows.
Very few criticisms, but the 4pm check-in time - although arguably par for the course post-covid - doesn't allow for much flexibility regarding the arrival. You don't want to arrive earlier, should you risk twiddling your thumbs, while arriving later means potentially losing an evening. I also would have preferred the toiletries in larger sizes.
But to end on a positive: there is a wide range of fun, inventive experiences and extras easily bookable via the huts' website. Scroll on for more info...
From £25pp: Bike hire with Channel Bike Hire. Bikes can be left at an arranged meeting point to save guests having to return them.
From £50pp: Marsh Jeep Safari with Channel Bike Hire for a half-day tour including lunch at a local eatery - tours take place on the Romney Marsh and around Dungeness in Kent.
From £60pp: Needle-felting classes with local textile artist Rachel Murrell, where guests can learn the art of needle felting using pre-dyed wool from Romney sheep.
From £75pp: Virtual Vineyard Tours with Wine Tours of Kent to explore some of Kent’s finest vineyards and wine producers and brewers on a guided tour with tutored wine tastings and a country pub lunch. In-person tours are available from £93pp.
Attitude.co.uk was a guest of Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts (www.romneymarshshepherdshuts.co.uk). A two-night stay in the Lookerer Hut for two adults sharing is priced from £270 (£135pp) based on low season travel in November 2021. There is a minimum two-night stay per booking. To book, visit www.bloomstays.com/property/the-lookerer or call Bloom Stays on 01227 903 404.
The Attitude September Style Issue, is out now.