Suffolk’s prettiest homes: A converted shepherd’s hut in Blyford
PUBLISHED: 13:39 30 April 2019
Diane and Adrian Church have created a new life and family business out of a very traditional, modest home – a shepherd’s hut | Words & Photos: Tony Hall
Glamping – glamourous camping – is the ultimate in rural short breaks and even longer holidays in the countryside. Yurts, cabins, pods and shepherd's huts all make cosy camping accommodation. Diane and Adrian Church's first shepherd's hut is, you could say, well ahead of the flock.
With an extra large shower room/bathroom, fantastically well equipped kitchen, a log burning stove, a four poster style bed, plus central heating via Victorian style radiators it's bliss on wheels. I visited on a day of gale force winds but inside was toasty. The location in Blyford village is great too, just 10 minutes from either Southwold or Walberswick beaches, and there's a great pub, The Queens Head, down the road.
Diane and Adrian (known as Butch), are well known to locals and holiday makers. Both grew up in Walberswick, and attended Walberswick primary school.
Adrian went to Sir John Lemon school in Beccles, then trained as a fabricator and welder at the, now closed, Richard Garret and Sons engineering works in Leiston. It's now a museum to the famous manufacturing family, famous among other things for making steam engines that might well have pulled a shepherd's hut.
At the age of 21 Adrian achieved his dream of going to sea, as a fisherman, out of Southwold and Lowestoft.
At weekends, he used to help his cousin, David Church, the renowned ferryman and operator of the Walberswick Ferry. The ferry is now run by David's daughter, Dani, the fifth generation to work the Blyth crossing.
From 1987 Adrian and David spent their winters working in David's agricultural engineering firm, setting up equipment for chicken farms, all over the UK, and in France, Corsica and Martinique.
Adrian and Diane have three sons – Tom, an electrical engineer turned web marketeer, Bob, a local plumber, and Sam a former marines, now a plasterer.
“So, as you can see, we are the perfect team to build a shepherd's hut, complete with all amenities,” says Diane. When she left Reydon high school, at 15, it was a memorable day for her.
“As I cycled across the bailey bridge, over the river to home, I chucked my uniform in the river. I arrived on the Walberswick side and said to myself, 'the world is now your oyster'. It was, I drifted, had exciting times including experiencing life on a Kibbutz.”
Well known locally for her home cooking and baking, in 2003, Diane got the opportunity of tendering for the Harbour Tea-Rooms on Blackshore, Southwold's working harbour.
“I knew that with my cooking and baking knowledge I could do it,” she says. She seized the opportunity and with her family's help, ran the shop for 14 years, loving every minute.
After years of getting up at 5am to bake, followed by long days in the cafe, she gave it up to spend more time with her family, particularly her grandchildren.
“As we have both been self employed,” adds Diane, “with no work pensions, we had to decide what to do next. We decided some form of holiday lets might be an idea. Butch spotted a bungalow for sale, with large grounds.”
They sold their house to buy it and turned their thoughts to shepherds huts. After much research, they found a man in the Midlands who built them and had contacts with a foundry for the wheels and chassis.
“Butch and I came up with the extended design, allowing all the extras you like.” Then Butch and the family set about building Lupins Shepherd Hut.
“I'm crazy at present for red and grey, hence the colour scheme. We searched for ages to get the right poppy red tiles, eventually finding them at Beccles Tiles.” The huts is named for the area behind it which is filled with lupins in season and is home to a large picnic table.
Butch now has a new job building more shepherd's huts. The next one will be called Viburnum.
Diane is baking for both Susie's Cafe and The Boating Lake Tearooms in Southwold, plus making welcome packs for guests, of cake, cheese, wine and beer, plus, if they want, she will put on a slow cooker for them, ready for when they return from their outings.
“This is another new and exiting chapter for us both, which once again we are all really enjoying, in an area we have loved all our lives.
Wonderful coast and beaches, great countryside and wildlife, who could ask for more?”
Lupins Shepherd Hut is a available for holiday lets. Contact Suffolk Secrets, T: 01502 722717 suffolk-secrets.co.uk
Room: Shower/bathroom, most shepherd's huts don't have them
Item: Wood burning stove by Hobbit
Local shops: Urban Jungle near Beccles, Focus organics in Halesworth
Part of the county: Walberswick and the coast
Day out: On a boat at Beccles on the River Waveney.
Walk: Dunwich Forest, onto the beach, then back along it to Walberswick, with Millie the dog
Pub: The Bell at Walberswick
Cafe/restaurant: Susie's at Southwold, The Boating Lake Tearooms, Southwold.
Hobbies: Cooking and gardening.
Most magical moment in the county: Buying their first cottage together to renovate