Image copyright Feather Down Farm
We're Going Glamping
Melissa Muzard Clark
The last time she camped for the weekend, busy mum Melissa Muzard Clark swore never again – all that packing, pitching and unpacking to spend an uncomfortable night on an inflatable bed and then do it all again in reverse just a few days later. But Feather Down Farms is all about Glamping – Glamorous Camping – and this time, she and her family can’t wait to do it all again.....
Charming, slightly quirky and entirely practical – we all loved it. And somehow, the pace just slows …
I arrived home on Friday evening to find my husband lying prostrate with pain on the living room floor.
“I can’t move” he groaned.
What have you done?
I could feel the panic rising.
Can’t you get up?
“No, I can’t move.”
This is terrible, I exclaimed! What to do? .... concern for my husband you might think ...
“Will you be alright on your own?” I asked. “It’s just ‘we’ are going Glamping”
Needless to say this was not the best start to our much looked-forward-to family weekend break.
Yet two hours and a few strong painkillers later we were rolling peacefully along single track West Country lanes soaking up the surroundings of undulating hills draped with meandering low dry stone walls.
‘You have reached your destination’ said the Sat Nav lady … with not a building in sight!
“Let’s just follow the road,” urged a deeply pained voice from the back; the voice of wisdom no less. The next right turn and we had arrived.
Warren Farm the wooden sign read. Amazing, we had reached what felt like the middle of nowhere with a mere three right turns off a main road and without a single ‘recalculation’ by Mrs Nav!
We eased our way gently (minding the bad back) down the dusty farm track, tree lined and picturesque (if a little bumpy for those with a trapped nerve), and pulled into the farmyard. After a friendly welcome we were redirected to the car park where James, the farmer, was waiting to meet us.
And there he was. As we climbed, tumbled and crawled out of the van James appeared, as if by magic, he came through the hedge. “I’ll show you around”.
The views were breathtaking; countryside as far as the eye could see; a rolling landscape dipping and twisting into the distance and nothing but a blue summer sky above.
Children’s play area? Tick. And so two beaming faces (age 7yrs and 11yrs) lit up for the rest of the tour. These are the goats; you can go into the pen, and the chickens, help yourselves to eggs, be kind to the hens, pigs don’t go in with them (phew! I had already noted the wallow they were lying in and the all over mudpacks they were wearing!).
Security code, for guests only .... showers warm, floors heated, hair dryers, next, Honesty shop - well stocked with electricity (handy for phone charging if needed), dry wood (for your fires) , wheel barrows for your bags. There are just seven tents in total, James explained, as we left the main field with the play area and animals and dipped through another gap in the hedge.
“This is your tent here, Rookham.”
Tent, well I say tent, but it doesn’t really capture it at all. This is Tent with a capital ‘T’. Wooden floors, oversized deck chairs, giant reclaimed wood cool box, mismatched chairs around a sturdy wooden table and a charming upcycled candlebra hanging stylishly above it, (plus a kitchen I would call an upgrade if it was put into my home.) Charming, slightly quirky and entirely practical.
Oh we needn’t have brought ours, there’s one already here we kept saying.
Probably should have read the information Kate (James’ wife) had emailed us before we arrived a little more carefully. A torch and matches was about all we really needed, if anything at all.
“Look in the cupboard” said an excited voice. “It’s a bed not a cupboard at all!”. Peeking through the cut out hearts in the door revealed a ready-made double bed, plump pillows, fluffy duvet piled onto a thick mattress.
“That’s my bed”, came a firm and decisive voice. Shoes off, our teenage daughter clambered in, installed herself with her phone and i-pod touch and promptly shut the ‘cupboard doors’.
The luggage was swiftly unloaded and wheeled enthusiastically to the tent by our eager little helpers and we found ourselves settling into our weekend home with surprising ease. Basil our dog included. Dogs are allowed from the 1st June but must be kept on a lead at all times on the farm and campsite. If, like us, you have an old lab, emotionally attached to your husband and unaware that a chicken is edible, this is absolutely fine. Our high-octane energetic terrier would at best have hated this and at worst, have eaten an unsuspecting incoming hen. Thankfully she stayed with relatives.
