[#AD – GIFTED] Thank you so much to Karen and co from The Old Forge Sand Hutton for the most wonderful two-night staycation at The Garden Shed. As always, views and unrelenting cosy holiday fangirling are all my own.
If there’s one thing that 2019 has taught me about myself, it’s that I need to find more effective ways of managing my work-life balance. I’m the first one to preach to others about prioritising your health and taking care of your wellbeing, and yet I think we all know it’s never quite as simple to take your own advice.
That’s why when the opportunity to stay at The Garden Shed cropped up, thanks to the lovely Karen, it felt like it was completely meant to be. I’d reached the point in my working year where my brain felt completely frazzled, and the idea of serenity and complete escapism immediately struck me as the very best remedy. I definitely thrive in environments that are peaceful, but still with plenty to do to stop me reaching for my phone, and I knew this stay would provide me with just that.
Set in over an acre of gardens and described as the perfect rural retreat, it’s safe to say that The Garden Shed didn’t disappoint. Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted and shown to the property located in the grounds of the Old Forge. And it wasn’t long before my best pal Izzy and I were practically having a happy little meltdown in trying to decide what we wanted to explore first.
The self-contained property was somehow even more adorable than I anticipated. As you walk in through the front door you see a cosy living room set up complete with TV, log fire and snuggly blankets, next to a fully equipped kitchen with everything you needed to cook and prepare meals at your leisure. Passing through the adjoining door you enter quite possibly the most beautifully-decorated bedroom I’ve ever seen, complete with wardrobe, bedside tables and a second TV for lazy morning bedroom viewing. The compact adjoining en-suite bathroom and shower also offered everything you could possibly need, including luxury soap, shampoo and various other cosmetic items.
Everything was sparkling fresh and clean, and notably, all the products I spotted were ones well-known to be ethical and sustainable: Faith in Nature shampoo, Ecover cleaning materials, the list goes on…
Venturing just outside the property, you first find an enclosed and relatively private outdoor space, complete with furniture around a functioning outdoor fire pit available for guests’ own use. Straying further outside through the gate, you enter the vast surrounding grounds which to me really set this property apart from the rest. There was just so much to explore: swinging seat sets and badminton court, summer house with deckchairs, children’s playground and rope swing, and a bigger outdoor fire pit setup surrounded by wooden seating, all ready and waiting for Karen’s upcoming Supper Clubs.
As well as being open for guests to roam around, the gardens are also inhabited by the Barbaras, the property’s fabulous resident chickens who provide freshy laid eggs for guests, as well as the family’s two adorable small dogs who were more than ready to make some new friends. Quite frankly, it’s a wonder I came home without attempting to smuggle little Bobbi into my luggage and bring her back with me.
Although the property would be ideal for those from all walks of life, there were so many elements of our stay that made me feel this was a particularly good shout for those with accessibility requirements or additional needs such as my own. Being immersed in such a peaceful environment, with easy access to outdoor space even if you didn’t feel up to venturing too far, definitely held appeal for my chronically ill self. There were no major noise threats to worry about, and being able to sit outside in the morning in my pyjamas with a cup of tea was absolutely heavenly. Additionally, though there were two small steps into The Garden Shed, having a compact property all on one level also held value in helping to keep my day-to-day energy depletion to a minimum. Everything you needed and more was already within easy reach.
However, by far the biggest advantage for me from an accessibility point of view was being able to take my electric wheelchair Janice and leave her in the family’s garage. As you may know, my situation is that I can stand and walk for short lengths of time, and use mobility aids for more substantial periods. Because of this, I could simply maneuver Janice up the pebbled-driveway and park her away, even plugging her in to charge at the garage’s conveniently located plug socket, without having to lug the heavy battery back and forth: something which is by far the most onerous task of owning a power-chair. Instead, I could just park her up and walk a couple of minutes across the gardens to the property, with no extra fuss, knowing that I could pop back and access Janice as and when I needed to.
Using mobility aids is undoubtedly one of the biggest barriers to finding suitable little trips away for myself, as is my food allergy situation. However, this stay just goes to show what a difference having a receptive and accommodating host can be. Right from the beginning, Karen was proactive in enquiring about any of my additional needs and how she could address them to make sure I had the same wonderful experience as any non-disabled guest would have. It’s little things like this that really can make the biggest difference, and the thing that meant the most to me was Karen asking, at the end of the stay, for any feedback on how the property could be made even more accessible and inclusive. If more people were this considerate, the world would be a much better place for people like me.
