We all know the dream of camping. In our heads it’s all Swiss Family Robinson or suave safaris with cunningly carved devices, cosy beds hoisted into trees and racing on ostriches. Ok, perhaps not the ostrich racing, but somehow a clear picture of ingenious gadgets or billowy comfort has been painted that is frequently found to be a little at odds with the wobbly-gas-stoved, rain-dampened reality of life outdoors in the fickle British weather. Fortunately, there are some who do live the Crusoe dream or find other ingenious ways to take camping beyond canvas and make it a breeze in any weather, and a gentle breeze at that.
Crafty Camping, Dorset
Guy Mallinson, green woodworker, carpenter, occasional TV personality and all-round DIY enthusiast on a grand scale, has embraced the Crusoe spirit to the full and created the woodland village of ingenious and beautiful spaces that he calls Crafty Camping. In a few acres of Dorset forest, he’s carved and boarded, waxed, joined and sewn a selection of unusual places that make camping just that bit craftier and a lot more comfortable.
Hoppus the Tipi
Here Guy has taken the tipi idea and added a few things, all of them made of wood of course. First of all there’s the central tree trunk poles that hold up the towering roof of this bigger-than-average space. Then woven branches that form the porch style entrance with a thick lintel panel, simply because he thought it was a bit troublesome stooping to enter. Hoppus the Tipi sleeps 2, from £100 a night.
Twybil, Fipple and Bodkin, the Bell Tents
The three Crafty Camping bell tents share an ingenious double bathroom cabin with a grass roof, just up the slope from the tents themselves. It’s a short walk to the axe-throwing practice ground and the wood-working area where the shave horses live (they’re tools that you sit on, not animals) so you’ll have plenty going on around you. The bell tents sleep 2, from £70 a night.
Bodger the Shepherd’s Hut
This most recent installation features not only handmade furniture and a beautifully crafted interior, but also a little wooden art with the wicker wall design. It’s just around the corner from the sauna yurt, which was a little side project that the team at Crafty Camping whipped up so that they, and the guests, could relax after a hard day’s woodwork. Bodger sleeps 2, from £100 a night.
You can book the whole site at Crafty Camping (sleeping 14, but more can come for classes in the daytime). There are taster courses where you can do a quick bit of whittling, or you can take the first steps towards making your own crafty campsite.
Glottenham Castle, Sussex
Another way to make a break from the traditional tent is to make use of all that retro 70s furniture you have lying around. You know, the G-Plan Astro coffee table and the Franco Albini wicker Ottomans that are cluttering up the place. That’s what Emma at Glottenham did, filling a yurt, two geodomes and a campaign tent with a small sample of her array of antiques and classics. They are all scattered around her woods blending their modern history with a nearby Roman site and Emma’s taste for Pre-Raphaelite art and poetry. It certainly beats banging sharp tent pegs in with your shoe! The various spaces at Glottenham sleep 2-4 from £56 a night.
The Beer Moth, Aviemore, Scotland
Of course you may have run out of 70s bits and pieces but it need not stop you from coming up with something special. At Inshriach in Scotland, the concept of a canvas shelter has been hitched up onto an old Auxiliary Fire Corps truck. It’s called The Beer Moth. The floor is Edwardian salvaged from a ballroom, the bedstead is Victorian and the whole thing together is in an age all of its own. It sits in the grounds of Inshriach house, out of sight of the rest of the world, offering a completely different way to get out in the open. The Beer Moth sleeps 2, from £60 a night.
Eco Retreats, Powys
Some prefer their alternative camping to be a bit more, well, alternative. At Eco Retreats you can take yourselves away to the hills and only come down for some yoga or meditation. The spaces, two tipis and two yurts, are completely off-grid and will take you away from it all in the nicest way. No heavy luggage and no crowded campsites, just pack yourself and your readiness to unwind and, if you like, put yourself in the hands of some talented healers and practitioners. Tipis sleep 2, from £108 a night and yurts sleep 2-4 from £105 a night.
For more unusual slants on, and dramatic departures from, the concept of camping, take a look at Sawday’s Canopy & Stars at www.canopyandstars.co.uk or give them a call on 01275 395447.
You’ll find everything you’ve seen here and much much more!