It’s hard to call this place a farm. The word ‘farm’ conjures up images of tractors trundling along, golden swathes of wheat rippling in the breeze or herds of dairy cows munching their way through meadows. Instead, Mill Farm is a 55-acre collage of green and blue, where tidal creeks stretch their fingers inland every time the waters rise and flat palms of salt marsh are enlivened by wading birds. It feels almost like a nature reserve.
It’s in a similar vein that it seems foolish to call The Shepherd’s Hide a 'shepherd’s hut'. After all, the traditional wagon on wheels of 19th-century shepherds is a far cry from what you’ll find today. This luxury bolt hole is the sort of place a humble sheep herder could only dream of.
Situated just three miles from the Essex coast, and tucked in its own private, partially wooded enclave overlooking a reed-speckled pond, The Shepherd’s Hide is a romantic two-person retreat crafted with every comfort in mind. Inside it’s finished down to the smallest little detail. There are toiletries in the bathroom (all biodegradable and wonderfully fragrant), locally sourced goodies in your wicker ‘welcome hamper’ and small tins with tea, coffee and sugar, each decorated with illustrations of native wildlife that can be spotted from your window. The king-sized bed at the far end is hopelessly impossible to drag yourself away from each morning and the wood burner is equally seducing on chilly winter nights. It’s worth plucking up the courage to venture out at some point though.
Beyond the door, there’s a patio and picnic bench and a trail that leads away into the farm. Guests are welcome to explore, with footpaths weaving from the shepherd’s hut towards Arlesford Creek, a perfect place for bird watching. A short stroll from the hut you’ll also find the old wooden mill that gives the farm its name – a fully restored tidal mill built in 1831. It’s only open on certain days if you want to peep inside but it makes for a magnificent photo or two in the meantime, set against the colours of the creek beyond, where the waters ebb away having circled the water-wheel that turns inside.
During summer a Pick-Your-Own strawberry field is opened up to the public (you see, there is a farm!) and glampers can hide away in the hut, gorging themselves on ripe fruit – a serious pleasure since they grow a host of sweet varieties you can’t buy in the supermarkets. Or, take your basket and skip down to the beaches of the Essex coast – Clacton on Sea, Walton on the Naze and more – all just ten minutes or so in the car, where you could add a little ice cream to those berries. Take your pick. Literally.
The Owner SaysLocated on a family farm, the Shepherds Hide huts "Wigeon" and "Teal" are a luxurious unique and secluded self catering shepherds huts, tucked away on the heart of the Essex coast, just outside Colchester. They are perfect for short breaks, romantic getaways or for longer self-catering holidays in the countryside with excellent bird watching and walking on site and a range of tourist attractions nearby. Mill Farm, is about 55 acres of a mixture of arable, grassland, salt marsh, tidal creeks and inland waters and is the home of the only fully restored tide mill in Essex. Reconnect with nature and yourselves at The Shepherds Hide, away from the hustle and bustle of your busy lives.
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Perfect weekend away
A perfect bubble of relaxation
Having read reviews elsewhere about the Shepherds Hide, my wife and I had high expectations. Well, what can I say? It exceeded them in every way.
Our visit coincided with 'Storm Imogen' and we must admit we did wonder how the first night would be. The underfloor heating, log burner, and VERY comfortable bed meant we were nice and cosy, and actually had the best night's sleep we've had in a really long time!
One of the things that really makes it special, is that the owners have added some truly lovely touches to the Hide. Waiting for us in the kitchen was a basket of local produce which included some homemade jam, bread, juice and eggs. They'd also thoughtfully provided tea, coffee, sugar, milk and butter. The kitchen is very well stocked with pans, crockery cutlery and cooking utensils, so if you feel so inclined, you can cook a proper meal on the stove and oven. The Hide is spotlessly clean, organised and most importantly (at least to us) is set in peaceful and quiet surroundings. It was just what we needed, the perfect retreat.
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