Ah the bucolic joys of camping! Escaping the city and the constraints of indoors living and getting away from it all! The excitement of spending hours packing the tent, sleeping bags, stove, cool box, plates and other sundry supplies. Bet you can’t wait to negotiate unpacking and putting the tent up once you’ve arrived at destination! And fingers crossed for the weather eh? If you’re camping in the Great British Countryside, you’re pretty much guaranteed rainfall, almost certainly at the moment when you decide to light the stove and make supper… There must be another way? There is, and it’s called Featherdown Farms.
Essentially camping for those who don’t like all the uncomfortable, inconvenient aspects of sleeping under canvas, Featherdown Farms have glamping sites across the UK, plus a handful of campsites further afield in France, Germany, Belgium and the USA. The sites are generally run by farmers – and they’re small-scale operations, so there’s absolutely no chain vibe here. We barely saw any other campers over our weekend stay. And yes, there’s a family-focused feel to the campsites, but they’re also ideal for a few days away with friends. Ready for some time out of London enjoying the great outdoors, I headed to Manor Farm in Hampshire with a select group of girlfriends and two very cheerful schnauzers for a weekend of walks, long pub lunches and lazy homemade breakfasts.
Manor Farm is just an hour’s train ride from the Big Smoke, but London seems like a long, long way away when you’re lighting candles come twilight and trying to light a campfire! Featherdown Farms’ tents are really much more like cabins; the standard Canvas Lodge is 45m2 in size (sleeping up for five adults), so they’re gloriously spacious. And there are proper beds in proper bedrooms – plus a real flushing toilet, not a portaloo in sight!
Although there’s no electricity, the living space has wooden floorboards throughout, and a fully-equipped kitchen with running water. You also get a sofa and a dining table and chairs, so copious cooked breakfasts and ambitious evening meals are an essential part of the Featherdown experience. We loved lighting the oil lamps and candles, and all preparing supper together, with a glass of wine or two. You can choose from a wood-burning stove or test your camping skills with the campfire…
Be prepared to be patient – everything does take a little longer here. For city dwellers, the art of building a campfire is most definitely sl-o-o-o-w. However, cooking a meal with friends or family is always fun, and especially so when you’re doing it outside. Slow-cooked pork, stews or BBQ – it all just somehow tastes better in the open air too! We brought our supplies with us – and there’s a cool box and ice packs on hand to keep things fresh. An on-site honesty shop also sells tea and coffee, locally-sourced meat and a selection of everyday groceries.
So when you’re not singing around the campfire what on earth is there to do? As it’s a real working farm, not to be missed is the official farm tour! Hop on the back of the truck and Farmer Will Brock will take you on a bumpy tour around the farm’s expansive fields, showing you the animals and explaining how Manor Farm works. Other than that, there’s a hearty lunch and a few pints waiting for you at the local pub, walks in the surrounding countryside, gazing at the views of rolling fields in between chapters of a good book and just generally switching off! Peace, quiet and life away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life… Bliss!
A Feather Down Farm Days stay starts from just £189 for a midweek stay in a Canvas Lodge. All prices are per tent and all tents sleep up to six people (with a maximum of five adults). For reservations and bookings visit www.featherdown.co.uk or call 01420 80804.