Within last a recent blog post entitled 'Free to Run', we shared a few of our favourite London haunts for allowing our children a bit of freedom to run...but sometimes it's worth getting out of town to let the kiddies run free. During half-term break we headed out of town for an extended weekend in Suffolk for a healthy dose of glamping.
No doubt you're familiar with glamping...the idea is that you can rock up and enjoy all the loveliest bits of camping (campfires, starry nights, waking to birdsong) without all the inconveniences (setting up the tent, schlepping everything you own to the countryside, bringing 1,000 litres of water along). For us, glamping was the perfect sort of camping for a family with children aged 5 and under.
We've visited the Geo Domes in Gloucestershire, Dandelion Hideaway in Leicestershire, Secret Meadows in Suffolk and we're booked in for a stay at Loose Reins in Dorset next Spring. So, with a few glamping experiences under our belts now, we're beginning to understand the different 'flavours' of glamping on offer...
For us, Dandelion Hideaway was a farm stay--it's a goat farm and it's easy to arrange for the kiddies to groom the shetland ponies and to have a walk around the milking barn. The walks at Dandelion Hideaway are along the public footpaths and at the time we stayed there (2014), the chickens were kept communal coop just outside the tents and free for all to tend to. Fridges were gas-powered and there was a wood stove and an outdoor grill for cooking. At night, a communal campfire was lit each night so we got to know our fellow campers and the kiddies got to know one another well.
The Geo Domes in Gloucestershire were more rustic somehow. The kitchen was makeup of an outdoor 'sweatbox' fridge--we'd spray it down with a hose a couple times a day to keep everything cool. The stove was a metal grill grate within a brick wall--we'd use charcoal or wood to fire it up. There was a communal campfire lit each night and a zip wire and chickens roaming free about the site. There wasn't much for entertainment at the Geo Dome site itself, but cycle paths and hiking trains in the nearby Forest of Dean and Welsh valleys provided destinations for the day.
Secret Meadows is a well-selected name for the site we visited in Suffolk. It seems to be sited on an old farm which has been reformed as a wildlife conservation area. New plantings and natural areas are encouraging deer, pheasant and other native species back onto the land and there are a couple family-friendly walking trails dotted about. There are a few animals (cows & chickens), but it's not a working farm with lots of heavy equipment for the children to get into so, for us, the best bit of this experience was that the open meadows provided the perfect opportunity for us to, basically, spy on the kiddies from a distance while they enjoyed a much-needed dose of freedom to run about and play. Oh, and since the property is so far from town, there's no light pollution--the stars are bright.
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