Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the response to our shepherd huts from our customers. It’s very much like the huts become part of the family! We also love the names they are given, and Dolly Blue might just be one of our favourites. Your customer stories are very dear to us, and Martine’s is especially emotive. We thank you for sharing your story, Martine.
Here is the story of Dolly Blue, the shepherd’s hut in the New Forest…
I am Martine Hallett and I am married to Ivor, who has his own Garden Maintenance business. We enjoy walking in the New Forest with our Cockerpoo “Archie”.
We also have Nick our son who is 31 who is getting married to Claire in May of 2018, which is very exciting. We however, very sadly lost our daughter Chloe in 2010 when she was killed in a car accident on her way to work. She was an air stewardess and she had just had her 21st birthday. This was so heart-breaking. I can’t begin to tell anyone what losing a child means. It is a very slow process through bereavement, I don’t think it ever goes away, but I imagine Chloe is often beside me which gives me the strength to carry on.
Having lost Chloe under very sad circumstances, we needed something to drive us on because sadness can deepen so quickly that it becomes unbearable. That is when I decided to do something with the enormous garden we have. I love gardening and have previously been a professional gardener myself, so I love flowers and just being outside listening to the birds and watching the clouds and thinking of my dear daughter. This is when I knew I had to turn this terrible loss into something just like her.
We had seen shepherds huts at shows and thought how absolutely beautiful they were with their rustic charm, plus knowing that shepherds used them to keep out of the cold winds and rain during the lambing season was delightful. This is when I thought about others being able to enjoy us as a B&B. Having a shepherd’s hut of my own for others to enjoy, especially as the New Forest is only a few hundred yards away, seemed like a wonderful idea. We are also surrounded by beautiful lakes and wildlife, so the setting seemed perfect.
In 2014 we decided to do some research this is when we found Blackdown. They were so inspiring and I spoke to George who encouraged us to come on down to Somerset and look around the huts. Ivor and I spent the day down in Somerset and came away having ordered what would be “Dolly Blue”. I chose all the interior, which includes a beautiful en-suite shower room with flushing loo and wash basin. I could imagine all the fluffy blue towels ready for my guests, and all the soaps and shampoos put out. Also her bed was constructed to a King size and made of oak, just so lovely to cuddle up in with a feather duvet.
When “Dolly” was finally delivered by Blackdown in May 2014 I was so excited I thought I was going to burst. Ivor and I had spent weeks preparing the ground where she was to be sited amongst apple trees, picket fencing and her own gate. The intention was that she had her own garden for my guests to enjoy and relax in. Ivor spent several weekends constructing all the fencing and tiny borders. Finally, she was settled and looked absolutely stunning. She was also connected to our mains services.
I immediately started getting her ready as I wanted to get my business as a Bed and Breakfast up and running as soon as I could. We bought a second-hand Welsh dresser from “Molly’s Den” and spent days painting it a pretty blue in Farrow and Ball paint. Then, we bought all her linen, which is really lovely country cotton, with throws and cushions – everything to make her look comfy and very cosy. This gives Dolly Blue a shabby chic vintage feel. She has beautiful pictures on the wall by a lady who paints whose business is called “Moon Wishes”. I have added a kettle and crockery, specialist teas, coffees, hot chocolate, and I supply fresh milk, and make my own cakes and biscuits. Dolly is beautifully decorated with a jug of flowers on the table. Also, there are games to play and a vintage radio to listen to and there is Wifi, as well as a magazine or two to browse. We even have a book on the History of Shepherds Huts. “Dolly” also has lanterns lit with candles in the Summer.
My first guests arrived in July 2014 and they were here for 4 days. They absolutely loved “Dolly” and the wonderful location we live in. We are only 3 miles from Ringwood, our Market Town, and also Salisbury, which is such a beautiful old Cathedral town that has a market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. There is a pub just down the lane called “The Old Beams” which is in walking distance for that lovely carvery, pub dinner or just a pint or glass of wine.
I have had very many guests over the past three years, and some very happy guests celebrating a wedding night, anniversaries, and birthdays. But also we host guests who are battling with an illness and just need a break from their treatment or others in a bereavement which is crippling for them. Somehow, they all go away, happier and very relaxed, as they all say “Dolly” is very special. To this, I say “Dolly” is a reflection of Chloe, who sits down the garden with a smile on her face in amongst the country flowers that I grow for weddings and special occasions.
Guests can request extras such as champagne or chocolates for an additional cost, and these can be all ready for their arrival. This makes their arrival in “Dolly” extra special!! They love it!!
I have a lot of guests who love walking and cycling through the Forest, and this is very handy since we are so close and there are so many attractions. The sea is also close by, and there is a wonderful bike hire service available at our local Farm Shop.
As for breakfast, this is served in our conservatory, so guests can enjoy a full English breakfast which is all locally sourced. with tea, coffee, orange juice and bread from our local baker. They can sit watching the many birds who come into the garden. Our garden backs on to a large lake which has lots of interesting birds including swans and geese. During the summer, guests can also have a hamper if they wish to just sit down outside in “Dolly’s” own garden and just totally chill.
I am thrilled with this new venture which has really taken off, thank you Blackdown for giving me and my guests so much pleasure, long may “Dolly Blue” continue her charm!!!
Thank you Notes from Guests
“We would both like to say a very big thank you for your warm hospitality and for giving us the opportunity to stay in “Dolly”. She is very special and we have very much enjoyed the experience, I know we will encourage others to come and try. She is like having a magic pair of arms, giving you a hug when you need it most. Of course, it’s down to you both for creating such a special place, and for that, you both are special people with the warmest thanks (it was just what we both needed).” ~ Miranda and Phil
“Dear Martine and Ivor (oh and Archie!), Thank you for a lovely stay in Dolly Blue, and for providing us with peace, tranquillity and a delicious breakfast. We just loved the lakes, the walks and the homely welcome and are definitely coming back (if our friends don’t book it first)!!, Warm Wishes” ~ Hannah and Gemma
A delightful Shepherd’s Hut that’s named “Dolly Blue”.
A Shabby chic haven made just for two.
I recommend you make the most of this place that takes you away from the fast paced rat race.
Bask in the peace that she offers you
Play Scrabble, drink wine, read a book or two.
Though “Dolly” appears small her bed is soft and wide, festooned with cushions and throws with bows neatly tied.
There’s a loo and a shower, indoor and outside seating,
you won’t feel cold, if you need it there’s heating!
The garden outside this “Dolly” is neat
filled with Cosmos, roses and lavender sweet.
There’s no where better that I’d like to rest
This sanctuary called “Dolly” is truly the best
Thank you Martine & Ivor” ~ From Barbara and Russell (Norfolk)