If you're as disorganized as we are, you may well be scrambling around the net right now looking for a UK break which will give you a bit of a rest, and the children a bit of freedom and fun over the coming hols. If so, do read on, because Dandelion Hideaway is a bit of a revelation.
All four of us were hugely excited to be invited to try out glamping site Dandelion Hideaway for the weekend. The allotted day dawned and we checked the weather - damn, downpour on the way. Excitement slightly dampened - but only very slightly. Why? Because drumroll Dandelion Hideaway canvas cottages come complete with real beds, a wood burner - AND HOT WATER.
It's impossible to overstate the extent to which a glamourous roll-top bath and piping hot water ON TAP improves the camping experience. True, we have never been hardy buggers - our family camping experiences have been curtailed by a strong desire to be able to sleep, and wash, on holiday. Those who feel that the very principle of camping is horribly betrayed by not having to put up a tent and sleep on the floor are never going to enjoy glamping - but if you like the idea of your kids being able to run safely wild, but without the sleeping-on-the-floor bit - this is really the crème de la crème.
We arrived a bit later than planned, though not nearly as late as we would have been without the other massive advantage which 'glamping' offers - viz, Not Needing To Pack. We shoved in clothes and waterproofs, and that was it. No towels, bedding, cooking utensils, lanterns, torches - nothing: the wooden-floored canvas cottages contain everything you could possibly need - and lots more that aren't necessities, precisely - but are nevertheless lovely to have. Ceramic jars for teabags, cushions and throws for the leather sofas, a stash of vintage boardgames, interiors mags laid out nicely on a vintage-trunk coffee table. French pie dishes, a marble worktop for keeping your goodies cool (there's a fridge just outside, too) and a gorgeous butlers sink (did I mention there's HOT WATER?).
There was, by prior arrangement with farmer's wife Sharon, an enormous and delicious homemade chicken and mushroom pie waiting for us in the wood-burning stove, and crusty bread to go with it. While we luxuriated in not having to think about opening tins and chopping salad, the children wolfed it down, desperate to get into what for them, was the pièce de resistance - a wooden cabin bed. Seven-year-old DD could barely believe her eyes - it's a proper bed-in-a-cupboard just like you see in fairytale illustrations, with doors which they could close from the inside, creating their own tiny secret room in the middle of the enormous tent. Thrilling for them - and lovely for us to be witness to their thrilledness.
The following day the children were up good and early to collect eggs from the hens in a little basket provided - another lovely touch, and one that unlike other sites isn't charged for at Dandelion Hideaway - and with a little help, they rustled up a cracking omelette on the woodburning stove. After baths ("look, we're in the bath - in a TENT!") we moseyed down towards the farm, for - big 'aww' now - a hands-on lesson in how to groom one of the gorgeous Shetland ponies which are Sharon's pride and joy.
Also on offer is a tour of the farm by Farmer John himself - it's a real working goat farm, producing milk which is stocked in some of the big supermarkets, and the tour was an eye-opening insight into what farming is really like. John is absolutely passionate that we all need to become more educated about what food really costs, and certainly got us thinking about why some of the food we buy is so cheap - a message which I can honestly say has influenced how I shop.
The children had a chance to use the milking machinery, which is attached to the goat's udders via very strong (and, for me, mildly wince-inducing) suction causing much hilarity. Children are also allowed into the goat sheds to pet the nannies and (another big aww) the young kids (of the goaty kind) during daylight hours - giving them a real sense of being part of a working farm, rather than a petting zoo set-dressed to resemble one.
The canvas cottages themselves are very well spaced for privacy, and look out onto a lovely rolling meadow which stretches far enough into the distance for the children to get a proper shot of independence (lots of wheelbarrow races with 'neighbouring' kids) but without any of those hideous 'OMG the kids, where are the KIDS?' moments that inevitably arise when you've been more focused on opening a second bottle of local cider than on the whereabouts of your beloved children.
Talking of cider, the honesty shop was a bit of a godsend, with local bacon and other necessaries as well as cute gift stuff to take home, and a few well chosen toys to keep the kids amused - kites, wind-up balsa-wood aeroplanes etc. There's a children's chill-out area next door, where they can lounge on hay bales and get stuck in to a selection of books and games - we were too busy during our stay but I imagine it would be very useful if the weather turned inclement.
We didn't have a chance to test out the communal fire-pit and barbeque in the meadow, which would be a lovely way to get to know your neighbours over a glass of something chilled. Or the new 'treehouse', where children over 8 can sleep, thrillingly, away from the adults in the adjoining cottage. Never mind; we'll definitely be back next year and it's always good to leave something for your second visit. And honestly, we can't wait.