Carry on glamping
PUBLISHED: 10:58 15 September 2015
Lucy Etherington and family rough it in a Suffolk yurt . . . well, not exactly
We’re not really a camping family. Roughing it is not our style, and besides, whenever we do get the tent out of the attic, we have no idea what else we’re supposed to take with us. I’ve had to borrow air pumps, knives, salt, camping stoves, lights, torches, food, and even mallets for the tent pegs. Funnily enough, I always take enough wine.
But I love the concept. It’s more adventurous and much cheaper than a hotel. If only someone else could pack everything we need. Which is one of the reasons we’re going glamping this year. We’re going to try a yurt, because whenever we pitch up in a campsite, the yurt people always look notably serene and tidy. Also we’re post-summer, so the weather could get up to anything. Yurts are pretty much rustic hotel suites, especially the one we choose, which has proper furniture and a wood burning stove.
Ivy Grange Farm near Halesworth is all about yurts. It’s owned by Nick and Kim Hoare, who greet us when we arrive and give us a concise tour before we unpack and settle in. It’s a charming place, with lots of romantic touches and old bikes you can borrow. Basically everything a Londoner like me wants from a country retreat.
The couple bought the farm in 2009, planning to turn it into a classic B&B, but hit upon the idea of yurts. Kim was a TV exec and Nick worked in mental health, both demanding jobs, which is why they understood the need to take the stress out of ordinary camping without spoiling the sense of adventure and getting close to nature.
“Although it was really hard work getting it off the ground, we’ve got to the point where we can enjoy what we’ve created,” Kim tells me. There are five yurts, widely spaced, each within its own clearing of meadow grass with an area for a campfire and barbecue. Four are the white yurts you see everywhere, but ours is a multi-coloured traditional Mongolian monster (all the way from Wales, I am told). Inside is surprisingly spacious, with a proper double bed, a gypsy-caravan style single, a pull-out mattress, chairs, tables, shelves, a box full of extra rugs and a wood burning stove with its flue poking through the ceiling.
Pretty much everything is supplied – bedding, cutlery, crockery, pans, a camping gas stove, logs, kindling, matches, even charcoal and portable barbecues (you pay a couple of quid to use extra fuel). We took sausages, ketchup, bread and one knife – and wine – but you can pick the farm’s fruit, veg and herbs for free. We managed to cobble together a decent barbecue, fragranced with dried lavender from Kim’s mum’s garden. If the weather is less kind, there’s a huge barn conversion with a kitchen, indoor showers, a large table for feasting, a cosy library area, plus ping-pong and fuseball tables. These kept our kids (and us) happy for hours.
Nick and Kim have completely thought through how their guests can make the best of the area, without having to pre-plan a thing. I know some of my friends would have brought their own bikes and board games and such. We don’t do family bike rides, but because our hosts provided bikes for all ages, and the roads were quiet, flat and perfect for cycling – they’re on National Cycle Route 1 – something happened to us. Totally unprompted, we turned into one of those happy families you see in films, bombing around country lanes with sunlight in our hair, then coming back to roast marshmallows around our campfire.
At night we lit the wood burner and slept deeply, waking early with light streaming through the roof. Even though it was a bit nippy first thing, I had to try the Woodland Shower, and was so pleased I did. It was magical. Even my teenager loved it.
Because Ivy Grange Farm is only an hour away for us, I wondered if it would feel like a proper holiday. Actually, it was probably the most perfect family break we’ve ever had. Minus the stress of travel and preparation, you don’t come back feeling like you need another holiday to get over it.
Nick and Kim told us they have lots of regular visitors, and I’m not surprised. We spent our short journey home planning another visit, next time staying longer and definitely bringing friends.