Family Stays: A Weekend at The Rolling Downs Shepherds Hut

Two weeks ago during that cracking storm, we were nestled in a cosy wooden house on wheels. With our children.

It was the larger of two handmade shepherd’s huts known as The Rolling Downs. These lie stationary in the wider grounds of Bentley Country Park.

Now, I don’t mind telling you that we are not campers. We have neither the gear nor the idea.

My husband and I need our sleep, and the idea of camping – the a) potential for extreme lack of sleep and b) the potential for extreme discomfort – leaves us both cold. Oh, and that reminds me of the third reason: c) the potential for being extremely cold.

We’re wusses. What can I tell you. It’s something we plan to do a whole lot of later in our boys’ lives.

child-through-doorway-of-shepherds-hut
Exploring The Rolling Downs shepherd’s hut for the first time

It’s for these reasons that we LOVED The Rolling Downs. Yes, the little one woke up at 5am both mornings and we were very very tired, but the children were free to roam, we let go of strict bed times, and we cosied in together, as we would camping.

But we had all this with the possibility of heat, a hot shower that wasn’t the other side of a field, a flushing loo and a fully-functioning little kitchen.

Clare of The Rolling Downs kindly gave us a free night’s stay. But we chose to pay for an extra night to make a full weekend of it.

NOTE: This is a long post because there’s lots to tell. I’ll be following it in the next couple of days with a post of tips for doing The Rolling Downs with very young children.

child-in-front-of-a-shepherds-hut
The larger of the shepherd’s huts

THE ESSENTIALS

Drive: 14 minutes

Tel no.: 07941 133370

Website: therollingdowns.co.uk

Available to book: March through November. The Rolling Downs website has an up-to-date bookings grid to consult.

Price: large hut: £95 for one night (off-peak), £110 for one night (peak), additional £10 per child per stay (maximum two children); please ask The Rolling Downs for prices for the small hut (can only be booked with the large hut). Note that the more nights you book, the cheaper the per-night rate. The Rolling Downs offers those booking a week’s holiday their seventh night free. Please note these prices and offers are correct at time of posting and cannot be guaranteed.

children-playing-in-a-field
Room to roam at The Rolling Downs!

THE DETAILS

  • The Rolling Downs is a pair of handmade shepherd’s huts in the wider grounds of Bentley Country Park (outside of the reception/entrance to the park).
  • The large hut has a kingsize bed. There are two five-foot-long beds.
  • The entire interior is bespoke. Its walls are tongue-and-groove, there are deep drawers under the kingsize bed and the wall bed. The front door is a stable design so you can open the top.
  • The small hut has a set of fitted full-size single bunk beds for two more adults, or older children.
  • Both huts have wood-burning stoves for warmth in the cooler weather.
  • There is a fully functioning loo, bathroom sink and shower in the large hut.
  • The experience is eco-friendly – the above are powered by a wind turbine and solar panels.
  • In the kitchen are a sink, gas hobs, and a tiny fridge, which Clare describes as ‘like one you’d find on a boat’.
  • There are pots, pans and BBQ tools. And yes, it’s OK, there’s a bottle opener.
  • Tea, coffee, sugar, cloths, washing up liquid, and a bottle of water are included. Clare advises against drinking the tap water, so bring a few massive bottles from the supermarket.
  • On a shelf above the kingsize bed are stacks of novels. Bill Bryson and Katie Fforde were in residence.
  • There are games like Dominoes, Junior Monopoly and chalkboard hangman and noughts and crosses. In linen bags are rounders and skittles kits from The White Company.
  • Clare has included a drawerful of leaflets about things to do locally.
  • There are thoughtful touches like head torches for when you’re stumbling around (pissed) trying not to wake your kids up.
  • Immediately outside the huts are a picnic table, a firepit for barbecuing and a swing.
  • The Rolling Downs has a connection to The Buttercup Café (who I recently blogged about). You can order fresh vegetables and meat, as well as home-cooked meals to be delivered to the hut. See the Buttercup website for the full list.
  • The new Bentley Kitchens café at Bentley Country Park is fantastic! We only sampled the cakes (YUM) but the food looked good.

LITTLE LEWES LOVES

THE COMFORT 

inside-of-shepherds-hut-showing-king-size-bed
The super-sort kingsize bed – with enough pillows!

The inside of the hut was perfect when we arrived. Ironed, fitted sheets, crisp waffle towels…

Staying at The Rolling Downs is like combining camping, a self-catering cottage holiday and a stay in a hotel.

