The Wood Life
Kenn, Exeter, Devon EX6 7XH
When the M5 runs out and the village of Kenn appears, you know that you’re in Devon. Quaint, thatched houses with painted cob walls, a parish church built of local auburn-coloured Heavitree stone and a pub with its hanging sign hidden among a speckling of flower baskets – this is old England through and through. Yet if Kenn feels like an ‘end of the road’ destination, The Wood Life goes one step further. It’s only once you pootle out of the village, down the kind of country lanes where the hedge is wider than the road itself, and splash through a shallow, cobbled ford that this hideaway can be found, tucked among the trees where the road quite literally ends at the head of the valley with only open swathes of countryside ahead.
Comprising two distinct lodgings at two singularly stunning locations – one a single glamping wagon set amidst an old orchard; the other a spacious, family-friendly safari tent – The Wood Life offers it's guests luxury facilities and exclusive use of a truly glorious corner of Devon, brimming with flora and wildlife.
The former, Orchard Wagon, could well have been abandoned to the wilderness in the hopes of never being found, such is it’s seclusion, but abandoned it is not – something all too clear when you step inside.
A light, white-walled interior with cute windows that look out into the lush surroundings lends a dainty, cottage-like feel to the place. It’s as if the design has been based on a spread of fine Devon cream teas – traditional, sweet and practically perfect in every way. The double bed is crafted out of coppiced chestnut from a few miles away and a pair of quirky up-cycled lamps, one on either side, bring a glowing warmth when evening descends.
The beauty and craftsmanship of the main hut is equalled by its ingenious complimentary bathing wagon, situated just a few yards away. Built on an old farm trailer and offering en-suite-type facilities with a view, the wagon’s large rear window can be opened so that you can light the wood-burner and soak in the deep bathtub looking out across the open countryside. The more prudish can close themselves away, enjoying the steamy setting and the wonderfully woody smell of the handcrafted hut.
Just down the road lies Orchard Wagon’s sister site, Woodland Camp. With only one safari tent across set in it's own eight acre woodland, complete with treehouse, see-saw and a giant swing, there’s no danger of overcrowding here. Set atop a wooden deck, this stylish, spacious handmade tent (sleeps six) combines the charm of camping with all the creature comforts of home. The two bedrooms (a double and a twin) are nicely furnished with rugs, pillows and soft lighting, whilst the kitchen comes equipped with all the utensils under the sun. Cooking can be done inside, but with those splendid panoramic woodland views, why not rub sticks together and get that open fire going. Logs come in plentiful supply, but if you'd like to split your own, go for it, it's surprisingly therapeutic!
Despite the romantic, ‘middle-of-nowhere’ feel of it all, owners Matt and Amanda do live close by. They provide a slice of their rural privacy, yet are also attentive enough to ensure you settle in and are full of advice and pub recommendations. Should you fancy a change from cooking in the exceptional al fresco kitchen, the flowery village local, The Ley Arms, is well worth a visit. It means breaking the bubble of your new hidden world, but if you want to discover the joys of the Devon coast then you would have had to do that anyway. So hey, the pub is certainly a good place to start!
And for ventures further afield, Dawlish Warren beach (nine-time winner of the Blue Flag Award), Dartmoor National Park and the Cathedral City of Exeter are all only five miles away. The perfect place for a spot of seaside family fun, visitors can take a boat trip around the bay, keeping one eye out for playful dolphins, or catwalk down the breakwater and try to catch some mackerel for tea.
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