As it happens, Izzy and I were so impressed with our stay that we were actually struggling to think of constructive feedback. Plans have already been made to perhaps add a tasteful handrail alongside the two steps into the property for those who may struggle with them, and so the only additional suggestion I could offer was perhaps a removable and optional shower seat for any future disabled guests to request.
It also seems fitting to mention here the food we experienced during our stay too. All guests receive a welcome hamper upon their arrival, and again, even my own utterly ridiculous food allergy situation was accounted for. The first thing I saw when I entered the property was a tub of my absolute favourite Lazy Days Free From treats, along with some fresh fruit and flavoured teabags. And because my allergies meant I couldn’t enjoy the Barbaras’ fresh eggs, I had the very next best thing, gummy sweetie eggs, instead. Around the property we also discovered plenty more teabags (including Yorkshire Tea Decaf, another of my faves) and coffee along with cafetière, as well as oat milk and some cheeky free from chocolate desserts stored in the fridge.
During the evening, we were also brought huge marshmallows to toast on the fire and kernels to pop to make our own popcorn, and doing so formed not just one of my favourite memories from the trip, but from the entire year so far. Getting an outdoor fire going on the evening of our second night (thanks to Izzy who I firmly believe was made for this kind of lifestyle), putting the kettle on for a decaf tea and enjoying only the sounds of nature, the fire crackling and the corn beginning to pop in the pan was just idyllic.
Reflecting back now, the Old Forge’s core values of making guests smile, sourcing as much as possible within a radius of 15 miles, and consuming less and giving more were apparent at all stages throughout our stay. There was so much about the property that made it unique, and even though we were still geographically close to amenities and attractions, it really did feel like we were a world away from everyday life.
Although both of us admittedly could have easily stayed in the property and on-site for a good week without being short of things to do, the location is ideal for those looking to visit York or the surrounding area. Even though staying in the grounds feels so remote and immersive, you’re still only 20-minutes from York city centre. If you have access to a car, you’ll find dozens of tourist attractions and points of interest within reach: Sledmere House, Flamingo Land, Yorkshire Air Museum, Dalby Forest… I could go on.
And if like us you’re relying on public transport, you can also catch the CastleBus into York, or towards Castle Howard and Malton. Although the bus times are notably unreliable and we had a few issues on the access front, namely with an uncooperative ramp and lack of pavement for the ramp to set down on, we enjoyed an incredibly scenic journey from the local bus stop, literally outside the property at Sand Hutton, on towards Malton and through Castle Howard, where we chose to spend our full day. You can read all about our trip, as well as my access review, here.
We enjoyed two nights at The Garden Shed, and when it was time to leave, we were both in agreement that we simply weren’t ready to go. We both hugely benefitted from the relaxing and recharging atmosphere surrounding us and could have easily enjoyed an extended stay, and yet we could both see the appeal of even a one-night stay for local York residents too. Having this sort of environment so accessible to those in the city centre is invaluable for those who may also feel like they’re stuck in a rut or simply need to break out of day-to-day life for a little while. Modern life is busy, and I firmly believe everybody needs this kind of escapism sometimes.
So, it’s safe to say that neither of us were ready to come home, but it’s equally as safe to say that we’ll be back. As wonderful as this environment was for a summer retreat, I can’t help but think this sort of environment would make the ultimate cosy getaway for the colder, winter months too. Being tucked up by the log fire with a cuppa and a good book whilst it’s cold and stormy outside? Count us in, The Garden Shed. We’ll see you soon.
Contrary to our plans to somehow take ourselves hostage and just permanently live in this place, I *suppose* we could find it in our hearts to share this experience with future guests. If you fancy a staycation of utter calm and tranquillity too, you can find details of The Garden Shed and book your own stay here. I think it’s safe to say we could recommend it…
[GIFTED] Thank you once again to Karen and co from The Old Forge Sand Hutton for the most wonderful staycation at The Garden Shed. We’ll be back!