Stylist’s art director Claire Cheung stayed at Hudnalls Hideout treehouse and found peace in the idyllic setting.
All my childhood fantasies involved sleeping in a treehouse – whose didn’t? So, in a year when everything seems to be pretty rubbish, and feeling desperate to look at something other than my four walls, I decided to book a stay at Hudnalls Hideout. It looked like the perfect place to escape everything and quite literally hide out, in a treehouse, far, far (3.5 hours from London) away.
The drive to St Briavels towards the Southern Wye Valley passes through the beautiful countryside of the North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds, where the treehouse teeters on the edge of the English-Welsh border. Countryside, forests, fresh air – oh how I’ve missed you.
It’s easy to see why these mysterious and mossy ancient woodlands of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley captured the imagination of JRR Tolkein. The magical area also won the hearts of Sarah and Ade Orchard who built this dream glamping destination. But this is no hobbit home or tipi construction, rather a luxurious adult-only treehouse suspended four metres above ground, set in two acres of private woodland including an orchard and meadow bursting with wildflowers. It’s remote but not so remote that it’s inaccessible by public transport where a 20-minute taxi ride follows a train-ride to either Chepstow or Lydney.
The carefully crafted project ensured that no trees were harmed in the making. Two young oak trees were skilfully incorporated into the decking and wherever possible, materials were sourced on location, blending the home beautifully into nature. Sarah and Ade continually work to enrich the woodland and meadow habitat which is evident as I gently swayed in the perfectly positioned hammock and watched the sun rise while listening to squirrels rustle through the trees and woodpeckers tapping away.
My home for the night was an A-frame structure set over two open-plan floors. The circular terrace almost hugs the entire treehouse on which sits a copper bathtub – big though for two – where only native fallow deer, birds, squirrels and badgers might steal a peep. The floor to ceiling windows offer views of age-old towering trees that cocoon you into nature.
Inside, the chic Scandi interior – a collaboration with Made.com – is stylish and homely. The suspended bioethanol fireplace and underfloor heating make it a desirable destination in all seasons. Climb the staircase, set into a cedar tree trunk to find a snug handmade bed, telescope and stunning views. Nothing further is required for a spot of late-night stargazing.
Mornings offer a dreamy view when a warm glow from the sun seeps through the vast treetops and eases you into the day while you watch birds wrestle for a spot on the feeder. Breakfast can be enjoyed on the terrace where you can tuck into a hamper brimming with local produce if you book in advance. Additionally, a barbecue hamper can be pre-ordered from a local farm, perfect to be cooked over the traditional fire pit or you can take advantage of the recent addition of the wood fire pizza oven nestled amongst the al fresco seating area.
If you don’t have the energy to cook, you can even order in a ‘date night’ curry or head out to one of the local pubs for dinner. All needs are met. I tested out the barbecue facilities on my second night with sea bass and skewered vegetables (that I basted with olive oil and herbs from the garden) followed by toasted marshmallows - just one of the nice touches courtesy of Hudnalls that makes it extra-special.
There’s very little reason to leave the retreat but if you can tear yourself away, grab the binoculars and head out on one of the many walking paths that leaves right from the doorstep including Offa’s Dyke Path that follows the English/Welsh border and weaves through mystical woodland.
For the more adventurous, the Forest of Dean, a short drive away, offers exhilarating ziplining (I ventured to GoApe and it was definitely exhilarating – there was a lot of screaming – from me), canoeing, relaxation therapy at Float in the Forest, breath-taking views at Symonds Yat Rock (where you get to reap the rewards after just a five-minute walk) or you can hire bikes at Pedal A Bike Away although I’d suggest not taking on the 11 mile route after a hefty Sunday Roast at The Speech House like I did. There are mountain bike trails of varying levels too for the more intrepid. The stunning location is also the backdrop for numerous films and TV shows including Harry Potter, Star Wars and Sex Education so there is an abundance to explore for all.
It’s obvious to see why the valley is an Area of Outstanding Beauty and Hudnalls offers the perfect base to explore or unwind from the hustle and bustle. I can’t even begin to imagine what the views in Autumn will be like – I’d better start planning my return trip.
Prices start at £250/night for two with a minimum stay of two nights. For more information visit the website.
Main image: Hudnalls Hidout. Further images: ImageEssence, Morel&Co