It was the Tiny House that initially attracted us to Freshwinds Camping. However, the more my partner and I learned about this small, family-run campsite on a working farm, the more we knew we’d return – maybe next time to stay in one of the yurts or the Shepherd’s Hut, or to sleep under canvas in one of the 15 spacious camping pitches.
Anyway, we didn’t know any of that at first – we were just utterly intrigued by the idea of a 2.4×4.5m eco-house promising every necessity for a comfortable stay, with the added bonus of being in the beautiful East Sussex countryside. The online booking process was quick and easy (although you could call to book if preferred), and Anne and Tim, the owners, were quick to respond to any questions we had leading up to our stay.
Due to Freshwinds’ outstanding location – only 20 minutes from Hastings, Rye, and Battle, with rolling 1066 country in one direction and beautiful beaches in the other – there is plenty to see and do, and, wanting to make the most of it, we started with a little sightseeing in Hastings before arriving at Freshwinds.
I’d visited Hastings before, but it was my first opportunity to explore the Old Town – and what a find! The High Street is a must for any vintage fan, with more dealers than you can shake a stick at, and if you have the chance, catch an indie art film at the Electric Palace, an original cinema run by volunteers and seating only 50. Once you’re done, take a ride on one of the famous funicular railways, where the same old-fashioned ticket booths and turnstiles served Victorian passengers. Even if you’re not headed anywhere, a trip up and down is exciting enough itself – children will love it!
At the top, we headed to the brilliant Smugglers Adventure, a museum about the bloody history of the smugglers who used St Clement’s Caves as their hideout. The caves themselves are a must-see; formed back in 14,000 BC, Hastingonians (!) have used them for thousands of years, but more recent uses include an air-raid shelter, a ballroom and a music venue, staging even the Rolling Stones. The story of the smugglers, though, is perhaps the most compelling and haunting, in every sense of the word, as a few souls are still said to walk the caves at night. The museum is very entertaining (if a little spooky at times), and something older children would really enjoy.
Then it was finally on to Freshwinds! Easy enough to find by sat nav, a winding country road led us to the farm. Tim was very friendly as he led us to the Tiny House, which was even more charming in real life than it was in pictures, and we were pleasantly surprised by its indoor space.
Beautifully organised, a drop leaf table could be extended for dining, a futon doubled up as a bed, and a wooden ladder took us to the mezzanine floor with its comfy double mattress and soft bedding. The dry toilet and shower were hidden behind a curtain downstairs – yes, you even get a hot shower without having to leave the house. We’d never used a dry toilet before but the instructions were clear, so don’t panic if it’s your first time too!
Floral curtains hung at the windows (but you’re hardly overlooked here), adding a touch of retro kitsch. There was even a television, lights and sockets, all powered by the solar panels on the roof – this house is completely off-grid and an eco-tourist’s dream.
The large outdoor deck, complete with table and chairs, overlooked endless fields, and after getting straight down to building a fire in the fire pit, we managed to make the most of unseasonable October weather to enjoy steaming bowls of pasta (cooked on the hob inside) and glasses of red wine under clear, star-studded skies. Back inside, the Tiny House was beautifully warm, despite the time of year, and it was easy to forget that we were in a wooden cabin, given its comfy furnishings and electric lighting.
After a blissful sleep, we woke to birdsong and sunlight streaming through the dormer window. Peeking through the curtain to see a cobweb glistening with dew and miles of fields and hedgerows beyond, it really was impossible to feel anything but completely relaxed. After sliding out of bed (remember, this is a tiny house, so there’s very little headroom for standing on the mezzanine floor) and getting showered in the compact but perfectly functional ‘bathroom’, we got ready to head to our second destination, Rye.
A small but enchanting town, Rye is a popular and romantic tourist attraction, and with its cobbled streets, rich history and plenty of places to stay and eat, we could see why. We made lunch reservations at the famous Mermaid Inn and were immediately struck by the many autographs of celebrity visitors in the entrance hall; Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, and the Queen herself have all graced The Mermaid, and no doubt all of them were just as enamoured as we were with the antique furniture, artwork and timber frames that transport you back in time. After enjoying beautiful home-cooked stews and a fantastic bottle of red in the 600-year old dining room, we took a slow meander around the town before making our way back to Freshwinds.
Our journey took us past pretty villages and a host of pubs, all promising good food and drink, but we were yearning for our PJs and opted for a good Chinese takeaway on the outskirts of Hastings. Another plus about Freshwinds is that you feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere, but you don’t have far to go if you need to pick up food, other essentials or find a cashpoint.
Sadly, the next day was our last. We’d packed a lot into our short break, but waking feeling rested and cosy in our Tiny House, with only the birds and the odd ‘moo’ as our soundtrack, we felt as though we’d been on a three-week retreat! Feeling refreshed, we packed up our things, left the key in the door as instructed, and drove away – oh, the joys of a simple check-out.