FEVER PITCH; In association with Mari Jones' young family glamp it up down on the farm in Devon.
Aller Farm is beautifully situated on the southern slopes of the Blackdown Hills in Devon, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It's one of 29 Feather Down Farms in the UK, giving guests a chance to live the bucolic life and sample farm life at close quarters. The whole FDF experience was first dreamed up in the Netherlands and seems to have taken the UK by storm.
You can understand why. We fell for Aller Farm because its surroundings are about as picture perfect as they get. It's all rolling green hills, hedgerows strewn with wildflowers, cows munching contently, church spires in the distance and chocolate box thatched cottages covered in wisteria.
While I dreamt about moving to Devon, my husband and the boys piled all our luggage into wheelbarrows to transfer them to our tent. On our way we passed the chicken coop, and the stream and woodland where the boys later played for hours making dams.
TRAVEL INFORMATION . Feather Days (featherdown.01420 80804) night break Farm from Our first sighting of the tent brought to mind the film Out of Africa. It was the little details that impressed - the jam pot filled with wildflowers left on the rustic dining table, the carved wooden heart on the doors to the cupboard bed, the vintage coffee bean grinder, and the burnished zinc kitchen work surface.
As I made my way to the honesty shop to see what goodies were on offer, the boys helped their father carry the logs to light the wood burning stove. All the cooking is done on the stove which is fun, even though admittedly we did get smoked out one night. The downside is the amount of time it takes to get the stove up to the right heat level before you can cook. In the mornings it was a bit of a bind as it could be quite chilly first thing.
The tents don't have any electricity, lighting is provided by the use of oil lamps and candles. A starter supply of oil and candles are provided - the tent all lit up at night looked incredibly romantic.
We dined on parsnip homemade soup, local bacon, and guey chocolate brownies made by Emma. All had been bought from the honesty shop for what I thought were very reasonable prices - the chocolate brownies were pounds 1 each (and were massive portions), and the soup pounds 3. We all slept really well for the three nights we were there, and I loved waking up to the sound of the countryside. The pheasants, cows, chickens and the chorus of birds sounded as if they were in the tent with us the noise was so loud. Each morning the boys were off at the crack of dawn to search for their breakfast eggs at the chicken coop, and the poor hens must have been severely miffed as they always returned with more than a dozen.
After breakfast we and the other glampers met Nigel the farmer, and the children were offered the chance to milk a cow. I was mortified when in true townie style Jack refused to have a go saying he didn't like the look of all the "poo", but luckily Ellis manfully fitted the milking tubes on one of the 150 Friesians that are on the Parris family farm.
We all fell in love with a very cute Charolais calf, and I gulped as Nigel cheerfully told us it will be sent off to make some "lovely steaks" in around a year's time. Our group also saw a cow hours away from giving birth, and a litter of sheepdog puppies. It was fantastic to see how a dairy farm works, and the kids now know exactly where their milk comes from.
Much to the kids disgust - as they wanted to spend the whole day at the farm harassing the hens, playing swingball, mooing at the cows, and getting muddy in the stream - we drove to Lyme Regis in Dorset. Depicted in the film version of John Fowles'' The French Lieutenant''s Woman and Jane Austen''s Persuasion, and situated at the heart of the Jurassic Coast, Lyme Regis is a major centre for fossil collecting. It's a stunning place, with candy coloured shops and cream tea shops galore - a fabulous farmer's market was in full swing on the sea front.
Farm co.uk, a three at Aller pounds 279 The harbour wall - known as The Cobb - is a must visit, for any literary or film fans as it's where Sarah Woodruff (played by Meryl Streep) in Fowles' classic novel, spends all of her spare time, looking out over the wall to the wild sea beyond. After a bracing walk on the seafront we were all feeling famished, and opted for The Town Mill, on Mill Street, which had been recommended to us by Emma. It's a working watermill, and the cafe is superb. Whilst munching away on some delicious homemade bread and soup, you can watch the artisan bakers hard at work in front of you. A bowl of soup with bread costs pounds 5. I couldn't resist buying their peanut butter made on the premises and a loaf of sourdough. Another must for any foodies is The River Cottage Canteen located in the pretty village of Axminster, which is famous for carpet production. The canteen was founded by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall of River Cottage fame, the setting is very rustic and the food delicious and is famed for using only ingredients that are in season and mostly sourced from the West Country. There's also a deli where you can buy local and organic food and a range of River Cottage goodies. Booking is essential (01297 631715).
As we watched the children playing with Nigel and Emma's little boys, I realised this is the holiday they'll remember for a very long time.
TRAVEL INFORMATION ? Feather Down Farm Days (featherdown.co.uk, 01420 80804) offers a three night break at Aller Farm from pounds 279
Interior (top) of tent at Aller Farm in Devon (main picture). Youngster lends a hand as the dairy herd is on the move
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Jul 21, 2012|
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