Big skies and wild birds, a weekend in an Elmley nature reserve shepherds hut

Back at the end of September we spent the weekend in a shepherds’s hut on Elmley nature reserve, what could be more romantic. Big skies, a cosy wooden home with a big window overlooking the reserve. The recipe for a perfect weekend.

Elmley is based on the Isle of Sheppey and even though I am born and bred in Kent, I have never explored this corner of my home county.

We stayed in The Saltbox, named after the fact that since Roman times the salt marshes have been harvested for sea salt and salt mounds would have dotted the landscape.

We drove down to Elmley Reserve on Friday afternoon, a fairly easy journey out of South London. When you arrive at the main gate it is a ten minute drive over to the farm and the shepherd huts. Passing herds of cattle in the day and later when we popped out to buy supplies at twilight, hares, hedgehogs and murmurations of swallows.

We stayed in The Saltbox and when we arrived we were really impressed by the way the shepherd huts were set up and all the little touches such as Romney Marsh wool blankets, binoculars and bird books to identify the birds through the huge windows.

Elmley Nature Reseve, Saltbox shepherds box

Elmley Reserve, Saltbox, Weekend Away

Bird watching, Elmley Nature Reserve. Salt Box

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell

We didn’t fancy cooking and ordered a tasty home cooked supper, which arrived in a lovely wicker basket. We put up the table and ate delicious Spinach, butternut squash & feta filo pie. We also ordered egg butties and fresh coffee both mornings.

Later on we took advantage of the fire pit and marshmallows. It was a really lovely and cosy evening.

Elmley Nature Reserve, fire pit. weekend away

The next morning, I attempted to watch the sun rise but couldn’t stay awake! We had a leisurely breakfast and coffee. I particularly loved sitting in the Adirondock chairs and taking in the view. We went off and explored the nature reserve and discovered an unknown love of bird watching. We met lots of bird watchers who told us how much they loved the reserve. I was very impressed by their enormous cameras.

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, morning coffee

The views were amazing. We also left the reserve to properly explore the North Kent Marshes, an inspirational place for Dickens. We went to see the beautiful St Thomas The Apostle in Harty before coming back for a nap to recover from the early start.

In the evening we ventured out to the Three Mariners in Oare. A really lovely and cosy pub, but very busy. I would recommend going earlier or later to miss the rush.

All in all a brilliant weekend.

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, A weekend away Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, Weekend away


Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell


Sisterhood Camp

This time last week, I was just back from a magical four day retreat in Fforest camp with Sisterhood Camp Retreats.

In case you don’t know about Sisterhood, it was set up by Lou Archell of Little Green Shed. The retreats are designed to help people to embrace a slower and more gentle pace of life.


I spotted the first Sisterhood retreat on Instagram two years ago and I thought it looked beautiful.

Slowing down from my frenetic pace of life really appealed, that and the fact the retreat was taking place on the Welsh Coast over summer solstice. With the opportunity to learn new skills, foraging in flower filled hedgerows and gathering around nightime fires – how could anyone resist?

It was a creative, friendly, and ever so beautiful four days. There was feasting, country walks, wild swimming and plenty of time outside.



The beautiful and inspiring women I met

The opening ceremony of sisterhood set the tone, where we gathered around the fire to set out our intentions. Mine was to have some time for reflection but the weekend turned out to be more about the connections made. The group I found myself in for jam making was a particular highlight. These wise women made sure I was included, even though they knew so much more. Michelle, who had travelled to Sisterhood all the way from Tasmania, is a cookery writer and her books include one on making jam.

Sisterhoo women



I loved laughing and talking to everyone over all the communal meals, around the fire at night and between workshops.  It was fascinating hearing about the different ways people live their lives, such as Flora Jamieson who told stories about messing around on the river as child and how she now takes her children on wild swimming adventures. It was inspiring to learn about people’s businesses set up in all four corners of the UK, including Sam’s amazing fireside banquets and Laurie from A Woodland Gathering who makes  beautiful linen dresses in Scotland.

Wild Swimming

From waking to the bird song to gathering round the open fire. It was amazing breathing in the fresh Welsh air. A big contrast to the fumes of Brixton Hill.

On Saturday we gathered together to learn all about wild swimming and strolled down to the river Tefyn where we all jumped in, remembering to carry on breathing when the cold took your breath away.

Sisterhood Camp Retreat down to the river for swimming

The feeling of the cold water and the pull of the current was unlike anything I had experienced before. It did take your breath away.

Sisterhood Camp Retreat Swimming


The beautiful Fforest camp

The setting of Sisterhood was really lovely. When we arrived at Fforest camp you take in the wooden buildings, the beautiful flower arrangements and our dome with a wood burning stove. Sian @coldatnight has thought of all the little details, from the cosy pub with comfortable seats to the beautiful Welsh blankets on our beds. I could have sat outside on our dome’s terrace all day, reading the brilliant books in our goody bags (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Who is the real Joan Ashby?)

Here are some of the details from Fforest that I loved.

Siterhood Camp flowers







One final thing that will stay with me is the delicious food and beautiful styling of all the feasts.


Sisterhood Camp Retreat

Before the Sisterhood Camp Retreat final night feast.

Thank you for a magical experience, I can’t wait until my next Sisterhood Camp Retreat.

Laurabluebell Sisterhood Camp