My footsteps crunch over the light frost and I can see my breath in the cold dawn air. I reach the end of the farm track, turn and look back.
The fields and hedgerows are coated with a glistening white – yet to be melted by the sun’s first light.
The treeline hugs the ridge to my right and up ahead a meadow stretches out.
In a field beside me a few inquisitive Aberdeen Angus cattle casually wander over. The morning is still, the peace broken only by the quiet noises of nature.
I smile to myself and begin the jog back down the path that leads to the warm bed I had deserted.
The beautiful Baston Hall from the sky – set in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire
Baston Hall is 400 years old and is as enchanting as it is grand
A few minutes later Baston Hall – a nine-bedroom, nine-bathroom Elizabethan mansion – comes into view.
We had escaped to the Worcestershire hills for a long weekend and looking at the 400-year-old house in the heart of this magnificent estate, which includes a regenerative farm, I didn’t want to go back.
From the outside the house looks like something out of a fairytale or period TV drama.
Inside it has been beautifully restored and can comfortably sleep up to 18 guests, with a blend of original character and modern luxury.
Set in 140 acres in the Malvern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is the perfect place for multi-generational families looking for a UK holiday with a difference.
The seasons bring different delights and activities for children or anyone wanting to muck in on the farm.
As the winter cold gives way to spring, visitors can help bottle-feed the lambs or lend a hand during calving season.
There is always sheepdog training to be enjoyed and guests can forage for wild garlic and make their own pesto.
Kids on family holidays or colleagues in corporate groups can try their hand at the likes of bushcraft – where they learn survival skills like how to build a fire in the wild – or take part in den building, tree planting or hedge laying.
Those brave enough can go paddle boarding on the lake or even go for a wild swim. And then there is a tennis court, croquet, badminton, archery or clay pigeon shooting.
The property is also a haven for wellness weekends and people who just want the chance to reset and reground.
And if you simply want to potter around a giant house, walk the grounds, sit in the courtyard and get caterers in, then this is the place.
The imposing Elizabethan house sits in the heart of 140 acres in Worcestershire
Guests can swim, row or even stand-up paddleboard on the lake
It quickly becomes clear to us that Baston Hall is far more than just a big house in the country.
While it is undoubtedly an incredible venue to host large groups or parties, it is our children who made us realise what a special place it is.
They instantly fell in love with life on the farm.
They loved the wild ducks, chickens and guinea fowl, but their favourites were the playful farm dogs. It was unclear who was more excited to see whom.
And when we went on a farm tour they were in heaven.
‘Sheeps, Daddy!’, screamed my two-year-old daughter, an explosion of excitement, as she set off chasing 14 four-legged fluffy friends around a field.
The sheep were good sports. They trotted around to evade her outstretched arms as she frantically tried to hug them, her bright yellow wellies squelching in the morning dew.
During our few days on the estate the kids fed the animals, explored the woods, played in the shepherd’s hut, and loved the ride-on tractor.
It was a totally different experience from any other holiday they have been on – and the house is as enchanting as it is grand.
One of the beautiful sitting rooms with the fire blazing
Super-king-sized beds, wooden beams and lavish decor adorn every room
The property features a huge nine bedrooms and nine bathrooms
One of the tiny mice that has been painted on the walls – the kids love to find them all
A local artist has painted 14 adorable cartoon mice in various nooks and crannies and the little ones delighted in scampering around on their treasure hunt, desperate to find them all.
When night fell, and they were safely tucked up in super-king-sized beds exhausted from the day’s activities, we lit the fire and enjoyed a few well-earned glasses of wine.
Our hosts, Rosanna and Ian Horsley, quit the London rat race for the countryside and bought the estate in 2017.
They are passionate about regenerative farming – where farmers put the land first to improve the biodiversity whilst producing the most nutritious food possible.
‘We want to farm in an environmentally positive way and the house is our way of making it financially viable,’ says Rosanna, clutching a warm cup of tea.
‘Farming as a business is an extremely difficult life – and you have to diversify.
‘When we bought the property we immediately set about up-specing the space to make it luxury hotel quality but in a 400-year-old house.
‘That meant putting in new bathrooms, new heating systems, we used local businesses to help with everything – even reupholstering furniture.
‘It’s all about sustainability and supporting the local community is a huge part of our ethos – and we want to create a sustainable life for our family.
‘We have to support the land and support the house. Farming is 24/7.’
Another huge sitting room to stretch out and relax in
The grand hall connects one side of the property to the other
The morning sun pours through the window in a corner of the huge kitchen-diner
The owners painstakingly refitted all of the property’s bathrooms
The house is a mixture of old character and modern luxury hotel
The chickens have their own mock Elizabethan manor
Ian elaborated as he took us on a farm tour: ‘Regenerative farming is about leaving the land and our piece of the countryside in a better condition than we found it.
‘Building up from soils and creating meadows, hedgerows, wood pasture, and woodlands provides the essential diverse habitat that insects, birds and mammals need to live.
‘We must create habitat, whilst also being mindful that we need to provide food for ourselves. Creating nature reserves and importing our food from abroad only exports our habitat destruction offshore.
‘It is so important to improve our farming practices and envelop them in nature, for the benefit of all. This is what underpins our farming ethos at Baston Hall.’
It is a noble philosophy and witnessing it first-hand gives a clear perspective of what a demanding life it is.
We walked back up the track feeling we had learned much in a short space.
The excited barks of dogs and the happy squeals of the kids brought us round and we enjoyed feeling calm and content and away from the city.
Our trip left a deep impression on all of us and since then the only question on the kids’ lips is a simple one: ‘When are we going back to the farm?’