A few months ago, my wife received an e-mail from a travel company, who claimed to be contacting her on behalf of Kinder (those of the toy egg fame), regarding a glamping weekend she had supposedly won in a competition.
Now, my wife and I are not daft when it comes to internet safety, and so our suspicions were immediately raised – but when she vaguely remembered entering a competition last year (via a Kinder egg, as it happens), to win a family holiday to Disneyland, and possibly something about five runners-up ‘glamping’ prizes, this ticked enough boxes to reassure me that it was worth investigating further.
Anyway, long story short (because there is so much more of this story to tell, and the rest is far more interesting/amusing/harrowing), the e-mail and company were genuine, and since April I have been exchanging e-mails with a lady called Meghan, culminating in the following:
- We had indeed won a glamping weekend for four in the New Forest;
- My initial suspicions that our trip would be restricted to ‘midweek in January’ were unfounded, and Meghan booked us in for last weekend, just after our boys had broken up for the summer;
- Because the farm where our experience was due to take place only offer three-night stays throughout the summer, Meghan added an extra night to our trip;
- The prize also included an ‘outdoor activity’ whilst on the farm, and since Isaac was apparently too young to try ‘axe-throwing’ (to which my reaction was understandably along the lines of ‘thank fuck for that’), the four of us were booked in for the slightly less daunting ‘archery’ instead;
- On top of all of that, Meghan arranged to transfer £200 to my account to cover our fuel expenses in getting there and back (which was, in all fairness, a four-hundred-mile round trip).
Now, I should explain from the outset that camping is not exactly my idea of fun (especially with our two boys, who seem to react badly to confined spaces), and I would have much preferred the trip to Disneyland – on account of the fact I would rather encounter a six foot tall fake mouse, than a real one crawling around my nether regions inside a sleeping bag – but a free weekend away is not to be sniffed at. Much like my nether regions, as it happens.
Plus, this was glamping, and if I could just get over the fact that I detest cringey portmanteau words like ‘hangry’, ‘chillax’, ‘Brangelina’, ‘Brexit’ etc. at least this might be the sort of outdoor living I could get on board with. If nothing else, it was a chance to re-acquaint Isaac with nature, in preparation for one day releasing him back into the wild.
So, with everything meticulously organised by Meghan prior to our departure, last Friday morning we loaded the car and set off on our glamping weekend in the New Forest.
What follows, is the diary-like account I kept during our three days on a farm – featuring incest (not us), voyeurism, blood-sucking arachnids, sunburn, Peppa Pig, innuendo (obviously) and just about the finest henge you could ever hope to see. Oh, and we foolishly armed Isaac with a real bow and arrows.
And, if all that doesn’t keep you reading, then there’s no hope for any of us.
Friday 26th July 2019
Ok, our glamping adventure didn’t get off to the best of starts, on the basis it took us over five hours to get down here (we’re just north of Bournemouth), and Isaac was whining/asking if we were ‘nearly there yet’ shortly after we passed Stoke on the M6 (for non-geographers, that was about ten minutes after we left home).
By the time we finally arrived, we had ditched our plans to continue past the farm where we are staying to spend a few hours in Bournemouth, and instead had a pub tea in Fordingbridge (the nearest village/town) before reaching the farm shortly after 4pm – as agreed with the owners beforehand.
To say we had a bit of a shock when we arrived would be an understatement.
Don’t get me wrong, the people we have met on the farm so far have been perfectly pleasant, but it would be fair to say they have all been a little, well, odd. If you have seen the film Deliverance, for example, replace the accents for something a little less ‘American Deep South’, and a little more ‘West Country’, and you wouldn’t be too far from my initial impressions of the place. Let’s just say, had the owner of the farm introduced us to his wife and sister, there would in-all-likelihood have only been one woman stood there at the time.
