Shepherds Huts have come a long way since Thomas Hardy’s day. Though they have always had a romantic artisanal appeal, boosted by films of Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, where Gabriel Oak eked out a lonely shepherd’s life until he met Bathsheba Everdene.
Now, as demonstrated by underfloor heating, coffee-maker, double power shower, wood burner, fridge with welcome wine and dimmer-control lights – the Shepherds Huts at Hambledon’s Merry Harriers bring luxuries to Surrey that Gabriel Oak never even knew existed.
You could call it glamping but any properties under entrepreneur Peter de Savary’s creative control, are always likely to verge towards the luxurious end of the accommodation scale. The huts, the king-size beds and the patio of sun-loungers with fire-pit focus on the pond and glorious views over the Surrey Hills.
Remember that David Cameron bought himself a Shepherds Hut – Farrow and Ball colours selected by SamCam – for writing his “For the record” memoir. In fact, Shepherd’s Huts are so on-trend that Prince George even received one as a first birthday present.
Decor at The Merry Harriers’ huts focuses on a scheme of duck-egg blue and cream cocooning the white Egyptian Cotton bedding. Bathsheba Everdene would have been impressed by the wall-mounted swivelling 32-inch television screen and the Gilchrist and Soames toiletries too.
At The Merry Harriers, your neighbours are a pack of nine laid-back llamas, possibly soon-to-be ten as there are rumours that Toffee is pregnant as she is so grumpy and seems to be eating for two.
Visitors can book a llama trek through the Surrey Hills with Goji or one of the other llamas carrying the picnic hamper lunch. Just an hour from London, a llama trek is a soothing rural escape. Llamas, forever foraging for gorse, holly and thistles, take life at their own pace. Trekkers have to slow down and unwind.
Generally, the llamas are a sociable bunch, they like people and dogs, though dogs are usually wary. Louis, now 15, and in semi-retirement is particularly friendly. Diesel, going through something of a James Dean phase, stays aloof from the pack. Each llama has a distinct personality with Mungo, looking appropriately haughty, as the Alpha Male of the pack.
It’s not only the llamas who go foraging, but Chef David Totterdell also forages for seasonal ingredients. Increasingly, the Merry Harriers offers pub food favourites immaculately sourced and perfectly cooked. Names of previous landlords adorn the walls, going back to the 17th century, and they would approve of the principle of sourcing from within 15 miles of the pub. There’s a rare meaty crispness to the bacon accompanying tender calf liver. Only premium spicy sausages from the local butcher will do for the Bangers and Mash. The food is so good that Peter de Savary (PdeS), who lives locally, brings his family along most Sundays for lunch.
For PdeS, the Merry Harriers is a labour of love to preserve the spirit of the village pub. Amongst the crooked beams, bulging walls, muddy boots and damp paws, there’s a sense of community spirit jovially orchestrated by manager Jake Andreou. This isn’t just a place where everybody knows your name, they know the name of your dog too. Not only are dogs welcome, but they can also have a dog’s dinner.
As well as the five Shepherds Huts, there are quirky rooms above the bar and restaurant. At which point I’d like to point out that I achieved nine hours unbroken sleep in a Shepherds Hut during Storm Ciara which according to one newspaper was the “Storm of the Century”. Jake had reassured me that at 4 tons, with hefty cast iron wheels, the Shepherds’ Huts were utterly stable.
The previous landlord ran the Merry Harriers from upstairs. His safe was too heavy to remove so it became a rather quirky piece of furniture on the twisting landing. Two steps take guests up to the tiny door for Room 4 which looks as if it is auditioning for a part in Alice in Wonderland. Most of the artwork and some of the furniture, giving the rooms a country house grandeur of yesteryear, has been rehoused from the days when PdeS owned Skibo Castle.
Not only does The Merry Harriers celebrate the very best of the great British Pub’s traditions. The pub looks to develop its future too with Jazz Jam sessions, Christmas Carol Services and plans for Gin Distilling Days.
Tell Me More About The Merry Harriers
The Merry Harriers, Hambledon Road, Godalming, GU8 4DR
T: 01428 682883 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Winter Llama Love package
Available from January to 31st March and again from December 1st
Included within Winter Llama Love:
3 Course Dinner at the Inn, Overnight stay in your accommodation of choice
English breakfast with continental buffet, 2 ½ hours Guided Llama Trek within the Surrey AONB.
Shepherds Hut £265 based on 2 people sharing, (sole occupancy rates available)
Inn Room £240 Garden Room £230