Tree steps to heaven!
Down on the farm, near historic Henley in Arden, step up the glam-factor a notch and plump for a quirky tree pod on stilts, complete with hot tub – hello bubbles under the stars!
Wootton Park in the village of Wootton Wawen, just 6 miles from Stratford upon Avon, is the home of the lovely McCall family. Ian Roy has lived here all his life. His father bought the farm in 1945 after being evacuated from their house in Moseley, Birmingham when an unexploded bomb landed in the garden!
Since deciding to sell his cattle and diversify in the mid-1990s, Ian now runs a luxury B&B with his wife Melanie in their 16th Century farmhouse and four Glamping Pods, two Mega Pods, two 11ft high Tree Pods and brand new this month is a two-bedroom Super Pod, Aquarius – good for families, sleeping up to four. Son Mark and his partner Jo also run weddings in a purpose-built venue besides a picturesque ornamental lake – with near 70 in the last 12 months.
I’d love to say there were blue skies and sunshine, when I arrived at Wootton Park, but it was rather grey and drizzly. Yet this didn’t reduce the impact of the panorama – miles of lush fields and gentle rolling hills in a sheltered 360-degree valley. It really is breathtaking as you’re driving up the long scenic drive off the main road.
You know you’ve arrived when you come to a big wooden gate. Heaven’s Above! And Over the Moon – two beautifully appointed timber-built tree pods are set amidst a miniature private woodland and there’s parking beneath each one. Just don’t crash into one of the stilts!
“Yoo-hoo!” I looked up and one of my best friends who’d driven up from Sheffield to join me for a girly-catch up had already arrived, switched on the hot tub and cracked open a bottle of fizz. I climbed up 20 steps to Heaven’s Above! From the decking area, the views are epic – postcard pretty farmland and rapeseed fields. Sitting in 39-degree bubbles mid-afternoon on a Thursday with a glass of Prosecco feels pretty decadent. The last time my friend stayed in a tree house on stilts – was on a beach in Goa. She was pretty impressed to discover such an exotic option in the middle of Warwickshire!
Glamping exists for those who love the idea of bedding down in the Great Outdoors but, can’t be faffed with all it entails. And, in this case, it’s particularly good if you prefer your digs to be more boutique hotel than brownie camp. It’s amazing what you can fit in this little beauty, including a swish kitchenette, a hot shower, and proper toilets, hob, microwave and fridge, breakfast bar and stools, sofa and TV. It also has underfloor heating. There are plenty of mod cons and little luxuries, including a lovely welcome pack and mini bottle of bubbly on arrival, freshly-laid eggs from free-range chickens on the farm, biscuits, and bottles of water. Tea & coffee and milk sachets are provided too. You’re left to your own devices and shouldn’t really want for anything, even though Melanie is available at any point should you think of something.
It’s a definite farm vibe. The Pod overlooks fields of horses, alpacas, goats, chickens, and cows lolling around in neighbouring fields, and in a woody enclave catch a glimpse of the other Pods.
As the evening sky darkens the tree pod, staircase and surrounding trees are lit up by LED fairy-lights – it really does feel magical. A fun, glam and a totally fab way to slow down and switch off (don’t panic, there’s electric and Wi-Fi if you miss it!).
Surrounded by the countryside it’s very peaceful. I was awoken after a lovely slumber by a cockerel crowing. The double bed is super-comfy and bigger than it looks. Plus, towels, dressing gowns and slippers are included. There are blinds to keep out the dawn light.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Bring your own food for a barbecue or pre-prepared food or if you don’t feel cooking head to a nearby country pub, Stratford upon Avon or Henley in Arden. We booked a taxi into Henley and had a drink in characterful high street pub, The Bluebell with its low timber beamed ceiling – and it was rammed…on a Thursday?! Does anyone know the collective noun for a group of town criers in full regalia? I must confess, I’ve never heard of this quaint Warwickshire tradition, unique to Henley…Apparently, all the town criers from across Warwickshire gather in the town to go in search of the best ale and cheeses – it’s difficult to miss this pub crawl of men in their vivid red uniform. Keen to impart their local knowledge, they were a very friendly bunch!
Spoilt for choice, we ate at The Butcher’ Social a few doors up which came highly recommended and has a great gin menu. There are lots of other places to eat and drink including award-winning fine dining restaurant Cheal’s of Henley, The White Swan Hotel, Naya and Henley Ice Cream parlour, coffee lounge and tea rooms.
OUT & ABOUT
No time to be bored: guests are free to roam the farm, play badminton, see the animals, and explore the immaculately-kept landscaped grounds. Son Pete runs a Wake-boarding centre on site where you can have a lesson or try paddle boarding, wild swimming or try out the new Aqua-Park assault course – one of just a handful of sites in the country. Pete’s partner Nicola runs a horse-riding centre, specialising in offering experiences to children with autism and open to all – book a lesson, or go pony trekking through the countryside.
We went to the café at Yew Tree Farm Shopping Village, for breakfast, which is very close by and spent a few hours browsing the outlets, including the farm shop, gift shop Giftivity (aMuddy Award finalist) and Henley Chocolates. An absolutely perfect spot for exploring this part of Warwickshire. Head out to the beautiful, bustling historic market towns of Henley in Arden and Stratford upon Avon nearby. Enjoy an excellent choice of local restaurants and pubs, the RSC theatres and stately homes/gardens on your doorstep. Superbly placed close to Warwick, Leamington Spa and within easy reach of Birmingham.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A perfect romantic getaway for two (if you’re ditching the kids for an r and r sojourn) on a former working dairy farm full of rural charm – alternatively, great for a girly catch-up with one of your bezzies! A proper little gem where you can crack open the fizz, light the BBQ and forget all your worries.
Not for: Anyone with a mobility issue, due to the quite steep climb up 20 steps. All other Pods are on ground level.
££: Tree Pods are £195 per night and there’s a minimum two-night stay. Glamping Pods start at £100 a night and Mega Pods, £130. The brand new two-bedroom SuperPod, Aquarius has just opened for stays from June 29 and bookings are open online now. The park has a fab special offer for the three weeks running up to the start of the school summer holidays – reduced from £950 to £700 for a week! Perfect for families or couples looking for a little extra room. Aquarius has a large Hot Tub with countryside views and a hammock to relax in too.