It’s a great feeling to down tools on a Friday, throw some bags in the car and set off for a weekend’s adventure with friends and the promise of escaping the pace of modern life for a few days. And so our expectations were duly met as we wound our way through stunning countryside on our final approach to The Chickenshed, to be welcomed by Susan the owner and a fresh plate of her homemade Welsh cakes.
Positioned on a hillside above the Wye Valley, The Chickenshed is the result of a painstaking two-year project undertaken by Sue, transforming the derelict chicken coop into a stunning home from home combining great architecture, clean design and wonderful views. The exterior’s cedar cladding and corrugated roof give clues to agricultural past, while on the inside it’s clean and contemporary, spacious and sleek, with polished concrete floors and huge windows flooding the open-plan space with light.
We probably spent a significant portion of our weekend simply admiring the place; the beautiful handmade wooden beds, the traditional Welsh blankets, the lighting and artwork; it’s all been really well thought out.
After excitedly choosing a room, we immediately set the kettle to boil and collapsed on the huge sofas to take in the view. No need for a TV here (although there is one tucked in the snug), as nature put on a show each day at sunrise and sundown. We spent long mealtimes in front of those big windows, evenings in the snug playing games and watching movies, and hours in the garden, soaking up the views on the patio and playing on the rope swing. It was the perfect place to relax with friends, and such a pleasure to do so in such a beautifully designed space and fantastic setting. Waking up to views of rolling hills and hedgerows as far as the eye can see did us all wonders.
There’s some great walking to be done right from the doorstep, taking in fields, woodlands and views across to the Black Mountains. But we hadn’t realised quite how brilliantly located The Chickenshed is for so many other things and Susan has produced a great guide to the area. On the Saturday, we paid a visit to Baileys Home Store in nearby Ross-on-Wye. Set in a series of farm buildings in the Herefordshire countryside, their constantly evolving collection of simple, useful and beautiful things is hard to resist.
We picked up some household essentials and had lunch in the Tin Tabernacle Tea Room, before making our way over to Puzzlewood. Here we got lost and tangled in the ancient forest for an hour or two, searching for treasure and spotting wildlife. This place is 14 acres of pure woodland magic with winding paths and fantastical root and rock formations, supposedly the inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It’s the kind of place I want everyone I know to visit to see how amazing it is. Making our way back through the scenic countryside later, we arrived back to the shed in time for a slow supper and evening by the fire bowl with sparks flying into the night, toasted marshmallows and a glass of wine.
On Sunday, we enjoyed a lazy morning and pancake breakfast before a visit to Symonds Yat Rock, exploring woodland trails and taking in the picturesque views of the River Wye from this internationally famous viewpoint. We discovered an ancient hill fort, enjoyed a cuppa from the old log cabin cafe and joined local birders waiting avidly for Peregrine Falcons and Goshawks to appear in their scopes.
That afternoon, on our way home, we stopped in at Tintern for a stroll around, taking in the impressive Tintern Abbey, as well as browsing the shelves at Stella Books, a little gem of a bookshop stuffed full of rare and out of print books. We also picked up some great local ales from Kingstone Brewery to take home.
The area is a bit of a foodie hotspot and it’s not hard to get hold of great local produce with local shops and farmers markets a short drive from the Chickenshed. There are also plenty of great pubs and The Whitebrook, a Michelin star restaurant right on the doorstep. And if you’d like to arrive on your first night knowing that there is a home-made supper waiting in the oven, Susan will happily arrange that for you.
We ate really well at the Chickenshed, making the most of the beautiful Balthaup kitchen. Out and about, we enjoyed really good coffee, sandwiches and cakes at the Tin Tabernacle, the beautiful café at Baileys Home & Garden. More good coffee and cake at The Filling Station in Tintern, but the highlight on the Sunday was probably our visit to The Boat Penallt in Monmouthshire, a pretty waterside pub nestled right on the edge of the River Wye with waterfalls in the garden. With its smoking chimney it was a picture perfect spot to stop, overlooking the old railway bridge that crosses from Redbrook to Penallt. We enjoyed hearty plates of great home cooked food and sampled some of their awesome selection of cider, before reluctantly heading back to The Chickenshed to pack up, wishing we could stay longer.
Images by Jeska & Dean Hearne & courtesy of The Chickenshed