Have you ever heard of a babymoon? Taking a trip with your significant other before a new arrival is a bit of a travel trend, but at eight months pregnant I swapped a weekend with my husband (with whom, after all, I’m about to be spending a LOT of time as we juggle endless rounds of nappies and sleepless nights) for an escape to a cabin lost in the countryside with two of my best friends. I’m calling this genius idea a ‘friendmoon’ – and after a wonderful weekend in deepest Devon, I’m definitely an advocate for booking a pre-baby adventure with your buddies.
It’s always agonisingly hard to choose exactly where to escape to when browsing Canopy and Stars’ unique hideaways in the wild – did I want to stay on floating raft in Essex, a bothy in the Scottish Highlands, a hobbit house in Hereford? In the end, we booked the romantically-named Woods Edge, a colourful cabin tucked away in 100 acres of farmland and forest in the heart of Devon.
Woods Edge was a labour of love built on the edge of a meadow by two brothers- in- law – the result is a wonderful hodge-podge of a home on the prairie. The wooden exterior with wraparound porch looks a little like it should belong in the Wild West, while inside is a gorgeous explosion of colour. – Primary shades are daubed on the walls, bright cushions and throws are scattered about and a geometrical bookcase stuffed with old Penguin Classics takes pride of place. Up steep stairs is a cosy bedroom filled with light and more cheering splashes of colour. It all feels like you’ve arrived at a cabin an illustrator might have dreamt up for a children’s book. Woods Edge may be compact but it’s secretly rather posh, with a wonderfully plush bathroom and a well-stocked kitchen, plus a sumptuous double bed. There’s even a welcome hamper packed with fresh local products including milk, eggs, butter, bread, and Devon honey. While I absolutely love camping and glamping on balmy summer days, sometimes you can’t beat the cosy welcome of a warm cabin filled with creature comforts - Woods Edge would be snug as anything come winter.
There’s one thing you won’t find down in this corner of the valley – the cabin has no phone signal or Wi-Fi, which makes for a very good excuse to put your phone away and really reconnect. Did you know that the average British adult uses technology for eight hours and 41 minutes a day, 20 minutes longer than they spend in bed? For most of us, including me, that's inevitable – increasingly, jobs require us to be online from 9-5, and most of us will frequently check in with phones and apps during the 5-9. Making a conscious choice to put on your out of office and be uncontactable, just or a day or two, is one of best ways I know to truly relax and find space to reconnect. And time to properly catch up with my friends felt even more precious now that there’ll be a fourth, very loud member of our girl gang joining us soon.
Woods Edge was the perfect spot for doing a little of everything and nothing. We spent a lot of time in and around the lovely wood -fired hot tub out on the decking. I stuck my legs in and drank alcohol-free Cava, which is about as wild as weekends get when you’re pregnant, and we lazed about reading books in deckchairs in the day, and watched an incredible blanket of stars blink on above us as night fell.
The cabin may feel totally secluded but you’re part of a working farm at Woods Edge, and there’s even a walking trail winding around a fraction of the farm’s 100 acres, meandering under shady trees and taking you past a peaceful wildlife pond and bushes laden with blackberries. We didn’t see another soul as we roamed, although we spotted dragonflies and kept an ear out for the wild deer that live among the trees.
It was tough to leave the cosiness of the cabin to go exploring further afield, but Devon and Cornwall are on your doorstep here – the surfy seaside town of Bude is only 20 minutes away and you’re surrounded by a network of rural walking trails. We decided to head for the sea, driving north to Watermouth Harbour. First stop was The Storm in a Teacup, a charming café on an old fishing boat, now run aground with a view of the harbour and serving coffee and doorstop-sized slices of cake. From here, it’s an easy walk up the South West Coast Path to Broad Sands, one of my favourite beaches in Britain. This crescent-shaped cove is reachable only down a flight of steep steps cut, but it’s well worth it when you reach the sight and sound of clear waters lapping at green cliffs. This is the perfect spot for a sea swim, and at the moment I find being weightless in the water a wonderfully welcome change from carting my now rather heavy bump around all day. As we floated in the beryl-green sea under the last of the summer sun, it was hard to believe we were still in England.
It turns out that a little break from work, Wi-Fi connection and the inevitable seesaw of stress and joy that comes with expecting a baby was exactly what I needed to really relax. While I can’t wait for the next chapter – and, hopefully, adventures to similar hidey-holes with a little one in tow – I also can’t recommend a pre-baby, off-grid, freedom-filled friendmoon enough. The only hard bit might be picking which Canopy & Stars cabin you want to escape to the most.