Muddy stays: Osier Carr Barn, Tatterford
Unlike Air B ‘n’ B where, thanks to owners still living there, you’re guaranteed something of a home-from-home experience, booking a holiday cottage can be a bit of a gamble (properties are either in beautiful locations but uncannily like your nan’s house inside – with a lovely musty smell to match – or pretty as a picture but with the view of a hospital out back).
So, when driving through the tiny village of Tatterford, three miles from Fakenham in North Norfolk, I am surprised to hear my wheels roll over gravel as I head up the driveway of Osier Carr Barn – a promising start.
Having already driven past the property four times (there is no signage from the street), I am so taken aback by the size of the place, I double check the name before turning off the engine.
But there, in all its stylish, multi-award-winning, Kevin McCloud-eat-your-heart-out-splendour, is the most charming barn imaginable – the perfect blend of old and new, with Norfolk stone from 1887 (so I’m told) holding up contemporary bio-fold doors tickled by lilac Wisteria.
The barn’s pleasant elevation affords a view that’s hard to find in Norfolk (it being so flat and all); a bright yellow field spilling into rolling countryside dotted with cows. It’s truly idyllic.
Being on one floor means the property is ideal for younger children, while regular sightings of birds, butterflies and pheasants keeps them off the Xbox and in the great outdoors (my daughter’s toys stay packed the whole weekend). There’s even a barn owl living in the roof but sadly we didn’t get to see it (although if you hear a bang above you don’t be alarmed, it will be Mr Owl).
The front door leads to an open-plan kitchen with a four-oven AGA cooker, exposed brickwork, solid oak worktops, a double Belfast sink and white wood-clad cupboards. It’s stylish and functional with lots of lovely touches, including small princess and superhero glasses for children and a welcome hamper for me with bread, proper coffee, jams, real butter, posh biscuits and a bottle of red wine.
It is at this point – with suitcase still in hand – that I do a little dance in celebration of how lucky I am to be here. It’s Friday night, the wine is about to be opened and there’s the rest of the barn (and the area) to explore.
To the right of the kitchen is an enormous (and I mean enormous) lounge/diner with rotating wood burning stove (everything you need to make a fire is outside the front door) and a long stretch of six bio-fold doors opening out onto terrace and garden with BBQ.
Unfortunately, the weather isn’t great so I resist the urge to fling the doors open for fear of losing some of the furniture, but can only imagine what this would be like on a balmy evening with friends – roaring BBQ, *those* views and, when it starts to get a little chilly, a lovely combination of wood stove and stars (doors still open). A little bit of Tuscany right here in Norfolk?
One entire wall of the lounge is dominated by shelves housing hundreds upon hundreds of books interspersed with artifacts that tell the story of a well-travelled owner (Muddy readers meet Henry; Henry meet the Muddy readers) – an African elephant here; a (real) Zebra skin there.
Two of the shelves are dedicated to children’s books demonstrating, once again, the level of thought that has gone into preparing this once-loved family home (there are height markers on the kitchen wall for the children) for holidaymakers.
With an opulent ratio of five bedrooms to four bathrooms (two with roll top baths; one with an actual sauna), the barn is ideal for large families or groups of friends of all ages. One bedroom is even decked out with bunk beds, butterfly-patterned curtains and fox cushions.
Beautiful decorative touches are everywhere, from the bespoke Osier Carr lamps to the interesting pictures adoring the walls, to the wine-themed chopping board.
There is a large flatscreen, of course, but refreshingly the furniture doesn’t all point at it, meaning this family did more than watch soaps come evening. It’s then, while turning up the volume on the state-of-the-art Bose music system, that I realise just how trusting Henry is allowing grubby little mitts around expensive equipment and collectables. But then that’s Norfolk for you: family-friendly, kind, trusting.
There’s even a photo album on the coffee table containing pictures of the property being built – a major project which Henry oversaw from scratch. I very much doubt he has copies of these at home…
My pleasant Friday evening continues with a child fast asleep within minutes of going to bed – knocked out by the fresh air – and a movie from an extensive collection, which includes TV box sets, classics and rom coms for the ladies (or the men – I won’t judge).
Underfloor heating means I can pleasantly pad barefooted from the kitchen (for refills of wine and snacks) to the lounge for more movie time and everywhere in between – simple pleasures…
The next morning, I make a pot of fresh coffee and sit down to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet while marvelling again at the gorgeous views, when a shriek interrupts my thoughts and I spill coffee everywhere – a pheasant is sitting on the garden fence meaning we’re out in the bracing air in our pyjamas before I can grab a cloth. Thank god there are no (and I mean no) neighbours.
I take the opportunity of being in the garden to pick some fresh Parsley for dinner (a little ‘Parsley’ sign telling me it’s OK to help myself).
Not wishing to tear ourselves away from this heavenly spot, but wanting to head to the beach, we reluctantly get in the car and drive the short distance to Holkham to feel the sand between our toes (Holkham Beach continually tops lists of UK’s best beaches), gobble an ice-cream, have a nose around the small shops and a enjoy a pint (water for the little lady – what do you take me for?) in the beautiful Victoria Pub.
On our way back to the barn, we try to recall all the animals we have seen on our day out, including hens, baby chicks, pheasants (both dead and alive), cows, horses, dogs, ponies, baby rabbits and deer. Who needs to go to the zoo?
With one more delicious night at Osier Carr Barn on the agenda before heading back to Norwich (where my pad only has three bio-fold doors in a row and just plump slugs as regular visitors to the garden), I make a vow to change my way of thinking: you *can* book a holiday barn on a website that isn’t just home-from-home but home-from-home with bells on. I should know; I’ve done it.