As with camping, you’re sleeping (almost) under the stars. But as with self-catering, there’s a kitchen, a loo and a cosy bed to help you through. And then, as with a hotel, you’re not expected to clean when you leave. (Although be courteous and leave it tidy, with the washing up done.)

THE COSINESS

childs-bed-with-snoopy
Baby’s makeshift bed – also the built-in seat for the little table

The whole experience was so cosy.

We are most definitely not co-sleepers (for reasons of sleep being too important to us all).

child-in-a-bunk
The bed above our feet for our older child, which included storage drawers and his own porthole-style light

But (especially during that storm) it was lovely burying into our big soft bed and listening to our sleeping children. I could reach out and touch the baby in his makeshift cot of seat, table edge and squishy cushions, while his brother snored in a bunk over our feet.

That said, I can’t wait for us to be able to take both huts and for them to have their own place together next door!

THE PRETTINESS

The Rolling Downs is tastefully decorated. The children’s fleece sleeping bags and striped sheets, the warm blanket on the kingsize bed, and games are all from The White Company.

small-kitchen-in-a-shepherds-hut
Un-crackable crockery in every colour

In the kitchen all the crockery is strong melamine in acid brights. (My baby still managed to break a plastic wine goblet – I tell you…).

Every detail has been thought through. And it shows.

THE FREEDOM

man-and-baby-in-a-field
The swish of the cornfields and the whirr of the wind turbine are the only sounds at The Rolling Downs

The kids can roam free. That was my favourite thing about The Rolling Downs. I think it was theirs, too.

There are cornfields that they can explore, as well as the field directly in front of Bentley. We chased and raced like nutters when we arrived!

children-in-a-corn-field
The children wandering off

THE FAMILIARITY

stone-gate-posts-and-a-long-drive
The gates and driveway to Bentley Country Park, where The Rolling Downs lies

If you live in or near Lewes, you’re on familiar ground. The Rolling Downs is 14 minutes’ drive from town, so if you need to pop back it’s no drama.

It was nice that the children knew where we were. But it had the thrill of being a new way of being at Bentley Country Park. And it was nice to be able to do it at a slow pace, dipping in and out of it whenever we fancied.

When staying at The Rolling Downs, you pay entrance to the country park once and can come and go as you please for your whole stay.

THE WHOLESOMENESS

view-across-an-english-corn-field
The view from the front door of the large shepherd’s hut

I have two ‘places’ I currently go to in my mind when I feel frazzled and fried (often). Both are memories from The Rolling Downs.

Our first evening, the boys were excited by their new environment and wouldn’t settle at their (later) bedtime. So we separated them, me taking the baby outside to quietly rock him to sleep.

I did this looking out over the cornfield. There’d been a brief shower and I could hear raindrops falling from the leaves in the woodland next to the hut.

It formed a tapping tune accompanied by the hooting and cooing and cawing from Bentley’s distant wildfowl reserve. It was immensely calming – the baby quickly dropped off.

The second ‘place’ is our departure day, when the boys and I all sat on the swing waiting for my husband who had gone back to Lewes for something.

Singing and swinging with my tiny boy on my lap and my arm around my bigger one is one of my top memories of the year. My phone had died by then and I was present with them. Just swinging and not knowing when we’d have to stop. Bliss.

a-child-on-a-swing
The swing at The Rolling Downs, a reminder of one of my best moments of the year

THE ROMANCE

I’m leaving this for last as obviously ours was not a romantic weekend.

But if you have a willing relative to watch your children for just one night, get RIGHT away from it all without wasting time and money on travel. Just stay here!

It is so very, very romantic.

I’ve done a follow-up post of tips for staying here with young children. You can read it here.

Thank you to Clare at The Rolling Downs for our night in the beautiful shepherd’s hut. We hope to make it an annual thing!

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I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

4 thoughts on “Family Stays: A Weekend at The Rolling Downs Shepherds Hut

  1. Please post to me a brochure and price list plus details of any “deals” to
    No. 8 Farnborough Road, Watton, Thetford, IP25 6JL

    1. You’ll need to read to the bottom of the post and get in touch with The Rolling Downs direct – this post was just a review of it, it is not my business, so I don’t have a brochure, prices etc to send to you. Also I don’t believe they will have a brochure – they have a website and it is listed on the post. Best wishes, Kate

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