The lady I spoke to yesterday, who we’ll refer to as Tammy (because it wouldn’t be fair to use Sammy’s real name), was the first person we encountered on arrival, and she definitely treated us with an air of suspicion, which wasn’t helped when she discovered we were the ‘competition winners’ from up north. In fact, I’m not sure her reaction could have been more apathetic toward us, had I been wearing an ‘I hate horses’ t-shirt.
Soon after, she handed us over to Becky (real name, Vicky) who, despite also being pleasant enough, seemed equally unsure about us. Becky appeared to be the rough-and-ready outdoor type, who I have no doubt could have snapped me like a twig had she wanted to, and she clearly formed the immediate impression that the ‘competition winners’ were not well suited to life on a farm, and would have been far happier staying somewhere like, well, Disneyland. Naturally, I took offence to this assumption.
“Look here, Becky (real name Vicky), don’t assume just because we have in-car DVD players for the boys, and I’m wearing my nice trainers, we are snobby town-folk who are unaccustomed to camping and nature. I’ll have you know I spent an entire night in a tent with my eldest son last year, and whilst it may very well have been on his school field, five minutes from home, we still embraced the great outdoors. So, I’d appreciate it if you would refrain from jumping to the conclusion that we are not camping types before you know a single thing about us. Now, if you could just show me where I can charge my phone, and let me have the wi-fi password, I shall be on my way.”
Of course, I didn’t actually say any of that (you read the part about her snapping me like a twig, right?), and we all simply exchanged awkward pleasantries before she showed us to our canvas lodge for the next three nights.
Initial impressions of the outside of the lodge were, well, disappointment mixed with terror (you need to understand that we were deep into the woods, where no one would hear our screams, and about to spend three nights in what looked like a large abandoned tent some boy scouts last camped in thirty years ago, yet their bodies were never found).
Inside, however, we were pleasantly surprised, as there was a kitchen area, a double bedroom (of sorts), and bunk beds for the boys. There was also a proper toilet, which allayed some of my fears (but ultimately, later on in our stay, added some new ones) and a ‘fridge’ which was essentially a wooden box with some frozen hot water bottles inside to keep everything cool – for around eighteen minutes.
Once we had unloaded the car, and read the guide the owners had left on the table (selected highlight: “Ticks are small blood-sucking arachnids common in these woods. If you think you have been bitten by a tick, inform Sammy (sorry, Tammy) immediately, who will be more than happy to perform rudimentary surgery on the affected body part with her toolbox of rusty screwdrivers” – ok, I may be paraphrasing/exaggerating slightly), we decided to drive back into Fordingbridge, to pick up basic supplies like milk, weapons grade insect repellent, and all the alcohol we could feasibly carry.
However, as we got back to our car, and began strapping the boys into their seats, Tammy once again appeared from nowhere (I’m not going to lie, I damn near shit myself) and, with one eye inexplicably closed, she asked ‘Not leaving already, are you?’
Now, had she been smiling when she said this, it might not have seemed so pant-wettingly sinister, but I swear she delivered the line like she was auditioning for ‘The Fordingbridge Chainsaw Massacre’, and so even though we offered forced smiles and said we were just nipping to pick up some groceries, part of me did think about screaming ‘Get away from me, you mentalist’ (ala Alan Partridge) before racing off down the lane leaving dust clouds behind me.
Thankfully, the rest of the evening was relatively uneventful (other than Isaac again confirming our family are not really accustomed to outdoor living, when he tried to turn a candle off by pressing the flame), and even I had to admit our little canvas lodge was quite cosy once the lanterns and candles had been lit. Admittedly, my new affection for glamping may have been fuelled by most of a bottle of red wine, but, still, we were actually fucking doing this.
That said, my doubts/fears about our hosts and surroundings had not entirely subsided, and so once my wife and I had worked out a sentry rota, to ensure one of us was awake at all times throughout the night to watch for axe-murderers and any wildlife with fangs, we settled into our beds (wearing as much clothing as possible – I had four pairs of boxer shorts on, to protect against blood-sucking arachnids getting anywhere near my goolies), and called it a night.
Still, all in all, I think we may end up quite enjoying this glamping malarkey…
To be continued….