The Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts, Kent prove that farm life can sometimes be the luxurious Bohemian country escape you need to reconnect with nature and with yourself. Our House of Coco couple, Omo and Eulanda Osagiede went to experience this unusual accommodation on a UK staycation.
The neighbours looked up briefly as we opened the gate and wheeled our luggage into their field. Like many other thoughtful things they had done, our hosts had provided a hand-drawn wagon with tyres perfectly suited for navigating the terrain.
Our pile of bags immediately gave us away as city dwellers who, clearly not used to the laid back lifestyle in these parts, had packed more than we needed for a two-night stay in a cosy converted shepherds’ hut in the Kent countryside.
Our neighbours did not seem impressed.
As we made our way through their field in our designer wellies (the fields can get muddy), they appeared to exchange knowing looks as if to say, “These city folks need to learn our simple ways”, before turning back to the important task at hand…filling their bellies with the rich wetland grass that stretched for miles in every direction.
The famous Romney sheep, our neighbours, had more important things on their mind than us.
We on the other hand were very excited to meet them and looked forward to the prospect of staying in the Lookerer, one of the two Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts set on the Boulden family farm on the Romney Marsh in Kent.
The Romney Marsh, located just off the M20 Motorway, is a sparsely populated area which stretches across 100 square miles in Kent and is designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
With miles of coastline – with shingle and fine sandy beaches – from Hythe to Dungeness and with a predominantly flat landscape criss-crossed by peaceful walking and cycling routes, the Romney Marsh is the perfect destination for the chance to relax, recharge and get back in touch with nature.
The Lookerer Hut
We arrived just as the sun began its descent below the horizon. Its dying embers cast a soft orange hue on the Lookerer, the shepherd’s hut that would be our abode for our visit. If Mother Nature had intended to welcome us with a spectacular view, we were not disappointed.
Conceived by husband and wife team Paul and Kristina Boulden, the Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts are located on the family farm on the edge of Aldington. The two traditional shepherds’ huts – Rumwold and Lookerer – were designed by a local craftsman in the style of huts from the early 1900s.
However quaint they may look on the outside, the inside of the huts demonstrates attention to detail and some crafty engineering. The interior decor presents the visitor with stylish countryside chic and Kentish charm.
Both huts are completely self-contained and come fully equipped with a double bed with ample underbed storage to keep bags and other items out of the way. The kitchen includes a two-ring hob and utensils which, when combined with the outdoor fire pit, provides sufficient facilities for self-catering. Think barbeque nights under the stars roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.
There is a reasonably sized built-in toilet and shower room with decent water pressure and ample hot water supply. Comfortable wool blankets and toiletries come from the Boulden family’s sister business – Romney Marsh Wools.
The doors of the hut open up to a private seating area which extends the utility of the space by combining the indoors and outdoors in one seamless flow.
When booking a stay at the Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts, guests can request to have their hut fully stocked with locally sourced breakfast items as an extra option. We arrived to find our fridge contained bacon, butter, milk, eggs and deserts. Kristina, our host, had kindly accommodated our gluten and dairy free request and had provided alternative options as well.
Excited at the prospect of exploring the surrounding area, we stored our bags away hurriedly so that we could sit on the steps of the Lookerer to watch the setting sun turn the summer sky red and pink and enjoy uninterrupted views of the Romney Marsh.
Exploring the Romney Marsh
After a comfortable night’s sleep with absolutely no noise (even our neighbours had to sleep sometime), we got up the next day to enjoy a hearty breakfast, opening up the doors of the hut to set up the foldable table and chairs in the Lookerer’s ‘garden’ area.
The hut’s name, ‘Lookerer’, is in memory of the farm’s Marsh Shepherd who lived across the road at Hurst Farm and who once looked after lambs in this field where the huts are situated.
The job title, ‘The Looker’, itself dates back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on the Romney Marsh where shepherds, known as Lookers, were paid by estate owners to oversee vast flocks. Often needing to navigate a large amount of terrain in a single day, huts provided temporary accommodation for them.
Those weatherbeaten shepherds would have considered our hut, with its soft-touch electric hob, hot water bottles, cast iron fireplace and wooly comforts (perfect for cosy winter nights) the height of luxury.
Exploring the local area
The Romney Marsh Shepherds Hut have created a very useful mobile app with all the information guests need for their stay.
The app includes notes on essentials to bring (including all-weather clothes, wellies, trainers or walking boots and a waterproof jacket) and arrival information (including directions and self-check in instructions).
The app also includes guides to the local area as well as links to bookable experiences such as wine tours, photography classes, arts and craft retreats, group cycling tours and food festivals.
Our hosts had arranged bicycles from Channel Bike Hire, a local company that provides bike delivery and collection services from the shepherds’ huts. The Marsh’s flat landscape, quiet country lanes and well marked cycling routes present endless opportunities for self-guided tours of local villages, historical churches, nature reserves and local beaches during our stay.
Nights out in this part of rural Kent are mostly relatively quiet and laid back affairs in village pubs. However, Hythe, a short drive from the Lookerer, was a good choice to find more restaurant options and establishments that stayed open later (be sure to book ahead). Local taxi services are available. However, we found it easier to self-drive during our stay.
Romney Marsh Shepherds Hut on the ‘Fifth Continent’
“The world is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh,” goes the quote from the ‘The Ingoldsby Legends’, a collection of stories written by English clergyman Rev. Richard Harris Barham over 200 years ago.
The quote goes on to refer to Romney Marsh as ‘the fifth quarter of the globe’ which explains why the strapline ‘The Fifth Continent’ appears on many promotional materials about the area.
The Marsh’s unique landscape makes this moniker quite fitting.
The area is the largest coastal wetland on the south coast of England. Cycling and walking are the best ways to get close enough to experience it. Routes take you through flat, green fields and shingle and sandy beaches. Above you are sweeping skies and around you is blissful solitude.
The Romney Marsh is where, due to the low population density and minimal light pollution, the dark nights that once provided cover for wool smugglers today make the Marsh one of the best areas in Kent for stargazing and sighting the Milky Way.
Our last day at the Romney Marsh Shepherds Hut ended the same way as our first one had begun…with another striking sunset.
We reclined on our wooden bench outside The Lookerer, imagining that we were watching a timelapse video of the changing colours of the sky and sharing the captivating moment with our wooly neighbours.
It would not have been out of place for the old shepherds who once found shelter in these huts to momentarily take their eyes off their flocks to appreciate the scenery.
In these times when planning international travel seems like such a hassle, we too relished the opportunity to connect with nature on ‘the Fifth Continent.
House of Coco was a guest of Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts (www.romneymarshshepherdshuts.co.uk). Based near Aldington on the Romney Marsh in Kent, a two-night stay in the Lookerer Hut for two adults sharing is priced from £270 (£135pp) based on low season travel in December 2021 (also valid January and February 2022). There is a minimum two night stay per booking. Local produce breakfast boxes are available from £15 extra per booking. A range of optional add-ons with local activity providers and artisans are also available to book. These include bike hire from £25 per person via Channel Bike Hire (www.channelbikehire.com). To book a stay, visit www.bloomstays.com/property/the-lookerer or call Bloom Stays on 01227 903 404.