Monday, 29 August 2011

Hedonethical Holidays: Sopley Farm Wigwam, Dorset

This is Part II of the Hedonethical Holidays post, you can click here to go to Part I. We stayed in a wigwam / tipi on Sopley Farm in Dorset. Truly this is the other end of the price scale, with the tipi and pitch costing just £40 a night for two of us; the usual cost is £50 per night, however I believe we were given a discount due to there being just two people. The tipi could, technically, sleep six; for comfort, I wouldn't recommend going above four though.

Glamping this is not. There are definitely both positives and negatives to this sort of camping holiday, especially if you find yourself battling inclement weather as we did; however, if you are a relatively flexible person and inclined to make the best of things, then you'll have an absolutely marvellous time.

Here are the main ethical positives:
  1. Again, the location, in the Uk.
  2. No electricity, heating or hot water, so you can't use (or overuse) any!
  3. If the weather is dry you can gather your own wood from the forest floor for the fire.
  4. Self-catering, so you're less likely to contribute to food and energy wastage.
  5. Few harsh cleaning products are likely to have been used at the site.
  6. Local free range eggs, organic fruit and vegetables are available from the Pick Your Own farm or shop. The Barn Owl farm shop just down the road also sells locally reared meat (you can see the pigs and cows for yourself) and organic tinned produce such as beans and tomatoes.
  7. Items like towels, soap and other toiletries are all bring-your-own, so you won't be using unneccessary miniature bottles, new hand soaps or getting your towels boil washed every day.
And the main hedonistic ones:
  1. No pitching and dismantling your own tent and the tipi is much bigger than all but the most expensive tents, you can easily walk around standing inside. 
  2. Parking right next to the pitch, with some gravel on the ground to prevent sinking.
  3. Absolutely gorgeous surroundings with plenty of wildlife and, in the right weather, stunning sunsets. While we were there we saw (or heard) rabbits, squirrels, barn owls, tawny owls, a kingfisher, ducks, geese, bats and suspected badgers and hedgehogs. There are also domestic pigs, cows and deer to see locally.
  4. Eating (and drinking) round an open fire, a true pleasure. Especially a jacket potato cooked in foil. And noone says that you can't bring a bottle of champagne if you want to!
    Using a combination of the fire and a small gas stove we were able to eat very well, including lentil dal, pasta, mixed bean casserole and
    fresh raspberry compote for toasted crumpets.
  5. Little "beaches" around the lake, ostensibly for anglers to fish from, but we took one over for playing mah jong and it was lovely.
  6. The Woolpack pub is a short way away. Be warned though, the kitchens don't open until 6pm. They allowed us to charge our mobile phones for £1, although I don't think this is a regular request.
  7. The fruit and veg from the farm are delicious and the super fresh bantam and duck eggs are among the best I've tasted.
  8. The farmer who owns the pitch also runs a deer safari which is absolutely fantastic.
  9. Peace and quiet - mostly. Outside of the sounds of wildlife, you may occasionally be disturbed by a family out on a walk, a couple of chatty anglers or (around this time of year) the ongoing drone of a combine harvester in the distance.
  10. For a pitch near an open body of water there were very few mosquitos.
  11. JCBs, John Deeres and various other tractors and combine harvesters. If you like that sort of thing. There's also a tank somewhere, but we didn't get to see it.
 And now for the negatives, ethical first:
  1.  You will probably use quite a lot of batteries to light the tipi at night, you can recycle them though.
  2. A gas stove is a must, but of course this does leave the empty cannisters to dispose of.
  3. If you buy logs and kindling for the fire which, if it is wet, you will have to, the chances are that what you buy won't be sustainable wood - although again, they might be, but it's very hard to tell if the sacks aren't labelled.
And the hedonistic negatives:
  1.  It is damp and it can be cold. If you haven't taken enough lights, it will also be dark. A bit of advice: load the car up with sleeping bags, blankets, jumpers, socks, lanterns and torches. I'd recommend at least one wind-up torch. There were two chinese lanterns in the tipi, which gave off a lovely yellow glow, but they ate up AAA batteries at the rate of 2 batteries for about 2 hours.
  2. The loo is a little walk away from the tipi, you're unlikely to want to make that trip on your own in the middle of the night. 
  3. There are no showers, in fact no hot water at all. We were stoic enough to wash in cold water, if you aren't then it's a trip to the local leisure centre for you.
  4. If you are a really rubbish cook then you're stuck, otherwise the goodness of your meals are down to what you've brought and whether you can turn them into something edible.
  5. If it really rains, for example like the thunderstorm we had on the last night, then the tipi will leak through the ventilation gap at the top. Take a brolly to pop over your stuff and make sure you have plenty of blankets to absorb the moist air before it reaches your sleeping bag.
In order to ensure a good time, here are a few of the items that we were the most grateful we'd brought with us:
  • Camping gas stove and spare cannisters. Saucepan, frying pan, kettle, easy-clean plates, cutlery, glasses and mugs.
  • Wind-up storm lantern
  • Torches, mp3 player and spare batteries
  • Dry kindling and some old newspaper
  • A rug for the middle of the tipi
  • A camp bed to raise you off the damp and draughty floor. Failing that make sure you take a waterproof foam ground mat, you'll be glad you did.
  • Spare loo roll, bin bags, compostable food waste bags, a pan scourer, tin foil and kitchen roll.
  • A 15 litre water bottle. The drinking water tap is a fair march from the tipi, you'll need water onsite.
  • Socks. Lots and lots of clean, dry socks.
  • Wellies and waterproof flip-flops
  • Wet wipes
  • A sealable cool bag, so you can keep some items like cheese or butter at the camp.
  • A plastic ground sheet and/or tarpaulin... for sitting on outside.
  • Salt, pepper, oil, sugar, bay leaves, oregano and chilli flakes.
  • A deck of cards
  • Cameras
  • Many bottles of wine!

No comments:

Post a Comment