Hens get back to nature

Susan Kerr ventures into a Devonshire woodland to experience a very different kind of hen party

A trip deep into 300 acres of Devon woodland in the middle of March to celebrate a friend’s impending marriage might not be every girl’s idea of a hen party. But, the women I met after their night camping and learning bush-craft skills as ‘babes in the woods,’ all had smiles on their faces, even if some were in relief.

It’s only in the last couple of decades that hen nights have become a right of passage for brides to be. For many, the celebration has become a traditional debauched weekend affair where drunken women wear devil horns, veils and compete to see who can be the most outrageous.

It is this experience that a company called Babes in the Woods is offering an alternative to. In natural woodland, women are being encouraged to get back to nature through a number of activities such as building their own shelter, or a workshop making pesto using local wild garlic, for example.

The company’s founder, Hetti Dysch, is a therapist with a strong interest in wilderness therapy. Hetti is trying to create an experience that women won’t forget, rather than a night they won’t remember: “This is not about pink cowgirl hats, L-plates and cheap hotels; it’s about fantastic memories and new skills to take home.”

“We love to do seasonal activities with the groups such as making hedgerow berry jam in late summer”

To get to the site, hens walk through a pleasant mixed woodland. The facilities are off grid so expect compost loos and no electric sockets. But there’s not too much roughing it. Parties are greeted with a champagne reception and there are optional extras including shiatsu massages.

We love to do seasonal activities with the groups such as making hedgerow berry jam in late summer,” Hetti tells me. “The women also gain bush craft skills including fire making,” she says, clearly passionate about getting women back in touch with nature.

As nighttime comes, women relax around a blazing fire before being treated to performances by live musicians or storytellers. For those who can’t quite let go of the frisky hen night, you can have food served by a ‘butler in the buff.’

Once it’s time to turn in, the hens are reminded of giggling girly sleepovers, made complete with their own hot water bottles filled with water warmed over the fire. If they are feeling brave, there is the option to sleep-out in their own handcrafted shelter rather than the relative luxury of the furnished retro canvas bell tents.

I have never been a big fan of camping but after visiting the site and meeting some of the hens who have experienced it first hand, I think I could handle the compost toilet and sleeping in the woods under the night sky. As one smiling babe I met so aptly put it: “Why have five star accommodation when you can have a billion star accommodation?”

Other alternative hen nights:

Abbey Home Farm, Cirencester
Hen parties are hosted on the farm and have a choice of activities include an organic BBQ. They sleep in yurts in the woods and also have the option to muck in with the farm work, for example, milking a cow and collecting eggs from hens.

Vintage afternoon tea party: Wonderland Tea Parties, UK-wide
All you need to host a hen tea party is provided including vintage crockery, bunting and fairy lights.

Craft workshops: A Alicia Wedding, London
Hens can learn how to make something eco-friendly/fair trade for their night out, from jewellery to masks. All materials are provided.

Cranberries Luxury Hideaway, Devon
Two or three day packages with activities such as sea fishing, cycling, body painting and circus skills.

Eco Chariots, London
Transport your hens in sustainable style with a cycle-powered rickshaw. Champagne and chocolates can be provided and the drivers can dress to match the party theme. Chariots can be personalised with ribbons, balloons and message banners.