IT’S the sort of fantasy guaranteed to delight weary walkers at the end of a long day on the trail…
What if you could find a cosy cottage just yards from the footpath with a comfy king-size bed, luxurious bed linen and a power shower complete with Bluetooth music and steam jets? Ah, bliss.
Throw in a freshly baked Victoria sponge and ice-cold home-made apple juice, and that’s the reassuring reality of a stay at Hedgerow Cottage, a glorious hideaway in the shadow of the ancient Ridgeway at Wainhill on the Buckinghamshire-Oxfordshire border.
Owners Katrina Rowton-Lee and husband Charlie invited us to spend a couple of days sampling their dog-friendly hideaway after spotting a recent Beyonder post about four-legged friends.
With three dogs of their own and such an impressive location in the heart of the Chilterns countryside, they’re keen to share the spot with walking enthusiasts who have a canine companion in tow and who want to spend a few days exploring the many local attractions.
As idyllic country retreats go, Hedgerow takes some beating. It’s spotless, stylish and cosy, a purpose-built luxury cabin with wood-lined rooms decorated in rural chic style and its own kitchen, shower room and separate bedroom off the living room, complete with private garden area and parking.
It’s discreetly hidden to one side of the 17th-century thatched cottage that is Katrina and Charlie’s home, giving guests an open outlook over their own section of garden.
Nestled below the treeline, Wainhill comprises 20 acres of meadow and pasture which house friendly Herdwick sheep, a number of horses and an eclectic collection of classic caravans and other vintage vehicles Katrina hires out for for TV, filming, photoshoots and corporate events.
One of those intriguing vehicles is Alice, Katrina’s original 1955 English Eccles caravan, which has been lovingly restored and provides Hedgerow guests with a lovely space to enjoy during the summer months, just by their front door.
It’s a glorious spot and perfect for trips to places like Oxford, Henley and Marlow, visiting local vineyards or exploring the Midsomer Murders trail.
From the extraordinary story of the Stonor estate to the Headington home of CS Lewis, there are dozens of attractions to choose from, and the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Steam Railway passes only a few yards from the front gate.
Take a weekend wander along the footpath to Chinnor and you could be treated to the sight of a steam engine tootling along a restored section of the old Watlington branch line from Princes Risborough which originally closed to passengers back in 1957.
Head off in the other direction towards the treeline, and you’ll quickly discover the Ridgeway national trail, a route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers.
The 87-mile national trail follows a ridge of chalk hills from Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon and from your bed at Hedgerow the ancient track is about a quarter of a mile away.
For those wanting to tackle a longer section of the route, it’s an indication of Katrina’s “nothing is too much trouble” approach that she will cheerfully drive walkers to a suitable starting point from which they can walk back to Wainhill, allowing them to use the Hedgerow as a central point for a few days of exploring.
Routes fan out from here in all directions, criss-crossing the Chilterns AONB and allowing walkers access to miles of unspoilt countryside, so often overlooked by tourists in favour of the Cotswolds.
Visitors with pets even get home-made dog biscuits and their furry friends may get the chance to rub noses with the resident pack: Tilly the yellow labrador and a pair of teckels, or working dachshunds.
We saunter out of the back gate for a quick circuit up to the Ridgeway, and quickly discover it’s an immensely restful landscape and a welcome escape from city hubbub.
True, there’s a light drizzle on the weekend we visit, but it does nothing to dampen our spirits on a first brief foray up to the ridge and back, pausing only to greet the occasional dog walker or runner showing a similar disregard for the elements.
But even over such a rainy October weekend it’s not long before the sun’s out for long enough to show just how relaxing the garden must be in the summer months, far away from the sound of speeding traffic or aircraft noise.
Later, as dusk falls, with only the hooting of the owls to disturb the clear evening air it’s clear we will have no problem getting a great night’s sleep in our cosy wood-lined bedroom.
With no light pollution, it’s also a spectacular place for stargazing, and as the clouds clear we wander outside for a little to marvel as the heavens stage a dazzling display of planets and constellations.
It’s a fitting finale to a restful stay in a lovely location where those little touches like the fresh flowers and phenomenal Victoria sponge have made all the difference, as the comments in the guest book reflect.
Accommodation is available year round – check out the Wainhill website for details and prices.