17 July 2023

A sci-fi cabin has landed in West Sussex and it’s a family fantasy come true

17 July 2023

“Wow”, my daughter Marie and her friend Isabella cry in unison as they run up to the Hazel Hide cabin sitting proudly at the edge of a West Sussex field.

The A-frame cabin – which to me is exactly what a UFO would look like if it had been created in Scandinavia – is a perfect triangular shape with the glass front giving us an immediate view of the stylish inside.

Marie grabs her phone and calls out to her friend: “Quick, let’s do our BeReal photo, I can’t wait to show everyone.”

The cabin, with its striking shape, white-washed wood interior and centrally-positioned log-burner, is eminently photographable and I’m soon taking out my phone to take my own snaps.

Once the photography session is over, we start exploring. The girls race up the wooden staircase to the upstairs bedroom and it soon becomes immediately apparent that there is no chance my partner and I will be sleeping up here tonight.

The mezzanine takes the triangular shape of the cabin a stage further with its triangular window providing a stunning view over the truly traditional English countryside which surrounds us.

A book explaining how the hosts – primary school teacher Kate and Duncan, who works in IT – created the cabin states the triangular shape was chosen as it is intrinsically strong, meaning it stays stable without the need for heavy structural supports.

It goes on to say that this strength means that the building only needed 33 ground screws – each of which can hold six tonnes of weight – to form the foundations. This makes the structure more eco-friendly as it does not require heavy machinery, does not disturb the soil and minimises the carbon footprint of the concrete needed.

The upstairs bedroom, like the cabin as a whole, features a range of lovingly-created and well-thought out features – from the triangular blind to the bedside fans and USB sockets to charge up those phones.

The Hide has been equipped with a whole side of solar panels, meaning it is entirely self-sufficient for all of its electricity. This even includes a Wi-Fi router, so there are no worries about rural signal dropouts to send those social media snaps.

Downstairs is the second, more regularly-shaped bedroom, as well as the modern bathroom – complete with hot water shower – and the small kitchen at the side of the bright, spacious living area.

This has an inside-outside feel with its bi-fold doors opening on to the decking – which is triangular shaped, of course.

This closeness to nature has an immediate pull on the girls who cannot resist the excitement of exploring the massive seven-acre field – which is occupied solely by the cabin – with adjoining woodland made up mostly of hazel trees which gave the hide its name.

Having prepared lunch, the girls are still nowhere to be seen and a short walk finds them recreating movie scenes on a small bridge they have discovered in the woods.

After coaxing them back to eat, we discuss plans for the afternoon; a visit to a nearby vineyard appeals to my French partner, while I vote for a walk up to the South Downs which overlook the field, but the girls outnumber us with their bid to go kayaking at a nearby lake.

As we arrive at Southwater Country Park, we all approve of the decision as the woods surrounding the lake provide welcome respite from the sun beating down on us during another glorious June afternoon.

After hiring a kayak for each of the girls, they are soon out on the water, splashing each other with their paddles.

Marie calls out hopefully: “Can we jump in?”, to which we reply with a resounding but futile: “No”, as they both ‘accidentally’ capsize within moments of each other, shrieking with delight at the refreshing dip.

When their time is up, they dry off while walloping down an ice cream from the lake-side cafe, keen to get back to our own corner of the countryside at the cabin.

Later we set off for a pre-dinner ramble to the White Lion Inn in what should have been the nearby village of Thakeham, except, because I soon become over-confident and distracted by the beautiful views in the early evening sunshine, I forget to check the map and miss a key turning which adds an extra lap of the village to our walk.

When we do eventually arrive, the efficient staff soon bring us ginger beers accompanied by bowls of piping hot triple-cooked chips which my partner declares the best she has ever tasted and none of us disagree.

Thankfully, the walk home is more straightforward – and is beautifully lit as the sun begins its long summer descent.

Feeling too lazy to strike up the BBQ located next to the cabin, I opt for cooking pizzas in the gas oven. Meanwhile, the girls plunder a selection of board games left by the owners and challenge us to play. There are also shelves of books in case you do find a spare moment to sit down and just relax.

As the girls lay the table, Marie discovers the switch for the outdoor lighting which casts a magical glow over the cabin, the bright bulbs echoing the stars which are starting to emerge in the cloudless sky above.

The next morning, feeling refreshed from a night’s rest in the absolute peace that you only get from being in the middle of the countryside, I set off with my partner to get supplies from the nearest shop in the village of Ashington – a 25-minute walk along a conveniently-located bridleway.

On returning to the field, we are greeted by the girls, dressed in their swimming costumes, running wildly round the cabin in the middle of a  water balloon fight.

Watching and laughing at a safe distance, I am not sure how the winner is judged, but it seems to be the one who gets the wettest.

After a much-appreciated full English breakfast, we start to pack our bags when I get an email from the hosts prompting us to hunt for a clue for the code to open a tiny secret cupboard with a surprise inside – an exciting Enid Blyton-style touch to end our stay.

How to plan your trip

Two night stays at The Hazel Hide cost from £140 per night. To book, visit Airbnb (airbnb.com/h/thehazelhide).

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