“We could live here couldn’t we, we don’t need any more, do we?” mused the hunter-gatherer as he stoked the fire.
We cooked our tea on the wood-fired stove beside our tent, tucked behind a perfectly placed grassy hillock. Shielded from view, we ate together around the picnic table, admired ‘our’ hens in their coop and marvelled at the peace and tranquillity.
The next few hours were spent playing board games, chatting, reading and mulling over our options for the weekend. Farm tour, book a beauty treatment, make pizza to cook in the outdoor oven, order a hamper, visit Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge, explore the Mendips or should we ‘hang out’ at the festival in Priddy.
As the sun slipped silently below the horizon we turned up the oil lamps and lit the candles. Our working week and hectic schedules started to melt away. No beds to make, thanks to the ‘ready beddy’ option we had selected. Two bunks and a good sized double as well as the ‘teenagers pod’ room. By half ten we were all fast asleep in the comfort of our ‘real beds’ with plans to visit Cheddar Gorge the next day.
We woke to a high pollen count and blazing sunshine and realised we must have picked the hottest weekend of the year so far which definitely influenced what we decided to do for the day because we ventured off to visit Cheddar and enjoy the welcome 11 degrees C coolness of Gough’s cave, arriving ‘home’ in time for tea. I confess to a twinge of regret as we caught the sound on the breeze and saw the tractor, with its arched canopied trailer in the distance, bumping slowly across the open fields on its return from the farm tour. Next time.
“Anyone for pizza?” I asked.
The farm offers the option of pizza making, cooking and eating communally, for those who choose to. Cider, juice and dessert are all included in the price. Warm and welcoming, available, yet discreet our host family struck the perfect balance.
“We were going to go out for the day tomorrow” I said “but have decided to stay put”. James seemed mildly amused by this.
Somehow I think this happens a lot. The pace slows.
Light the stove, wait a while, enjoy the view, think a little, think a lot, enjoy good company, enjoy the views.
Last time we camped for a weekend I swore ‘never again’ as the hard labour of packing, pitching, unpacking, an uncomfortable night on an inflatable bed only to do it all again in reverse simply wiped away all the pleasures. There was little time left to shift down a gear. This was different. This way you can camp for a weekend, for just a few days AND still have time to relax. This is a fast track to the slow lane. Bliss!
We ate fresh golden eggs, the colour of sunshine for breakfast and relaxed.
In the evening we ‘settled up’ at the Honesty shop and reluctantly herded our, by now, feral children out of the gate.
What the girls said:
Elise, aged 11, said: Really fantastic! We had everything and more! Having a chicken coup next to the tent was great; I enjoyed feeding them and collecting the eggs each day. One of my highlights was getting to go into the pens with the animals. The bedroom I stayed in had wooden bunks and was very comfortable. The bunks were cosy and I liked the fact that we had a window we could open and close. There was no electricity in the tent (not a problem) but it could have done with some more hooks to put the lanterns on by your bed to be able to read when it was dark. Overall though it was amazing, we had a great time and everything was just perfect!
Anya, aged 7 said: We stayed in a big tent, inside it had a bunk bed and a main bed. I liked the bed with the cupboard doors best. My favourite thing was feeding the chickens and giving them clean water. I liked everything and there wasn’t anything I would change. Would I like to go back to Warren Farm? YES, YES, YES, OF COURSE!
Mila, aged 15, said: I really enjoyed our stay at on the farm. The beds were very comfortable. The fact that everything was already there was really good and it meant our stay was easy. The pizza evening is a great idea. There were a wide range of things to choose from and the pizzas cooked in the outdoor pizza oven tasted really good. I particularly liked the bedrooms. They looked really inviting and were really comfy and cosy. Plus there was plenty of room for everyone.
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