Alice Gee | 11/11/2022
Unyoked prides itself on providing access to high-quality nature experiences while helping people recharge, release and rebalance in a world of stress. When Unyoked reached out to us to come and stay, it could not have come at a better time. Exhausted and burnt out from 9 months of health difficulties and the realities of life, I found myself close to burnout, with a need to check out of life, even if just for a moment. As someone who struggles at times with choosing between the option of facing the problem head-on and running away, when Unyoked offered me the chance to do both at the same time by packing up for two nights and staying in a cabin in the wilderness, I couldn’t resist. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite the wilderness staying in a beautiful cabin; but it’s the closest some might want to get in the hopes of finding comfort alongside respite.
Unyoked is here to change how you look at escapes to nature, with a little less camping and a little more luxury. Built on the science of nature’s impact on stress hormones like cortisol and how small changes in our routines, including swapping technological screens for green spaces, their cabins are here to help. With cabins situated across England and Wales, serenity is never far away. And if you’re interested in an adventure much further afield, there’s no need to avoid the calling with residences in Australia and New Zealand.
Our trip began at 11 am by packing our bags into the car, with an approximate 2.5-hour drive from London towards Norfolk. Although I adore driving, with multiple busy days before we leave, I found myself leaning towards staying in one of Unyokeds closer cabins. I was relieved to see a range of locations, deciding on Norfolk, having yet to have visited there before. On the morning we were due to leave, we grabbed a coffee locally before heading towards the M1 to begin our adventure. We followed a prior supplied link based on specific coordinates that we entered into google maps. We decided to stop off for lunch a little into the journey, with our check-in time settled for 3 pm. As we made our way out of London further towards East Anglia, the buildings got smaller and the capital city was replaced with rolling fields. The directions towards the cabin were straightforward, with us finding ourselves deep in the countryside in the final 30 minutes. Having grown up driving through country roads since 17 in my home village, it was bliss. There’s no mistaking how the countryside makes me feel at ease, almost at peace, every time I find myself on winding little roads. Now I know that those factors may try and put you off, but the roads, albeit country roads where the cabin is located, were easily navigated, with all of them being double car width rather than single file. If you click the link for google maps, provided by Unyoked, you’ll find yourself in the exact location. However, if you rely on a postcode via GPS like we were initially, you may need to switch to the link to find the final turning.
As we rolled onto an off-road track beside a field, we started the final expedition toward Rex, our cabin for the trip. Coming into our stay with Unyoked, I had no idea what to expect other than what their welcome pack and online images suggested. Sure, I’d spent my childhood camping and learning essential outdoor skills in Guides but other than camping at festivals, I hadn’t been at one with nature in this way in quite some time, let alone having stayed in a cabin in the middle of the woods with no WIFI or mobile signal. I understand you may be scoffing at that, but tell me, when the last time you signed off of all electronics and networks and fully immersed yourself in a space where you are entirely back to basics? Yes, me neither. We parked the car about 100 ft from the cabin and progressed following subtle signage towards our humble abode for two nights.
The cabin was situated within the midst of Norfolk’s woodlands next to what would be a small lake had the drought we’d experienced of 40-degree heat not happened. As we laid down our belongings (quite a lot of them, I’m not known for packing light), we had our first opportunity to hear the absolute silence. We arrived in good weather, which made the beginning of our stay all the better. As we unlocked the cabin and moved inside, we were pleasantly surprised at the size of the cabin. The cabins are made of one main room, which features a small kitchen, a table to eat at, a bed overlooking two large windows, a wood fire, and a bathroom made up of an eco-toilet, sink, and rain shower. Unyoked has pretty much thought of everything from kitchen utensils and bathroom toiletries to the little touches like fresh tea, an adventure guide, and a stamp book. Although the cabin isn’t tiny, its design utilises the space well. We decided to pop out to the supermarket to grab a few essentials and dinner, although Unyoked were kind enough to provide some staple items. We go for a simple stir fry with two hobs instead of an oven. Once back in our home for the night (or two), we prepared dinner as the sun went down. We light our fire and tuck in.
Having eaten, I took a moment to pause, watching the setting sun rays through the forest trees. After a moment, having automatically reached for my phone on which, I found no signal. I found it interesting, undoubtedly questionable, when my natural reflex became checking my phone and emails. After a tempting moment or two to nip outside the cabin to find the only one bar possible I received on arrival, I lay my phone back and decided to try out the rain shower before a wholesome game of scrabble. Part of Unyoked’s approach is to be as environmentally conscious as possible, with a small meter on the back of the bathroom that tallys up how much water you’ve used throughout your stay. I decided to jump in the shower and relax while trying to be mindful of the water I consumed. One difference in the bathroom is that the toilet isn’t quite the conventional one you’d expect. Sure, it looks the same, raised on a tiled area of its own, but considering Unyoked environmental values, this toilet is compostable. It’s super easy. All you have to do is scatter some wood chippings that Unyoked provides down after you’re done, something I was a little skeptical about initially, but I was quickly at ease with the turnout being clean and practical. Easy. Peasy.
