I grew up camping with my parents and with such great memories I always thought I’d like to continue the tradition with my own children some day. In my 20′s I camped a few times; though pitching tents in the rain, sleeping on the ground, the novelty started to wear off. So when I was introduced to the world of ‘glamping’ I knew it was perfect compromise — it takes all the pain points of camping away and you still get a rustic outdoorsy experience.
My first glamping experience was a Feather Down Farm Days holiday at Aller Farm, a dairy farm in Devon. Luite Moraal, the man behind Centre Parcs, introduced the Feather Down Farms concept to the UK. It’s a simple idea: the company partners up with small farms that are intent on preserving the countryside by building awareness of their local industries. Morall had the realization that us urbanites are spending more time plugged in and an easy way to lure us back to nature, was to make it as painless as possible. All host farms have the same tent setup and similar amenities.
As we rolled up to the farmhouse, Emma, our hostess and the farmer’s wife, greeted us. Cars aren’t permitted near the campsite so we wheel-barrowed our gear down. Emma talked through of the workings of the stove and all the amenities of the tent and farm; from the ‘honestly shop’ to the laundry and showers. The honesty shop (you are expected to keep a list of your items and settle up when you leave,) sells everything you might need for the weekend; frozen homemade meals, bread, butter, firelighters, loo roll, local wine, scrumpy and of course jugs of fresh milk (straight from Bessie).
Luckily the ‘tents’ are all set up and ready to go. I also use the word tent very loosely—they are actually more like canvas cabins. Decorated with hardwood floors and rustic objects it’s a very cosy affair (even clever uses of old grocery boxes as shelves.) It has an open concept kitchen/living/dining room which houses an island in the kitchen and a pine dining table. Sleeping up to five is easy; in the back of the tent are two separate rooms, plus a special suspended bed tucked in a nook, fun factor 10 for the kids! Best of all, there’s running water in the kitchen area and the real bonus was a functioning loo inside the tent—so no walking out into the wilderness at night hovering over stinging nettles!
Since we arrived a little late on our first night and it takes about an hour to get the wood-burning stove hot enough to cook, we opted for the local pub – just walking distance from the tents. On Saturday morning we decided to explore the area and ventured into Lyme Regis (about 20 minutes drive). Along the way we passed the famous River Cottage cafe, which was expectedly busy, so instead we went for some authentic fish and chips on the coast. Lyme Regis is your typical coastal town, with a colourful hut lined pebble beach. Our chilled out afternoon ended with a cream tea in the neighbouring Beer, a fishing village nestled in the Jurassic Coastline—England’s first World Heritage Site. The village revolves around a strong fishing community. When we arrived we were lucky to see some fishing boats coming back and being winched onto the beach.
The real highlight of the weekend was our farm tour, which took place on Saturday evening. It was great to learn about the inner workings of a dairy farm, issues facing the industry and most importantly have the chance to milk a cow! My daughter is still talking about it. Like any farm, there are chicken coops all around. You can collect fresh eggs daily—a big hit with the kids and made our breakfasts extra special.
On Saturday night we wanted to stay at the site and cook, so with the stove at full capacity we made dinner and also managed to get the outside BBQ fired up. The tents are clustered in small groups, so the children from neighbouring tents all played together while the adults enjoyed a couple glasses of wine.
Although it’s ‘glamping’, it’s not all modern and functional, there’s a lovely rustic element to the experience. The tents don’t have electricity so oil lamps and candles are provided which add to the ambiance. And remember it does take a while to get the stove up and running, so a little bit of planning is advisable if you want to cook. Wellies are mandatory and some extra clothes for the kids, as they will they will get dirty, it is a farm and it doesn’t take much to make mud.
The whole experience was great; it was nice to go ‘back to a basics’ for the weekend as well as experience a bit of rural life. I look forward to exploring some other Featherdown locations across the country soon.
Prices for a Feather Down Farm Days holiday at Aller Farm start at £279 per tent.
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