A luxury, eco-friendly treehouse in Worcestershire offers a little slice of heaven in the heart of rural England. Penny Bunting and family take a closer look
We arrived at – a luxury, eco-friendly treehouse retreat in rural Worcestershire – just as it was starting to go dark. It was that time on a winter's afternoon when you can still see clearly, but everything takes on a soft, diffused, bluish hue.
Approaching along the farm track and turning a corner we had our first glimpse of Vivianna – the treehouse that would be our home for the weekend.
This was a magical moment. Glowing with golden light in the cold, blue twilight, Vivianna couldn't have looked more welcoming.
Treeopia is run by John and Nicki Beavan, who designed and built the treehouses on their small working farm – a second treehouse, Eathelin, is due to be completed soon. The unique holiday homes have been handmade using traditional building methods and sustainable, reclaimed and recycled materials.
The couple has hens and a rare pedigree herd of Traditional Hereford cattle. The farm is run using old-fashioned, environmentally friendly methods, with the cattle grazing naturally on herbal leys – pasture that is rich in biodiversity such as wildflowers, and is a good habitat for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
The diverse mixture of plants in herbal leys provides nutritious grazing for cattle and sheep, while helping to enrich the soil – without the need for chemical fertilisers.
Stepping into a fairytale
Vivianna was completed in early 2018, and is built around the trunk of large, living ash tree. The crown of the tree emerges through the thatched roof – branching out and over the treehouse as though protecting it.
On one side, the treehouse is supported by stilts. Well above the ground, you have the feeling of being way up in the branches of the tree.
There are fabulous views across a large medieval fishing pool that sits alongside Vivianna – part of larger network of pools, lakes and waterways that thread through the farm and the surrounding countryside. There's a wrap-around balcony surrounding the treehouse, so you can enjoy these delightful rural views from a multitude of different perspectives.
Stepping inside the treehouse is like stepping into a fairytale. The large, arch-shaped door swings open to reveal a huge living space – dominated, in the centre, by the thick trunk of the ash tree that grows out through the floor and disappears up through the ceiling high above.
This living area is beautiful – a light and airy, almost circular space with multiple windows and gleaming wooden floor. Two huge circular sofas, bedecked with comfy cushions, face a flickering, log-effect fire, and there's a unique dining table, crafted from a tree trunk and topped with curved glass.
There are lovely little details everywhere. Atmospheric lighting is provided by LED candles and vases of fairy lights, and soft throws and blankets are on hand to keep things cosy. Not that the treehouse ever gets cold – the underfloor heating throughout makes sure of that.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this space (apart from the tree growing up through the middle) is the kitchen. This was designed and built by John, a with a reputation for innovative design and superb quality.
The kitchen cabinets flow around the space – there are no hard edges or sharp corners here. It has been designed with a reflective base, so that it appears to float above the floor – this adds to the magical quality of the space.
The curved cabinets contain a round sink and hidden drawers and cupboards, that, when pushed, glide open smoothly and silently.
We spent a while looking through the cupboards for a kettle, before realising there was a filtered water tap next to the sink that dispensed, pure, cold drinking water and also hot water for making tea and coffee in an instant.
In one of the cupboards was an extensive selection of tea and coffee. As well as three types of real, ground coffee (medium roast, dark roast and decaffeinated) there was a range of different teas, from traditional English breakfast and Earl Grey to fruit-flavoured green tea and other herbal varieties.
This wasn't all that had been left for us though – in fact, the welcome pack at Treeopia is probably the best we've ever experienced.
In the fridge were fresh eggs from the farm's hens. There was also a splendid slate cheese board with a selection of locally produced cheeses. And in a basket on the counter was a selection of goodies including oatcakes, fresh bread rolls, honey and marmalade.
Vivianna has two spacious bedrooms, which can be made up either as a super king or with twin beds. These rooms are beautifully decorated: snuggled within the curving walls of the treehouse, each room has several arched windows giving glorious views across the pool to the countryside beyond.
In each bedroom there were robes, slippers, enormous fluffy towels, and lovely homemade soaps in different scents.
The larger of the two rooms has a door leading out to the balcony. This is a pleasant place to sit and look out for the numerous birds that can be seen on site – John and Nicki have even provided binoculars, so you can keep an eye out for the heron that is a regular visitor.
A smart, modern bathroom completes the accommodation. This features twin glass sinks with unusual waterfall taps, and a huge walk-in rainfall shower. Like the other rooms, it's stylish, luxurious and spotlessly clean.
Dark skies and starry nights
The outdoor space is as delightful as the inside. Surrounding Vivianna and the pool are woods and wildflower meadows – a haven for all kinds of wildlife.
A few steps away from the treehouse is a bubbling hot tub, a fire pit – complete with logs, and all the equipment needed to cook a campfire meal – and comfortable seats for enjoying the view.
A little tumbling waterfall creates a continuous, soothing sound – mingling with the calls of moorhens and the quack of ducks that visit the pool.
During our stay at Vivianna, we were blessed with clear skies – with no nearby light pollution, the view of the stars was outstanding. After toasting marshmallows over the fire pit, we sat in the hot tub, gazing up at Orion and The Plough twinkling through the winter branches above us.
In the morning, we rose early, wrapped up in warm clothes, and headed outside. It was wonderful to sit sipping our morning coffee with a view of the water as the sun rose. Ducks glided serenely across the pool, and buzzards wheeled overhead, their piercing calls breaking the silence.
We kept an eye out for some of the other wildlife that can sometimes be seen here: roe and muntjac deer, kingfishers, owls – and of course the heron – are all regular visitors.
After our coffee we went for a wander, following a path around the pools, and crossing little stone bridges and stepping stones over brooks and streams.
Following a breakfast of eggs, fresh bread and honey, we headed out for the day. If you can tear yourself away from Vivianna, there's plenty to explore within a short drive of the farm.
Walkers have a multitude of options. As well as local footpaths to investigate, the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is just a short drive away. Here there are plenty of hikes, from short ambles – such as woodland walks on Wenlock Edge – to tackling stretches of the Shropshire Way, a long-distance route that loops around the county.
For information about walks in the area, the friendly folk at the excellent will help, offering advice on where to go and how to get there. An excellent café here serves great value meals, with good vegetarian options and delicious cakes.
The fascinating Shropshire Hills Through Time Exhibition at the Discovery Centre features a life-sized replica of a woolly mammoth skeleton that was discovered in the county in 1986. There are also interactive, engaging displays about the history of the area that children, in particular, will love.
Nearby Ludlow is a picturesque, hilly town full of half-timbered houses, cafés and interesting shops. The town is famous for its local food scene – try visiting the for a great range of local produce, including a wide range of cheeses, cider, real ales and home-baked treats.
There was so much more to do in the area that we wished we had more time than just the weekend. With its location near the borders of three counties – Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire – there would easily be enough to do to fill a week, or more. And with Vivianna to come home to each evening, what a wonderful week that would be!
Green Adventures January 2019