The shower was quite large compared to others I’ve seen in some of the hotels I’ve visited over the years. The floors are laid with tiles, while the shower has more of a plastered concrete aesthetic, with a small, pigeonholed window that overlooks the dried lake outside. Once I’d dried off, I stepped back into the all-in-one living space to the warmth from the wood-burning stove, cosy being the understatement. Before we left, I decided to bring a board game with me in the unlikely event Unyoked didn’t provide any. We were spoilt for choice with a pack of cards, Connect 4, amongst others. But for our first night, I presented Ellie with the game of choice I’d brought with us, Scrabble. Honestly, the last time I played scrabble, I was a little worse for wear as our seriousness for the game quickly turned into a board of profanity following a drink or two…or three. But this time, I felt prepared to win, stress-free, cosy in pyjamas, a cup of tea to hand, focused on word point scores in the double digits. There was something incredibly calming about the cabin, which I put down to the little distraction and stimulation in a technology-free zone. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I felt so peaceful. I was incredibly grateful to take the opportunity to relax and get back to myself. As the late evening rolled in, I got into bed and read Sally Rooney’s ‘Beautiful World Where Are You?’ which had been on my bedside table for what felt like an eternity. I made a dent in the book with nothing to distract me as the fire embers burnt out. And before I knew it, I shut my eyes, content and anxiety-free about what tomorrow would bring.
As the September daylight escaped into the room around the edging of the windows, we rolled up the blinds and captured the beauty of the forest for our first morning in Rex with Unyoked. Ellie moved into the kitchen and boiled the kettle on the hob. As she passed me a coffee, she climbed back in, and we took our surroundings in. One of the best features of the cabin is the two approximate two-meter windows overlooking the forest floor and lake. There’s something so breathtaking about sitting in bed and gazing into nature. As we sat and on-off read, I noticed two visiting deer who seemed unphased by our presence as they happily wandered around. I clamber out of bed to make beans on toast before we spent a little more time taking in our surroundings on a porch that would make every homeowner jealous.
On our arrival, we decided to take a slow morning with the intention to head slightly northeast to Sheringham (a fourty-five minute drive) for lunch and a walk along the beach.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore driving, especially in the countryside. I could have spent all day winding through the fields on minor roads. It turns out the Norfolk countryside is perfect for me. We jumped in the car and set off for the afternoon. On arrival in Sheringham, we drove through the village towards beachside parking. The village car park was right above the beach before we pottered down the steps to the beachfront. Although we were only at the end of September, it was bracing; we were pretty relieved we wrapped up well. We chose to take a walk along the coastline, taking In the local murals as we clambered onto the pebble beach for a little longer. After taking in some more of nature’s wonders, we head into the seaside village, filled with local ice cream stores and cafes. The town was busy, with an equal split between locals and visitors. We spotted Camellia Cottage, a quaint yet modern café set slightly back off the village’s main promenade, and ordered lunch from an extensive menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads. We hovered at the café a little longer, with me predictably breaking my no-phone pledge (you must know I tried) to check my messages. With my phone safely away for the final time in my pocket, we took one last walk through the village, stopping for gelato before heading back to the car. We had no plan for the remainder of the afternoon, hoping to take a long drive back towards the villages local to our cabin. The 45-minute drive was bliss, winding through the fields and some of Norfolk’s cutest villages. We switched it up, turning off the Satnav with Ellie choosing left or right at each junction. Once we were entirely lost, immersed in the adventure, we pulled up alongside a local pub and decided to stop for a drink in the garden before we headed toward our destination, Rex.
We’d decided to cook outside, grilling steaks on the open fire. Luckily for us, I remembered all we needed to light the fire without a fire lighter from my childhood in guides as the sun began, joining forces to make dinner. There was something refreshing about making dinner over the campfire while the cabin heated up. I felt back to my roots, with all my worries seemingly further afield than they usually were. Each moment we spent in nature, I felt more connected to what was important to me rather than the challenges I’d been feeling suffocated by. We ate dinner and prepared for another night of games. This time connect 4. As I settled down for another night in the cabin with the fire burning out, I was surprised at how warm I felt, as I realised not waking to the cold once the night before. I snuggled down to read a little more of my book before I drifted off for another good night’s sleep.
Waking on a Friday morning, we didn’t need to rush with our check-out time being 11 am. We opened the blinds and spent another morning engrossed in the forest outside. Although I found myself a little anxious about returning to London, aware that I couldn’t be in the woods forever, we packed up with myself, contemplating what our trip in nature had taught me. Looking back, I realise I need to be more conscious about the time I take to rest and relax, with my digital devices being less prominent in those moments. The second is the power of nature, in how it grounds you and the healing properties it harbors. And the third is that it’s ok to check out for a little while, I owe myself these moments to stay well. I realise it doesn’t make me weak to want to run and that if I need to take a moment, I need to extend that to myself with less guilt. For me, the trip wasn’t just perfect; it was long overdue, and although I didn’t entirely stop, I warmly welcomed Unyoked’s values, their focus on better mental health, and even the little challenges inside my guest book, with me leaving reset and refreshed.