Hotel review: The Yurt Farm
23rd June, 2011
The picturesque setting, homely atmosphere and friendly owners proved a hit with Jemima Roberts during her stay at The Yurt Farm near Tregaron in mid-Wales
It was a long drive but the sun shone all the way, which helped. Of course the moment we pulled into the yard at the Yurt Farm in mid Wales, the heavens opened although that didn’t stop owners Laurie and Thea from darting out to greet us with big welcoming waves and bright chat, squinting and stooping against the rain. Laurie tells us which yurt is ours, ‘I’ve laid a fire for you’, he says. ‘Oh, and please look after the chickens’, Thea adds. ‘Open them up in the morning, [give them] a handful of corn each and then shut them up at night - they’ll go to bed themselves at dusk. Help yourselves to eggs too.’
I hadn’t been expecting a standard camping experience from the Yurt Farm and so it proved. Buoyed up by the prospect of tending our chicken charges, we drove on down to the car park. There, we discovered a collection of wheelbarrows waiting to be used to ferry suitcases down to the yurts. With barrows full, we trundled across a hay meadow, fringed with fruit bushes and trees, to our yurt.
Ducking through the hobbit-sized door, we noticed a basket had been left to greet us, packed with fresh provisions, and a vase of flowers - cow parsley and bluebells. It is cold though, so while I hunted for tea things, my fiance gathered extra wood – taking a detour to the chicken-coop in the process. The yurt is clean and uncluttered but well stocked with furniture including a massive wood-framed bed. Freshly made up, the bed is covered with organic, unbleached linen over an organic mattress. A gas stove sits atop a wooden worktable and just in the doorway, is a wood burner so miniature I wonder whether it had been intended for a dolls house and ended up here by mistake. We bedded down early, soothed by the silence and rolled in a pile of Welsh woollen blankets.
Despite the comfortable accommodation; for the ever practical Laurie and Thea, this is not eco glamping. The Yurt Farm is essentially a farm-within-a-farm, nestling within the larger Crynfryn Farm - a 150-acre mixed organic farm inhabited by four generations of the same family. A herd of Hereford cattle and flock of Cheviot sheep graze alongside four acres of organically grown vegetables and flowers, all available seasonally in the farm shop. Families do well here, children are welcome to roam the meadows and marshland on the farm, meet and feed the animals and even pick the odd carrot or pull up a potato or two to eat for supper.
Laurie and Thea are incorrigible name-droppers. There’s Gleeful Gomer the bull, the pigs are named Badda Boo and Johnny Hoare. The building of the yurts was all done locally: the frame and canvas ‘by Peter Skinner’, the oak, ‘from Steve Gates in Penuwch’. The compost toilets - which feed into a reed-bed filtration system - were ‘hewn with axes in the snow, with Henry from down the road’. The firewood is also sourced locally - principally FSC certified and waste-wood. Apart from that, everything else was made by Laurie himself, from ‘our own coppiced timber or collected from local sawmills’.
The yurt field is well-conceived with enough yurts (five in total) to foster a small community but not too many to feel crowded. There is a communal cabin with a kitchen, sofa, large wood burner and shelves replete with books and a teetering pile of board games, organic teas and ceramic mugs from a local potter. There are even solar-powered LED fairy lights – light sensored to come on at night - an inspired touch that delighted me when I spotted the red-glow from our yurt.
The Yurt Farm is run entirely off-grid. There are gas-canister fed stoves, but there is also the wood burner to cook on, plus campfires and swinging Dutch ovens. Hot water and showers are solar-heated, charge-points for electrical items are wind-powered. There is also the chicken coop and a log store; as well as a sandpit, rope swing and slide for children. Recycling is encouraged and bins on site make it easy; composting too - there are caddies in each of the yurts. While you won’t find fridges or freezers, there are small ‘caves’ outside each yurt - essentially a [cool] box in a box with herb-planted, turf roofs.
There really is very little that hasn’t been thought of here, be it practical or pretty. In fact, arriving is a bit like dropping into somewhere between Wonderland and Middle Earth - all knobbly (but resolutely sturdy) hand-made furniture, miniature doors, miniature stoves; flower meadows and fairy lights. The abiding memory I have of our stay is one of serenity: it is hard to be anything but relaxed here. The Yurt Farm has a quiet poetry about it, and it quickly slipped in and snuggled under my skin. Come here solo, come as a couple, come as a family, come with friends. Just come. You will leave revitalised and deeply inspired.
Need to know:
The Yurt Farm has five yurts in total, sleeping between two and eight people. Prices start at £165 for a three night break to £350 for a week. A percentage of the profits are donated to the local primary school. There is a farm shop and honesty box, offering fruit and vegetables grown on the farm, with organic meat - lamb and beef - available seasonally. In addition, guests can pre-order groceries from Organic Farm Foods in the nearby market town of Lampeter - and arrange for it to be delivered to the farm. The nearest stations are at Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Lampeter and Tregaron. Collection from the station can also be arranged.
The Yurt Farm,
In the area:
We visited Aberaeron, a pretty harbour town 20 minutes drive away, with its immaculately kept houses painted in a rainbow of colours. Here you can sample honey icecream at Hive on the Quay or eat ‘probably the best chips you’ll ever try’ from the local chippy. The Victorian seaside town of Aberystwyth is 40 minutes away and is home to a lively Arts Centre and the National Library of Wales. It’s also famous for its cliff railway and camera obscurer. We ate at the Treehouse - an organic cafe and grocery shop and also at Ultracomida, a Spanish delicatessen that has a atmosphere akin to that of a bustling tapas bar in Seville.
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