Friday, 21 August 2015

The Orchard Retreat, Devon

A yurt. A yurt called Russet.
If anything is going to make you want to throw the towel in, quit the day job and go live in a round, makeshift tent type thing, complete with wood burner and double bed, in Devon, for the rest of your life, it's sitting in traffic on the M4, in the driving rain, trying to get home, from Devon.

At least that's what I thought the first time we visited the Orchard Retreat. Yet on our second visit, the melancholy started seeping into my veins way way before we hit the road. I would have been wholly grateful for a tractor to brake down, just outside the gates, on our last day. Immovable for another week at least. As parts from Brixham made their way around windy bends and over hilly hills. Via perhaps say, a loaded goat. I am not saying that the south west is backward in that sense by the way. I am just suggesting that a goat would be rather slow, and quite possibly an inefficient mode of transporting spare parts. But it would been a good thing. Because we could have stayed for a month.

Alas, our journey was pretty clear this time around. We were home in just under four hours and as we all trudged through the door, throwing luggage violently into the kitchen sink and out onto the patio, we all sat in silence on the sofa, with looks on our faces that said something like - "Well, this is a load of bollocks isn't it."

I think I even uttered to my little boy - "I know son, this is a load of bollocks. I am sorry. I am so sorry I took you on holiday. We went on holiday by mistake. We won't do it again."

And he just nodded and looked back up at me, sadly, sagely. Before going on to tell me off for swearing.

Of course, holiday blues are not unprecedented and we've all been there before but I do feel it my duty to say that, should you wish to go to the Orchard Retreat, then do so at your peril. Because it is simply lovely there. So simply, quietly and exquisitely lovely. Just a small collection of yurts and cottages, all set within an orchard (surprise!) and fields resplendent with various trees, a stream and soft buzzing bees, flitting hither and thither. All furnished with shabby chic furniture and a few modern touches. Plus the aforementioned comfy beds and wood burners to cater for your inner pyromaniac. Although there is a fire-pit too, if you start feeling totally out of control. Individual private toilets and showers for the yurts, in which we stayed, are scrupulously clean. The kitchen facilities are also clean and efficient. Free WiFi is intermittent, depending on proximity to their router, but why should you care? This is a place to unplug and unwind, to marvel at nature and relax with a Sampford Courtney cider on bench in the sun. Whilst your children run free in the background, slowly turning feral in the tree house and bushes, as days skip gently past.

There is also a clay oven to play with! God, I loved this new addition to the place. We went into a BBQ frenzy last time, as there are plenty of Webers doted about the place. However, given the option of cooking in cob, which we were able to do a couple of times during our stay, well the experience this time around didn't even compere. Assembling pizzas out in the open could be the most fun you can have with your clothes on (and I repeat the word could here, because the children were involved). Especially since the pizzas in question cook within the merest of minutes, therefore encouraging a frenzy of bread and tomato based feasting. "PIZZA!" we screamed. "LET KEEP MAKING PIZZA!" Before collapsing into a heap, bellies swollen, mouths stained red and strings of mozzarella dangling downwards

The second venture was slightly more subdued but no less flash, as I bought a joint of pork shoulder from the local butchers to braise, low and slow. Except things weren't so mellow at the start. A fierce heat burnt the buggery out of the crackling, so that had to be hastily sliced off. But after a couple of hours, we soon had a meal fit for a King; complete with spuds, ratatouille and baked apples. Unknown apples that had been freshly plucked from the surrounding trees, tested at first for tartness and some did leave us with desiccated gums and shriveled lips. But it was oh so good. Every home should have a cob oven and for me personally, it really was the icing on the cake of a perfect break. 

So yes, I defy you to visit and not grimace as you hand your key with a fearsome grip back to owners Vicky and Nick, envious of the life they have built for themselves. They work hard most certainly, to keep things running smoothly. But I suspect there is a wonderful payoff going on there.

I know when I was driving home, I was thinking curiously, frantically even, whether their business model could fit somewhere within my home county. What are those three words? Location. Location. Location. Is there the equivalent of an Orchard Retreat in Essex? I am not so sure

I know I will keep pondering upon it but for now, four hours isn't too bad and as such, I reckon we'll be returning sooner rather than later. Them apples will need picking soon and I reckon some scrumptious scrumpy could be made and taken away, to sup once home.

That would take the edge off the next goodbye.

For inquiries or bookings contact Vicky and Nick on 01363 866058 or via the website


Feral kids, yurt, mushrooms
Double bed inside the yurt, view, fire
Clay oven, Clay Oven, CLAY OVEN! ON FIRE!
Neapolitan before, during and after cooking. Fin's effort, complete with Mattessons smoked sausage
Glorious pork
Ratatouille
Glorious sliced pork
Fin doing battle with nettles

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