Glamping in Wales (Part 1): Sleep

In the final week of April I took on a challenge that was so far out of my comfort zone as to be in a different postcode. I spent 5 days glamping in south Wales, an area of the UK I’ve never visited before.

I was invited to stay with Hidden Valley Yurts, a glamping site in the Wye Valley, near a tiny Welsh village named Llanishen. I was promised a back-to-nature digital detox experience and I was not disappointed.

I’m going to share my experiences with you through a series of three blog posts focusing on the accommodation, the food, and the activities. So first of all I’ll start with the site.

Sleep

Hidden Valley Yurts is located on a farm in the Welsh hills, with access to tourist hot spots like Tintern, the river Wye, Monmouth and the Brecon Beacons. I can’t call it “easy” access as the roads are as to be expected – narrow, hilly, and not for the faint-hearted. You can read all about the history of the site here but to summarise: the new owners took over in 2015 and have given the yurts and facilities a full makeover and created a really special place to stay.

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The Yurts

Mongolian yurts are a really cosy concept. The decor inside is intricate and the beautiful furniture gives it a homely feel. The beds and futons are ridiculously comfortable and, despite being out of my comfort zone, I had some of the best nights’ sleep I’ve had for a long time. Partly this was the incredibly comfortable mattress but I think the darkness also had something to do with it.

Each yurt comes equipped with a log burner and all logs, kindling, paper and firelighters required to get a roaring fire going. This sometimes presents a challenge for many visitors but I’m pleased to report it’s a skill we all managed to master. It didn’t take long for the log burners to heat up the yurt and we were soon cosy and warm – a very essential feature in rainy Wales!

Facilities

This is camping made easy. The yurt site boasts a fully equipped kitchen with all pots, pans, cutlery, washing up materials, so you really don’t need to bring anything like that with you – there’s even an espresso machine! The communal kitchen is really beautifully made and although it’s covered it is partly open air, so whilst you’re waiting for your food to cook or the kettle to boil you can gaze at the impressive canopy opposite and try to see how many birds and squirrels you can spot.

I did, of course, end up bringing too much food with me and had to leave some behind for the next guests. One of the most helpful aspects of this trip was that most major supermarkets deliver to the site and when I arrived Mike had already put all my shopping away in the kitchen for me. This meant I could eat well and easily, especially as there is a fridge and freezer in the kitchen.

The bathroom and toilets are really quite posh for a glamping site, let alone a campsite! The water was always warm and there’s even a bath if you fancy a long relaxing soak after a hard day’s hill hiking. There are also some compost toilets for yurts 1 and 2 and yurt 1 has its own smaller kitchen so if you’re not into communal campsite living you can always book yurt 1 and enjoy a bit more privacy.

There’s a lovely little campfire area with BBQ and outdoor seating but sadly we never got to try this as the evenings were either rainy or windy, which was a real shame as I can imagine it would have been so nice to sit by the fire roasting vegan marshmallows.

The farm

The yurts are located on Lower Glyn Farm, an old working farm with woodlands and meadows. I would have loved to have seen the wildflower meadows in full bloom but I visited in April; I did, however, see plenty of bluebells dotted about the site and they put on a particularly good show in the ancient woodlands with the wood anemone. In fact, there are plenty of wildflowers to be found so it’s a botanists dream. (Please don’t pick the wildflowers though – the bees need them.)

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Lady’s smock

There are plenty of excellent walks around the 80 acre farm for all abilities. I have to be honest and point out that this is a valley and there are hills so some of the walks are quite steep. I’m a Norfolk girl so this was quite challenging to me! (For all my non-UK readers, Norfolk is known for being completely flat.) But after a few days I adapted to hill-walking and I even think my ankles might have changed shape.

Throughout the site runs a stream that children would love to play in. It’s very shallow in places and provides a very relaxing sound when drifting off to sleep. There are quite a few bridges across the stream throughout that you come across when walking and we even found a really attractive little waterfall. I’m told that occasionally kingfishers and otters can be spotted though I didn’t have such good luck. On one of our walks we came by a tree swing near the stream in a really private area – a really good find for families!

Speaking of families, there is also a large supply of board games and outdoor games, including a boules pitch and a football pitch. There’s plenty of space to run around in and explore and I can’t imagine any child being bored here.

The farm uses some animals for conservation grazing on the meadows – highland cattle, soays sheep. I even came across a pony. But by far the best animal on site is Tilly the dog – the friendliest, most lovable spaniel! She likes nothing better than just hanging out and having her belly rubbed. One afternoon she took me for a walk through the woodlands!


Hidden Valley Yurts has been a wonderful place to stay to get away from city life and reconnect with nature. It’s so easy and welcome to have a complete digital detox here – for a start, there’s no WiFi and phone signal is poor. This is of course camping for those who like a few mod cons, like a proper kitchen and clean bathroom facilities. I was so impressed by how cosy and comfortable the yurts are! I also really liked the fact that there are endless walks on the farm and in the local area so you don’t even have to travel anywhere if you don’t want to – you can just stay on site and explore the natural world and get away from modern life. The landscape is truly stunning and the woodlands provide so much wildlife to enjoy – it’s a birder’s and nature lover’s paradise.

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Bluebells

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Buzzard

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Suffolk Glamping Trip

Hello! I’ve had a week off from blogging as I’ve been living in a forest. Sorry if I’ve missed any of your posts – I’ll spend some time catching up.

I didn’t want a “big” holiday this year, after having gone to the south of France last year (that’s big for me!) So we looked for something fairly local that involved very little driving or stress or planning, and would still provide lots of nature-based things to do. We booked some camping pods in West Stow (a tiny village near Bury St Edmunds, famous for its Anglo Saxon village) but when we arrived we actually got upgraded to the lodge because some other guests changed their mind. So that worked out well for us and we had a bit more space than we were expecting.

The lodge was quite posh by my standards – nice furniture, massive telly, all mod cons. We used the BBQ most nights and by the final night we were utterly sick of veggie burgers so went into Bury St Edmunds for dinner. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a vegetarian in Bury but no amount of googling yielded any decent veggie options so we went to good old Prezzo, where you know what you’re getting.

On the first day we visited Weeting Heath, which is back over the border in Norfolk. They are known for their stone curlews and we were lucky enough to see one perched on its nest. We also saw a yellowhammer and chiffchaff. Best of all were the swallows that had decided to nest in the visitor centre and were very obliging and must have been a thrill for the staff working there. Somehow I totally forgot to go back and get a photo of them!

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Spot the stone curlew!

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Yellowhammer taking a drink

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Pines near Weeting Heath

Afterwards we popped into Brandon and had a delicious cream tea at Tilly’s tearoom. Very quaint and quirky place and really good, strong tea.

Next day we went to Ickworth House, which is a very impressive country house with a huge parkland. Some Bishop who spent a lot of time living it up in Italy came back to England and built his stately home in an Italian style. The “downstairs” was probably more interesting that the “upstairs” as they had more artifacts to look at. The Victorian owners created stumperies in the garden (they used stumps of trees to create strange and gothic shapes, a sort of fairy garden) and the modern gardening team recreated them at Ickworth. I didn’t manage to spot any fairies but I did see a green woodpecker.

On our final day we stayed local and went to Lackford Lakes, which is famous for its kingfishers (again, didn’t see one, and even if we did it would only have been a flash of electric blue). We spent some time in Bess’ hide watching a reed warbler hopping in and out after a tip off from another birder.

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The evolution of bird

In the afternoon we went for a local walk around the Culford estate – a huge estate that’s now part of a school, but the lake has public access. A very pleasant walk.

 

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