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We rented Roots and Berry House via Sykes Cottages, partly because of its enticing name, but mostly because of its location on the edge of Forest of Dean. We also wanted the house to be set back from the main road, to have a quiet, big and safe garden for Little F to run around in, and a fireplace was on the extras list. This house was exactly what we needed (and proved to be even more).
When we set out on the sunny Easter Monday, we were expecting a non-eventful two and a half hour drive, spotting the lambs trying out their bouncy legs on freshly green pastures and watching lazy clouds dissolve on hot blue sky. We left in time for Little F to have his nap, to maximise chances for a quiet drive, and minimize time we have to spend singing and feeding him raisins. Things turned out differently…
About a third way into our journey we found ourselves on the tail end of a long line of cars, due to a road closure. Of course this meant a long wait and a detour. All the stopping and starting shortened Little F’s nap, so there were plenty of raisins and wracking my brains for things to do ‘if you’re happy and you know it’. Poor Little F also got sick twice – it’s never happened to him before, so he was very surprised and upset poor thing.
After such an unexpectedly slow (and smelly) journey we were thrilled to finally reach the Roots and Berry House, and meet the lovely owner, Jules.
First impressions of the house were of brightness and space, with a distinct farmhouse feeling in the kitchen, thanks to terracotta coloured tiles and an old fashioned ceramic sink. It is a bungalow, which means there’s no space wasted for a staircase and the usually narrow corridors. There’s lots of large panoramic windows, letting in the outdoors.
A sheltered garden surrounds the house from all sides and has distinct, but flawlessly combined areas. The entrance at the back of the house is approached via a wide gravelled border-lined path and some wide steps. There is a lovely little courtyard with a water feature (slightly reminiscent of Gaudi) and an enchanting old carved stone island with spring flowers. There are also little features, like solid metal dancing men candle holder and a blue ceramic ball, just perfect for elves and fairies to hide behind.
The front garden has a raised seating area, conveniently just outside of the double door leading to the indoor dining area and kitchen. There’s also a well kept lawn (perfect for chasing, kicking the ball or just enjoying the sunshine and the smell of cut grass), a frame overgrown with climbers sheltering a large swing (badly in need of new cover) and pleasant, and slightly wild borders (safely away from the ‘main action’ lawn).
In the house there are three distinctly different bedrooms, though they are all connected by the main theme of the house. The best way to describe the theme is a combination of bright and airy, but homely space, with character added by hippie fabrics (including some lovely raw silk curtains) and lots of various shades of wood. There are a lot of crystal lamps throughout the house, but it seems to me they are here not to make the place look posher, or smarter, but simply to catch rainbows. Jules achieved a very good balance and created a comfortable and welcoming living space.
The house is split into two areas, sleeping and day part, which is great for a family. Little F could sleep peacefully in his bedroom, while we didn’t have to worry about the noise when listening to music or watching a film in the evening in the spacious living room. It would be great though if there was a door dividing the two quarters, as the kitchen is directly next to bedrooms and we had to put a radio on for Little F’s day time nap, to make sure he had a consistent noise, otherwise he woke while we tried to make lunch.
The kitchen is large and has all the mod cons, like electric cooker, dishwasher and microwave. This being a holiday, Daddy took over large part of meal-making, so that I could truly have a break from everyday routine. The plan was to go through a number of Marcus Wareing’s dishes. He is currently Daddy’s favourite chef, though the long lists of ingredients, exacting instructions and strict orders on finely chopping things put me off his cook books – though not his food. I prefer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his invitation to ‘eat messily’.
The kitchen offers a lot of space to prepare food, though it could do with a good chopping knife, some more cutlery and wine glasses. It’s a shopping list mentioned a few times in the comments book by previous Roots and Berry guest, and it’s a shame the owner has not picked up on that. The glassware largely comprised of very slim high-ball glasses, perfect for hotel breakfast buffets, where they give an impression you’ve poured yourself a large orange juice, but they take away a lot of pleasure if your drink wine from them.
A bright dining area is linked to the kitchen and was a comfortable space to have our meals, with a large round table, covered with a fine checkered table cloth. Most day’s we’d leave the double doors leading to the garden open, though we never ventured to have our meals outdoors – I’ll explain why in a minute.
The star of the day part of the house is a large and bright living room, with a fluffy carpet, wood burner and make-you-lazy comfortable couch and armchairs set. When I saw the couches I though they stood out from the general feel and design of the house, but when I first sat down on them I forgave them their looks entirely! I don’t think I’ve ever relaxed on anything as comfortable…
The house is very spacious and even has a little library area with a well stocked shelf with DVDs and books, as well as a lovely desk (perfect for blogging!). The bathroom is fresh and clean, though I can image it can be chilly on colder mornings, as the towel radiator won’t manage to heat it properly. The inventory is finished with a utility room, with a washing machine and a drier. It’s only a shame there is no clothes horse or a line outdoors. I don’t like to use dryers, as they can damage clothes and certainly damage the environment through big energy usage.
What should follow now is a description of our wild, wonderful and sunny adventures. This unfortunately did not happen, as we were all ill during this week-long break. Daddy started the holiday recovering from a bad cold, Little F got ill two days into our break (and transported us back to what felt like new born days of stinginess and inability to entertain himself, I also felt like a giant snot rag, when he cuddled into me with his snotty nose), and I caught a nasty cold just as Little F started to feel better. This meant that we have spent lots of time in the house, rather than exploring the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. I must say the house passed with flying colours, and offered us a truly comfortable home away from home.
On the first day, when we were all still well, we’ve done our introductory explorations. Little F and myself investigated the garden, while Daddy poured over maps and googled walks. When it was time to head out Daddy felt so on holidays that he drove on the wrong side of the road! I guess it was a combination of not being in concrete jungle of London and the sudden change to sunny weather, which made him feel like we were in a different country.
On the rare days when we were all feeling well enough, we did manage some exploring. We had a sunny walk under the bare-branch-net-curtains along the river Wye. It is very popular with tourists and locals alike and it was interesting to see how spring was making it’s way from ground up – the floor of the forest was green, bushes started to show little green buds, but the trees were still completely bare. The walk starts in a lovely pub – The Saracens Head – which apart from food and beer offers ice-cream and a one-man-power ferry service across the river. It’s only 6 minutes drive from the house.
One of the big reasons we chose to stay in Roots and Berry House, is because there are walk starting at the doorstep. There’s no need to drive anywhere, as we were already in a beautiful area. The added advantage was that 5 minutes walk from the house there are pastures with horses. Little F is currently obsessed with ‘horsies’, so it was a great way to distract him when he was not feeling great. He also liked to watch green-headed pheasants with red eyes, darting across the bare fields as we walked towards pastures.
The lovely thing across the holidays was listening to the birds. I have never been in a place with so many birds! Walking through the forest you can hear a chorus of birds, every now and then punctured with different birds calling out their loud solos.
I am proud to say that we have done some foraging and we live to tell the tale! Sunny slopes of river Wye are covered with wild garlic leaves and so we have gathered a big handful and made some vitamin-C-boosting pesto.
We’ve had good and bad holidays, but this holiday distinctly didn’t feel like a holiday at all. There was too much cartoons (we normally don’t watch them at all, but this was the only way to keep sick Little F content) and not enough trips. Luckily the house was very comfortable and the big windows made our compulsory incarceration more bearable, by letting in the garden and the sweet smelling air.
Oh yes, the fairies. There are a few little fairies hidden among the leaves by the car parking space. See if you can spot them!
PS. We have received a discount from Sykes Cottage in exchange for this honest review. The opinions are entirely my own (with contributions from Daddy and Little F).