“YOUR room is right this way,” I’m told standing at the top of a muddy hill. “Just hop on the back of the tractor please.”

Yes, the only way guests can arrive at River Cottage is in style — trundling down a dirt track on a trailer pulled by a dusty New Holland.

 Escape to River Cottage - the rustic farmhouse made famous by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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Escape to River Cottage – the rustic farmhouse made famous by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-WhittingstallCredit: Rex Features

But that’s the beauty of a stay at the rustic farmhouse made famous by the excellently earthy TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall — it’s organic from start to finish.

As a foodie, I could barely contain my excitement as the River Cottage ambled into view, set alone in the heart of the spectacular Axe valley, the rolling hills providing a breathtaking support act.

For the first time, River Cottage HQ is offering overnight stays at the 17th century longhouse.

This, combined with one of its many cookery schools, is the ideal Christmas prezzie for the foodie of the family. And boy what a retreat.

 Hugh's renowned garden is full of fresh ingredients

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Hugh’s renowned garden is full of fresh ingredients

At one end of the cottage is a glorious log burner, sturdy dining table and fully stocked bar (including brews like River Cottage Organic Helles Lager and a Seasonal Bellini made from local fruits).

At the other end is the holy grail of TV cooking kitchens. Hugh is famous for rustling up heavenly homegrown dishes in front of his huge fireplace — and now guests can enjoy it, too.

There are three bedrooms in the lovingly refurbished farmhouse, including a luxurious master room with en-suite. And they all look out on to the renowned garden, a diligently designed masterpiece which puts my veggie patch to shame.

River Cottage offers a smorgasbord of cooking courses, from Pig In A Day and Game Cookery to Christmas Curing And Smoking or Proper Pastry And Pies. But my wife and I were there to hone our “skills” in Cakes And Sweet Pastry.

 Sun writer and foodie Owen attempts to hone his cake and pastry skills

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Sun writer and foodie Owen attempts to hone his cake and pastry skills

After getting comfy behind our workbench (complete with fridge and cooker a la Masterchef) the ingenious head chef Dominik Moldenhauer put our group through their paces with some doughy delights.

Granted, my choux pastries turned out to be a bit naff, but I was pretty pleased with my chocolate and squash brownies.

This isn’t just any cooking experience. In order to really make our dishes stand out we were invited to pick a few edible nasturtiums from Hugh’s pristine garden.

All that food made us incredibly hungry but that was soon rectified with a divine lunch cooked by River Cottage’s finest and enjoyed along with our fellow budding cooks in the idyllic barn.

 Ingenious head chef Dominik Moldenhauer puts guest through their paces

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Ingenious head chef Dominik Moldenhauer puts guest through their paces

This beautiful building also plays host to Friday or Saturday Night Feasts, another cracking Christmas gift idea.

After a surprisingly tiring day baking, we popped back to the farmhouse to put our feet up in front of the burner and crack open a bottle of organic sangiovese. Utter bliss.

The wind outside had picked up and a wonderful whistling reverberated throughout the cottage as the fire crackled away in the background.

After rousing from my cosy coma, it was time to venture off the farm and into Axminster for dinner at Hugh’s River Cottage Kitchen restaurant — and let the experts do all the hard work.

 River Cottage is set in the heart of the spectacular Axe valley

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River Cottage is set in the heart of the spectacular Axe valley

The bustling eaterie offered up a mouth-watering menu — the best pigeon you’ll ever have — along with a friendly ambience and exceptional service.

Then it was back to the farmhouse for a cheeky nightcap in front of that crackling fire.

Truly the icing on my rather dubious-looking cake.

Go: River Cottage

STAYING THERE: Rooms at River Cottage are from £75pppn based on two sharing.

Cookery courses start at £145pp, dining experiences are from £55pp. Gift vouchers available.

See rivercottage.net.

Abandoned Camelot theme park near the village of Charnock Richard in Chorley, Lancashire  has been left to rot away



 

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