Beaches, coastline, glamping…never was there a more perfect mix of beauty, breathtaking views, and a Blackdown Shepherd Hut! This special holiday let lies on Chesil Beach, and is Michele Vassar’s extraordinarily charming and personal project.
Meet Michele and the hut
Our hut is situated in the garden of my house which is a chalet fronting onto Chesil Beach at West Bexington. The chalet was bought by my grandparents in 1934 and was our family holiday home where both I and my children spent our school holidays. During WW2 my mother and uncle also lived down here for a time after being bombed in London. I came down here to live permanently in 2007 and had the chalet totally rebuilt in 2014.
I have worked as an architect and as a school and prison librarian. Now I am semi-retired and work in the local shop and P.O. in Abbotsbury and at Waitrose in Bridport. I keep bees and am developing my garden to become more self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit.
Why a shepherd hut
I have always liked shepherd huts and saw the Blackdown one at the Melplash Show (our local country show) in 2015. It was parked right next door to the beekeeping tent where I was helping out so of course, we all went to have a look. I sold a house I owned in early 2016 and buying the hut seemed like a good idea. The chalet is very small so it gives me room to host friends and family in comfort plus a way of supplementing my pension. I had seen other huts, but this was by far the best in terms of facilities and standard of craftsmanship. I knew that if I was going to rent it out as a holiday let it needed to be something very special.
The Blackdown process
I was fully involved from seeing the plans, making some amendments and choosing the colours. I decided not to have a hob but to provide a combination oven and I asked for a bookcase. I wanted somewhere to provide guidebooks, maps and other reading materials of local interest.
Inside the hut
I did not decorate the hut but I have added some finishing touches. There are small shelves and hooks over the draining board for breakfast items and mugs. My friend made me some beautiful cushions for the bench seats and an insulated runner to protect the table. I have paintings by two artist friends on the walls, a specially commissioned mirror in the shower room and a stained glass panel by another friend in the kitchen window. The Italian handmade pottery came from the shop adjoining Brassica in Beaminster (my favourite restaurant) and there are wooden ornaments from Dansel in Abbotsbury, a shop I often visit. So it’s a very personal space filled with items that mean a lot to me.
The hut is located at West Bexington, just behind Chesil Beach, and there is a private path to the beach which starts where my garden ends. The South West Coast Path runs along the back of the beach and the inland route also starts here. There is a field next door and the South Dorset Ridgeway runs behind the hut. It’s a very peaceful and tranquil spot, away from the crowds, a place to enjoy watching the changing moods of the sea and clouds and enjoy the wildlife all around. It’s a great base from which to explore the area, go for scenic walks or just absorb the peace and quiet.
The accommodation experience
The hut sleeps two people -there is a double bed -and it has a kitchenette and shower room. I provide all linens and breakfast – cereals (including my homemade granola), yoghurt, seasonal fruits, orange juice, croissants and homemade bread with a selection of jams and marmalade, including my own. I aim to be as environmentally conscious as possible. Toiletries are by Jason, SLS and paraben-free, loo paper is all recycled (from Who Gives a Crap) and bread is wrapped in waxed cotton cloths made using my own beeswax.
What I love about shepherd huts
I love the smallness of huts, caravans and boats as my own house is tiny. There is something very attractive about small spaces where everything has a place.
The service from Blackdown was great. My partner and I came to see Alan and discuss our requirements then my friend (who made the cushions) and I visited the workshop when the hut was being finished. The delivery went smoothly despite there being narrow access and a tricky small space to align the hut on its base. The Blackdown team were excellent throughout. I would definitely recommend the Hut for the cleverness of its design, particularly the foldout bed, the high standard of craftsmanship and materials used and the attention to detail. The Blackdown team were a pleasure to deal with and clearly take pride in their excellent product.