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The Devon cabins so cosy you might want to take one home | Travel

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but one guest at Devon Dens – an off-grid sanctuary in the west of the county – went further than copying: she bought the cabin she stayed in and is having it shipped home.

“I guess she enjoyed it here,” says owner Jo Henderson, as she shows me to my (still in situ) home for the night. “It’s relocating at the end of October, but we’ll replace it with one that’s just as lovely.”

My cabin is covetable. Made from sustainable local wood by Jo’s carpenter husband, Ben Ranson (the couple also make huts and wagons for others via their company Barrel Top Wagons), it has a kitchenette, lounge with woodburner and sofabed, dining area and mezzanine-level bedroom. (The new model will be similar, but with more space: sleeping six instead of four, with a separate double bedroom.) Pots on the decked terrace overflow with plants, and the outdoor dining space – towards the stream that flows through the woodland site – has a large wooden table, firepit and barbecue.

Exterior of Devon Dens cabin on a sunny day.



Photograph: Iris Thorsteinsdottir

The weather had turned misty as I navigated the winding lanes from Okehampton to the cabins, near Germansweek, and I arrive frazzled from the long drive. Yet the sense of being in a cocoon is immediate: there’s no wifi or phone signal, and with the other cabin at the opposite end of the site, it feels peaceful and private.

Here, I find the sun provides power, toilets are dry, all waste is composted, there are beehives, and a pond and reed beds form part of the natural water filter system. There’s also a polytunnel and raised vegetable beds – guests can help themselves, and what’s ready to pick is chalked on a blackboard (the purple carrots and leafy greens were delicious). Local produce can be ordered in advance, too: from organic cider to milk from the nearby farm.

Daytime aerial view of Devon Dens cabins and the surrounding woodland.



Photograph: Matthew Buckland

“We wanted to do something as eco as possible,” says Jo, a former restaurateur, who spent a year working on an organic farm in Greece with Ben before returning to the UK and buying the plot. “It’s a taste of off-grid living and people often pick up ideas of simple things they can do to lead a greener life.”

The cabins have shelves of nature books, magazines and board games (extra sets are swapped in when guests arrive), and while Covid restrictions mean the on-site sauna is closed, massages can still be booked. There’s also a new app with loads of local information, suggested walks and a self-check-in option.

It’s such a restful setting that days could easily be spent lazing in the hammock or reading by the fire. However, there are good walks from the gate and I spend hours roaming pretty lanes, walking across fields and through woods, and picnicking by Roadford reservoir (popular with birdwatchers).

Night time exterior shot of a Devon Dens cabin with outdoor seating and firepit.


While much of Devon was heaving over the summer, this pocket feels quiet, despite Dartmoor being on the doorstep and some of north Cornwall’s best beaches just a 40-minute drive away. In the early evening I meet Jo for a dip in the moor’s Meldon Quarry. Its series of pools are a favourite with outdoor swimmers – but there’s (thankfully) no one around to hear me squeal at the cold water.

“We love this area,” says Jo. “It’s not chi-chi like south Devon, and is less crowded, but has easy access to many beautiful spots – from Lydford Gorge to the Pegasus Trail, a cycling and walking trail.”

My plans take me coastward towards Bude, and the resort is an immediate contrast to the oasis of the dens. While lovely in summer, they would make a cosy winter bolthole, too, I think … wondering when I might return. I’m not surprised that some guests book their next stay before their holiday has ended. If you can’t buy a cabin yourself, I guess it’s the next best thing.

Accommodation was provided by devondens.co.uk, which has two cabins sleeping up to six from £125 a night


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What cooking skills should children learn? | Food

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What’s the best way to get children interested in cooking, and what should I teach them?
Georgie, Suffolk

The golden rule, says Thomasina Miers, is patience – and lots of it. “It can be a slow process,” she sympathises. “I talk about how delicious food is and always put olive oil, lemons and herbs on the table for them to add to their meal.”

And it’s a good idea to start them young. “Kids are mimics,” says restaurateur and author of Australian Food Bill Granger, “so they’ll do what you do.”

Darina Allen, who runs the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, puts toddlers on stirring duty. A messy strategy, yes, so gird yourself. Granger agrees: “They’ll make your life hard,” he says “but just involve them.”

Perhaps controversially, Allen then turns to knife skills: “Lots of parents wouldn’t be happy with this, but from three and a half to four years old they can hold a knife. It’s vital they’re shown how to use one safely, keeping the tips of the fingers tucked under the knuckles and, if they’re using the tip of the knife, to put the index finger along the back of the blade.”

