Muddy Goes Glamping
Down on the farm, near the Jurassic Coast, we kipped under canvas at the luxury Lower Keats.
Once upon a time, you were either a camper, or not, it was that black and white. And if you were in the ‘most definitely not’ camp (s’cuse pun), it wasn’t always cool to admit it, because embracing the Great Outdoors and all of its quirks is something we Brits LOVE doing and have done for decades. But, let’s face it, those ‘quirks’ aren’t for everyone. Shower blocks with prehistoric-looking cobwebs and the odd daddy longlegs thrown in for good measure, just aren’t my thing. Nor is the sleeping bag, for that matter.
So thank God for glamping! This is the concept that exists for those who love the idea of bedding down under canvas, but in reality can’t be faffed with all it entails. And, in the case of Lower Keats Farm, it’s particularly good if you prefer your digs to be more boutique hotel than brownie camp.
Lower Keats Farm, just outside Axminster on the Devon/Dorset border is the home of Linda and Gary, who recently decided to open up one of their fields to glamping. Down a lane away from their farmhouse, you’ll find six safari tents in a bucolic and peaceful setting, nicely spaced from your neighbours if you’re anxious for peace and quiet, but equally close enough if you’re coming en masse.
The views from each tent are epic – think panoramic countryside, with a distant trainline for avid spotters and kids (don’t worry, they pass quickly and quietly enough not to disturb you!). You’re left to your own devices and shouldn’t really want for anything, even though Linda is available at any point should you think of something.
It’s a definite farm vibe, funnily enough! All around you are fields of sheep and cows grazing and, being dog-friendly, you may encounter a pooch or two lolling around in your field. Once you’re under canvas though, it’s another world.
Think Chesterfield sofa, wood burning stove (with a decent supply of logs for each day of your stay), wooden crates transformed into stylish storage and a candelabra-furnished dining table. By day, you can throw open the, err, flaps and relax looking out to the views and by night you can cosy up under countless twinkly candles and lanterns.
Everything has been thought of for your convenience, including the Belfast sink and a cream tea to welcome you. All those easily-forgotten gadgets are included, from torches to lanterns and the kitchen is fully-equipped with most of the luxuries you take for granted at home, like freshly ground coffee and cafetière. The only thing defining this as closer to camping than a hotel is the lack of electricity, but you’ll find plenty of charging points for your phones at the Honesty Shop.
Can we just take a moment to talk about THE HOT SHOWERS AND PROPER TOILETS, too? Yep, at the back of your tent, you have your own dedicated spaces for ablutions, with luxury, locally sourced lotions and toiletries. Seriously, those showers are better than you’ll find in some hotels, homes even! It’s been a while since I had such a satisfying soak.
Each tent has 3 sleeping areas: a room with a kingsize bed, a twin with 2 singles and then there’s the genius bed in a cupboard, which is exactly as it sounds. Snug and cosy, you’ll find a raised double bed with a little canopy overhead for extra darkness and the doors can be closed, with only some heart-shaped peepholes, making it a great option for little people. The mudlet absolutely loved bunking up here, peeping through into our bedroom in the morning. We, meanwhile, loved shutting her in come bedtime and popping a cork, without having to tiptoe around, while still having her well within our range.
All beds are super-comfy and cosily made up with proper linen and duvets with varying tog options for all seasons (no dodgy camp bed situations here thankyouverymuch). Plus, there is hanging space and coat hangers, as well as heavy duty blinds to keep out the dawn light.
SCOFF & QUAFF
A huge bonus here is that you can be as hands-on, or off as you feel, when it comes to cooking. Your tent is fully geared up, with a gas hob and plenty of utensils and crockery for dining in, as well as your own barbecue and picnic bench right outside.
But, a couple of minutes’ walk from your tent, you’ll find the Honesty Shop, which is brilliantly stocked with basic ingredients and plenty of artisan treats from local suppliers, from coffee to cheese, and delicious drinks. You’ll also find a selection of rustic meals which only need heating up, plus a freezer full of meat from the farm. We had a delicious lasagne on our first night and then raided the freezer for a barbecue feast on our second. Handily, you can also order breads and pastries for breakfast each morning, which will be delivered by the local baker. And just as handy is your own shelf in the shop fridge, for keeping the wine chilled. Winning!
Oh yes, most definitely – and dog-friendly while we’re on the ‘friendly’ subject, too. If the idea of camping isn’t enough of a pull alone, you’ll find plenty on hand to amuse and entertain the smalls. Your tent is kitted out with a coffee table, which doubles as a storage box and is full of games and, if there’s nothing in here that takes their fancy, plenty more can be found and borrowed in the honesty shop.
And, of course, all those animals on the farm need feeding and Gary loves a helper or two. The Mudlet got stuck right in, bottle feeding the calves, collecting eggs and throwing the scraps in to the piggies. I’m gutted I sat this daily event out, desperately trying to sneak five minutes of R&R on our verandah, but could hear the squeals of delight carrying on the breeze.
OUT AND ABOUT
I’m not as familiar with this part of the county as I’d like to be, but discovered that there is loads to do in these parts. You can grab some wellies from the honesty shop and head out walking, or hop in the car and explore. The big draw is lovely Lyme Regis, only around 15 minutes drive from Lower Keats. Here, you can wander around town, browsing the chi-chi boutiques, or hit the seafront for some good old-fashioned family fun.
And then there’s the world-famous Cobb, stretching out into the sea, where you can pretend to be Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. If you’d prefer something a little quieter (Lyme can heave with crowds during the holidays), there are plenty more beaches and villages along the Jurassic Coast, from Charmouth to Seaton.
And, for dining out you have good options, too, with River Cottage in nearby Axminster and the super-cosy Tytherleigh Arms within walking distance. Kids will be spoilt for choice, since there are some top attractions nearby, including Crealy Adventure Park (great for all-weather), the Axe Valley Wildlife Park and Wildwood Escot.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those who love the idea of camping, but the reality? Not so much; couples wanting to switch off their mobiles and reconnect, families and groups will all get something different from their trip.
Not for: If you really can’t stand sleeping close to nature and all its sounds, then you’re best off in a hotel. Glamping can only go so far to cocoon you from the elements, after all.
££: Prices vary throughout the year and keep your eye out for seasonal offers, but, considering how much is included for your convenience, it’s good value for money, when you consider each lodge sleeps up to 6. A 7 night break ranges from £950-£1545, while 3 & 4 night breaks are priced at £595 – £935.
Lower Keats Farm, Broom Lane, Tytherleigh, Axminster, Devon, EX13 7AZ. lowerkeatsglamping.co.uk