Donald Maxwell, the Kent author and artist, referred to Oast houses as “curious towers with conical tops” that are “the castles of Kent” – and Sussex! After a weekend stay and family celebration at Hare Farm Hideaways very own Oast, just five minutes from lovely Rye, East Sussex, I couldn’t agree more.
Here is a kingdom where boxing hares, loquacious sheep, swooping swallows and majestic barn owls reign in the undulating greenery of the Brede Valley. Breath-taking views draw you in as you round the driveway to the Oast. Once installed, you can sit and while away hours on a strategically placed tree trunk – a casualty of winter storms, given a new lease of life - with a cup of tea or a local wine or cider, depending on your outlook, being entertained by nature’s show. This feels like a world away from virus pandemics!
Stepping foot inside the Oast, you won’t be disappointed. This building was lovingly restored in 2011 by brother and sister Stuart and Jo on the family farm after sitting derelict for decades. Since then, the visitor book tells the story of the guests it has welcomed from near and far, celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries en famille, reuniting groups of friends and providing a spacious yet embracing backdrop to feasts and frolics.
In the three roundels of the Hare Farm Oast you’ll find: a kitchen, utility and washroom and a double bedroom on the first floor plus two twins and the master suite upstairs. There’s also a pretty double bedroom and bathroom with windows overlooking those mega views. We were 12, filling the Oast to sleeping capacity (there’s also a Shepherd’s Hut perched out of view in the adjacent field if you need to squeeze in two more!) but never feeling like you’re on top of one another, which in these socially distanced times is something of a necessity!
I’ll avoid mentioning the dreaded C-word, but we can reassure anyone who is feeling strange about staying away that Hare Farm are doing their utmost to put additional precautions and cleaning measures in place. Each bedroom has a black sack provided for guests to scoop up their used linen and help with the additionally labour intensive cleans between guests. There are several laminates with clear instructions and tips on staying safe. There are also enough bathrooms for everyone to stick to their own washing facilities, which is ideal.
The hubby and I were lucky enough to inhabit the master bedroom with its concealed walk-in wardrobe and magical pendant light which spills light in a Middle Eastern mosaic all around transforming it into something of a princess tower room. We slept like logs, cradled in the solidity of the conical tower.
Ceramic baby Oast houses are handles to bathroom light pulls and make for cute touches and original Oast equipment – a local hop pocket, a wooden scupper for scooping up the hops – remind you that you’re somewhere a bit special and part of local history.
For foodies and family feasts, the Oast is well-equipped with two fridges, a large freezer and heaps of tableware. This is also great if, like us, you decide to skip the cooking and ask a local caterer to put on a spread. Kristi at Seasons Wild & Free provided our banquet so that we could toast our mum’s 70th birthday in style. From imaginative canapes with champagne on the terrace to mountains of lamb tagine, delicious salad, cous-cous and potato sides and the best ‘princess and the pea’ style strawberry pavlova at the dining table. Just don’t mention the cheeseboard, which was woefully neglected as we’d all been complete gluttons!
We never got to use the quirky log-fired BBQ as we were rained off – probably just as well as there were plenty of leftovers still to devour from aforementioned banquet! However, we did manage a late-night huddle around the firepit, finishing off our wine before bed.
There are plenty of walks through the Brede valley if your party like expeditions and playing at nature detectives, which are also the perfect antidote to all that feasting.
We spent a magical weekend in this enchanted kingdom that will go down in our family folklore. Has there ever been a time when we’ve all needed to be part of a fairy tale more than this?
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Clare Pope, always has her head in a book - current read Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore