Herefordshire quickly became shortened to ‘the shire’ in our London plannings, a hidden hilly wonderland of ancient hop farms, pagan festivals and hippies who left the rat race to work from the bounteous hills. The Malverns draw people to take the water and drive huge muddy 4x4’s down the middle of tiny winding roads, making the whole area a haven for small, interesting businesses run by real people. My first introduction to this was exploring our new woods and discovering down a bark strewn path the Hobbit House. We opened it in June 2016 with some trepidation as to whether people would go for it, it makes use of the cooking facilities in the workshop, the hot outdoor shower nestled in a field ash grove peeking out at the view to the Malverns and the compost loo (my favourite building in the whole woods!).
We took advice from the lovely people at Canopy & Stars and published it on their site then awaited the bookings. And how bookings came! By the time we closed down for the winter we have had people celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and getting engaged. It has been given as gifts, wedding presents and as a thank-yous for painting my house! Some guests have been planning and expecting it for months whilst some have been treated by a partner and walk into the workshop with an array of emotions that range from incredulous to ecstatic! One couple had traded nights away, staying in a spa hotel in Malvern for two nights (his choice) then coming to the woods for a wild couple of nights (her choice). After a small adjustment period he re discovered the childhood joy of building a fire which he proceeded to do all weekend for anyone that needed one! Without exception everyone that has stayed become smitten with the little wooden hobbit house.
Hello from Brook House Woods, our new home and dream business venture, a long way from Finsbuy Park where Will, Loki the dog and I left our damp flat for the 65 acres of woodland we now manage. Taking over a legendary green wood workshop from a legendary green woodworker and setting up a glamping business from scratch is a far cry from the acting world we left, but at the risk of sounding like a over optimistic ***** grinning through the rain with gritted teeth with the zeal of a new ex-smoker - its been the best bloody thing I ever did.
Saying yes was surprisingly easy, we had been looking to set up the very thing that Farmer Will and Bryony were looking to start on their land, we were looking for exactly them and they exactly us, it all seemed like one of those opportunities that are made for you, just perfect. Too perfect almost. For the few months before we moved up the perfectness of it tortured me, what if Farmer Will and Bryony were complete loons, what if the business failed, what if they hate me?! Luckily handing in notice in London, getting a job at Soho Farmhouse as industrial espionage and moving home halfway across the country kept me pretty busy.
We moved up on the 10th February 2016 to a static caravan with the most unbelievable view of the frame valley. There had been a static caravan on site already which we were all set to move into, it just needed to be relocated up the farm a way, so Will carefully dismantled the veranda and cladding and we hitched her up to the tractor. In one smooth motion the tractor pulled forward carrying our new home from its former place on to the track and into the farm yard with all the stately prowess of a cruise ship. It sailed past the barn, pulling across directly in front of the farm house where Farmer Will and Bryony watched it reach a pot hole, ever so gently dispose of its tiny wheels and surge forward on its body like a liner meeting the sea. The tractor was stopped and the situation assessed before plan B was decided on. Two tele handlers, each with its prongs wedged under the ends of the wayward static made short work of lifting it up and we made at least a foots progress before it buckled in the middle, finding its resting place directly in front of the farmhouse kitchen window. Worcester caravan park took away the ex-static’s crumpled remains when they delivered our new beige paradise.
Not taking this as an omen we started out on our journey to build Brook House Woods, course centre, glamping paradise and opportunity of a lifetime.