Don’t be afraid to deploy underhand tactics, AKA bribery. Miers suggests banana and chocolate bread or fairy cakes to tempt five-year-olds into the kitchen: “They’re fun and sugary – you’ve got to get them that way.” Allen finds success in drop scones: “Children can put spoonfuls on to a frying pan, wait until the bubbles rise and burst, flip over with a palette knife and cook on the other side.” If enthusiasm wavers, baker Lily Jones, founder of east London’s Lily Vanilli, relinquishes control over decorating cupcakes or cookies: “Their enthusiasm can drop off a cliff abruptly, so I’m quick to do the boring parts.”

By the time they’re eight, Granger looks for dishes with a bit of a process: “Pizza dough is great: I use three cups of flour, a cup of water and a couple of teaspoons of yeast.” Kids can then go all-out on toppings. Try quick and easy dips, such as hummus, which children can cut celery and cucumber into sticks to dip in, or get the box grater out for vegetable fritters (Allen recommends carrot and spring onion). Miers says: “A cheese and herb omelette is also a good skill to have. Children can grate cheese and cut herbs (with scissors if their knife skills aren’t up to it).”

Come 12, Miers ups the ante with homemade pasta, while Granger makes life easier with a gnocchi bake, adding a simple tomato sauce (using passata) and mozzarella. Crumbles and traybakes (think flapjacks) are, of course, good for most ages, but Jones suggests adding basic icing techniques to their arsenal too: “Use a dessert spoon to scoop icing on to a cake or cupcake, then use the back of the spoon to create waves and spread on the icing.”

When they hit their teens, it’s time to experiment. “Find out what their favourite food is and get a cookbook,” Granger says, who then puts them to work cooking for friends. “After all, kids like showing off.”

Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email [email protected]


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My stepson saw an explicit video of his dad on my phone. What should I do? | Life and style

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My husband of 10 years used to travel a bit on business, and we would send each other explicit photos and videos of ourselves. I thought I had hidden all incriminating images in a protected folder on my phone, but, the other night, while I was randomly flicking through old family videos with my husband and 13-year-old stepson, up popped a video of my husband in all his glory, holding himself. There was stunned silence from the two of us, then panicked laughter, while my stepson looked at me with a bemused “busted!” expression. He still seems unconcerned about it, but both of us feel terrible. Should we have a conversation about it, wait to see if he acts any differently towards us, or trust our first instinct, which was to be a bit embarrassed and then pretend it never happened? We’re not a prudish household, but we figure that forcing him to talk could make this episode even weirder and more awkward than it already is. What should we do?

Our children pick up on our attitudes towards sex without any words being spoken. In fact, the most powerful learning they receive is the unspoken message. They easily absorb how each parent views sex, through our reactions when sexual content appears on TV, or the way we react when someone alludes to sex in conversation. Given that unspoken messages are the most powerful ways parents communicate ideas and feelings about sex, you have already let your stepson know everything he needs to understand about this. He is old enough to put it into context, and if he questions you in the future your job is to simply give a relaxed answer. You were right to normalise the accidental revelation, and there would be little point in returning to the subject.


  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to [email protected] (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

  • Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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#EtimesSuaveMen: Five ways men can experiment with scarves

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Whether it is to protect yourself from the cold weather or you need a statement accessory, every man requires a scarf or two in his wardrobe. And, now as the winter season is approaching, it’s time to get creative with your scarf draping styles. Be it a casual or business look, learn stylish ways to wear a scarf. Here’s a look at five ways you can wear a scarf and beat the chill in style:

Casual
For a simple and casual look, you can pull off a laid-back style with your scarf. Wrap the scarf around your neck and pull out the ends and adjust at the same level. You can tuck it into your jacket or layer it on top of a fuzzy sweater.

casual scarf men

Smart Casual
If you’re not a fan of the ‘too casual look’, you can drape a scarf over the shoulder. Simply drape the scarf over the neck and keep one end longer than the other. This can help to add a touch of finesse to your casual look.

casual scarf

Formal
For a formal setting, it is important to drape the scarf with clean lines for a smart look. With a suit, you can try the ascot knot by draping the scarf around the shoulder and form a cross. Then, put one end under the other and pull it up to make a knot and tuck it in for a neat look.

Ascot knot

(How to tie an ascot knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Business
For a business or official meeting, your scarf needs to look sophisticated and sharp. Ascot and loop knots can work well for a clean look. For the loop knot, fold the scarf in half and wrap it around your neck. Next, add the loose ends through the loop to make this knot.

loop knot

loop knot

(How to tie a loop knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Evening
Whether you’re wearing a tuxedo or a suit, a stylish scarf can make a sartorial statement. It’s best to stick to fine fabrics like silk and cashmere with subtle patterns. You can wrap the scarf around the neck and tuck it behind the lapels of the jacket as shown in the photo.

scarf with suit


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