REVIEW: Feather Down glamping holidays
by Karen Shaw
Our family love to holiday; we love to frolic on the beach and slither down waterslides. That said, we are also a pretty adventurous bunch and have enjoyed holidays in various venues and locations over the years.
Personally speaking, I’ve always shied away from anything that involves pitching tents, sleeping on a lumpy groundsheet or walking across a damp field to ‘spend a penny’. That to me, isn’t a holiday, so when I was offered the opportunity to try ‘glamping’, I was rather reluctant. It took my three children a good ten minutes until they fully understood that taking laptops and iPads would be fruitless as there would be no electricity, there would be no DVDs to watch or computer games to play, just good old fashioned, wholesome fun.
Our destination was a Feather Down working farm, Howbeck Lodge Farm in Cumbria. At this traditional sheep and beef farm with over 300 acres of stunning countryside, farmer John Stobart and his wife Christine have been welcoming holidaymakers for almost ten years to stay in one of their many canvas lodges.
Our weekend accommodation wasn’t at all what I had envisaged; it was Little House on the Prairie meets The Waltons. There were no damp sleeping bags, just clean, white feather duvets. No dirty groundsheets, just wooden floors throughout, and no early morning trudges to use the facilities. We had an indoor toilet (and it flushed!).
The highlight of the lodge for the kids was the sleep-in cupboard, which did create our one and only argument of who was going to get to sleep in it… they soon came up with a compromise when I suggested we lock them in it for the whole weekend!
Lighting is supplied by candles and oil lamps and as for food, there was no need to huddle over a camping stove, as all lodges house a rather beautiful stove, ideal for cooking and warmth.
Farmer John’s love of the land is apparent, and it’s a passion that he’s keen to share with visitors. Born and bred in the area, John is enthusiastic about his surroundings and it’s clear to see why.
The location of the farm is spectacular and it also boasts a child-friendly farming area where children can stroke the rabbits, feed the goats, chase the hens and nuzzle with the horses. This is a holiday with a difference, there’s no ‘all inclusive’ package, no theme parks or evening entertainment, just good, old-fashioned fun. Its location at Hesket Newmarket, just a few miles off the M6 north of Penrith, makes Howbeck the perfect location for walkers, cyclists or just people like us, people who love the great outdoors and just want a slice of countryside and to escape the chaos of city living.
Many of our fellow holidaymakers we met return there every year to enjoy the sense of calm that it lends.
John’s pizza nights are the highlight of the week, as John prepares fresh home-made pizzas cooked to order in an outdoor clay oven. You can even order your evening meal from the farm and have it delivered on a quad bike! Howbeck also has a rather sweet self-service shop featuring Christine’s wonderful array of home-cooked fare ideal for those who don’t fancy cooking.
To be honest, this holiday initially filled me with dread. How on earth were we going to ‘entertain’ three children, all of different ages for a full weekend? But Ruby, Frank and Martha didn’t require our assistance at all. Within minutes of them delivering our bags to the lodge in huge wheelbarrows they had made friends with other children on the site and were playing football in their pyjamas until bedtime. The following day was no different as they busied themselves with my husband Chris building a secret den by the side of the river and my input was simply to provide refreshments from time to time, freeing me up to read the papers and just ‘bod’ about, a rarity in our manic household.
As they climbed into their sleeping cupboard to rest their filthy little heads, it provided us with an ideal opportunity to sit outside with a glass of fizz and a lump of cheese as we watched the sun slowly drop down behind the mountain.
As mentioned previously, our children love theme parks, waterslides and swimming pools. However, after a weekend at Howbeck Lodge Farm their views have changed significantly, especially after a trip up hill and down dale in cattle trailer (quite apt) led by farmer John on a quad bike. Their squeals of joy frightened the sheep as they sped through the glorious countryside and on their return Frank exclaimed: “That was better than any ride I’ve ever been on!”
The only low point of the holiday was leaving, but this certainly won’t be the last time we visit the farm. It’s a place that we will continue to visit year on year. You see, that’s the thing about Howbeck Lodge it’s a safe haven for children, it’s a place where they can play, learn about the animals and build a den that Bear Grylls would be proud of.
To book your stay go to www.featherdown.co.uk