The Hut Eyam - a quirky form of accommodation in the Peak District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 May 2019
If you’re looking for an idyllic spot to rest awhile in the Peak District, now you can get back in touch with nature in style. Catherine Roth reports
Tucked away in a garden in the historic village of Eyam is a shepherd's hut offering bed and breakfast accommodation that gives guests a chance to reconnect with nature. Painted in traditional green, The Hut Eyam offers a retreat from the busy world. Insulated with sheep's wool, the seemingly small space is surprisingly spacious with a full-sized double bed, table, chairs and wood-burning stove. Outside there is a picnic table and firepit and, when it grows dark, the area is lit by fairy lights.
Owner Rachel Smith fell in love with shepherd's huts when she first came across them some twelve years ago. She says, 'I went with my husband and two sons to an agricultural show in Lincolnshire. We were watching some fantastic mowing competitions with really old-fashioned machinery. Then I saw three or four shepherd's huts tucked away in a corner so I left them to the competition and went for a wander. All the huts were really rustic, basic and very old and battered. They were originally taken into fields by farmers when the sheep were lambing. If the weather was bad or there was a problem with a ewe the hut provided a safe, warm and dry place. It was so simple with just a bench and bed or bunk beds. I fell in love with the idea of being able to sleep in there and be cosy.'
Rachel originally commissioned the hut with a view to using it as a spare room in her garden for guests before deciding to offer it as bed and breakfast accommodation. She says, 'I wanted to use the space ourselves first so I could work out what was needed and thought about what I would want from a night away. There are a million ways you could kit out the hut but we wanted to create a calm space, somewhere where people could relax and reconnect with nature. Using the space for ourselves meant that we were able to work out where best to place furniture, what to include and the little extras that make each guest's stay so personal and memorable.'
From the positioning of the windows to under-bed storage, Rachel designed every aspect of the hut herself. From the small heart shapes carved into the shutters that cast gentle shadows across the walls opposite at night, to the shelf built into the wall at the back of the hut just tall enough to fit wine glasses, she ensured no detail was overlooked.
The hut inside is small and cosy yet feels spacious. Rachel says, 'The mirror, purchased from a local antiques shop, helps to reflect the light and gives an illusion of space and the colour scheme also creates a spacious feel. I used Farrow and Ball colours in hardwearing satin finish which are beautiful. The walls are painted in Matchstick and the shutters and cross beam in Mouse's Back. The pastel colours make the space feel calmer; colours that are too bold would detract from the space.'
The interior has evolved over time and Rachel has furnished it with a mix of locally sourced pieces, family treasures and antiques. She says, 'I want to have a low impact on the environment but still make the place look nice. I'm also really keen to support local businesses so I buy as much as I can locally.' The table came from a sale in the village from a local couple who had been given it as a wedding present many years before. One of the wooden chairs came from the house Rachel's great grandparents had lived in and the other chair came from her grandad's house. There are vintage blankets she sourced from antiques fairs and eBay for those who enjoy sitting outside when the evenings turn cooler, as well as a bedside table made by a local blacksmith. Sometimes Rachel doesn't have to look far at all: there is a bookcase that found its way into the hut from her house simply because she thought it would fit perfectly. She says, 'I never wanted the Hut to be a showroom but a homely lived in place that is unique and quirky where guests have a really nice experience then go away and talk about it.'
The handpicked flowers, arranged in a Kilner jar once belonging to Rachel's grandma, change with the seasons, as do the soft furnishings. Rachel says, 'We have so many lovely guests who visit again that it's nice for them to come and find it different. Often those who come in the summer will visit again in the winter and those who come in the winter will visit again in the summer. I dress the Hut for Christmas, autumn and spring, changing the cushions and style of bedding.' Wedding venue Eyam Hall is just a short walk away and Rachel finds quite a few people who stay are wedding guests. For these occasions she dresses the hut with flowers in creams and whites whilst the approach to the hut is lit by candles and fairy lights.
Rachel says, 'In the evening it's so quiet sitting outside with blankets. There are two owls that sit in the trees and you can listen to them and watch the bats flying around. It's just beautiful and relaxing and that's what I hope people will experience.'
In the morning breakfast is delivered in a picnic hamper and left outside. Inside are bread rolls with homemade preserves and local honey, yoghurt with fresh fruit and granola, tea and coffee and fresh juice. Visit in the summer and it is likely to be homemade apple juice from Rachel's orchard.
Rachel worked in finance for 26 years before leaving to run her B&B where she does everything from marketing and admin to laundry and maintenance. 'Doing this all as one person keeps things interesting. When you work for a company there are always other people to bounce ideas off so instead my poor husband and friends get it! The biggest challenge is keeping it fresh and unique.' Visitors are certainly satisfied, however, proven last year when The Hut Eyam won TripAdvisor's Travellers Choice award for its excellent and consistent reviews.
For Rachel it is the personal touch that really counts, whether it's collecting guests from the railway station, recommending places to visit, or thinking of anything she could possibly have forgotten. She says, 'We've had a few people who've knocked at our door and asked for help to get the fire going! We take it for granted but not everyone has the need to light one.' There is now a copy of The Little Book of Building Fires next to the basket of kindling.
Whether it's relaxing in front of the fire with a glass of wine or sitting outside toasting marshmallows and stargazing, Rachel has created a contemporary retreat in the most traditional of settings enabling guests to relax, unwind and reconnect with nature in today's increasingly busy world. u
For further details about @thehuteyam visit www.thehuteyam.co.uk