Covid-19 brought gloom to the hospitality industry. However, some light is emerging, and one of the brightest spots is glamping. Sabi Phagura visited Home Farm Glamping in Hertfordshire to discover what makes it so alluring for the masses.
Pictures of grounded aeroplanes on runways are a stark reminder that people aren’t flying to go on holiday anytime soon. The prospect of jumping aboard a plane in a virus incubator in the sky with hundreds of other passengers is not a pleasant one. So it’s hardly surprising then that the spotlight has turned to staycations, and glamping is seeing a surge in popularity.
Several glamping sites up and down the UK are getting ready to open their doors to would-be holidaymakers, and I decided to go on my first ever experience where London meets the countryside in Elstree.
Simply put, glamping is essentially sleeping outside under the stars in any sort of semi-permanent structure. It’s camping without any of the ‘roughing it’. And you certainly won’t be ‘roughing it’ at Home Farm Glamping.
The Gibbs family have farmed in Elstree for over 300 years and lived in this beautiful bit of countryside right on London’s doorstep since 1620. After working in London for a few years, Jess Allen-Back returned home in 2014 to help run the farm with her father. The farm is mainly arable, growing grains and cereals for food, but, like many small farms, it was struggling to compete in the modern world.
Jess saw an opportunity to turn a sleepy bean field into a haven for others to come to escape their tiring, mostly indoor routines.
Fast forward to today, and the family have set up a range of events for guests to enjoy, including supper clubs, open-air theatre performances, a yoga brunch or bushcraft session in the woods.
Bell tents and yurts
Good weather can make all the difference when embarking on an outdoor expedition, and I was fortunate to have the sun shining on my visit. A swift check-in process and questions answered by my lovely host Alice, and I felt I was on an adventure akin to a character straight from an Edin Blyton’s book – think rolling green fields, a beautiful lake and avenues of ancient trees.
The 150-acre site is home to four yurts and eight tent bells (all British-made by BCT Outdoors) which is where I stayed. Having never slept outside before, I was a tad nervous about what to expect. But from the moment I unzipped my tent and saw the blissful double bed with warm bedding, a cosy chair, a bedside table, a wooden box at the foot of the bed with some goodies on it in the form of local soaps and marshmallows, I knew I had nothing to worry about. There is a real family feel at Home Farm Glamping, and I was going to be part of it for two days.
The central pole standing at 2.5m high was comfortable for my height, but to be honest, I was just happy to sit on the floor by connecting to nature and lounging around on the bed. (The tent can be equipped with up to two single beds, making the bell suitable for a couple and groups of 3-4.)
Wanting to make the most of the warm weather, I took refuge at the tables and chairs outside my tent, complete with my own fire pit and barbecue. After being cooped up for so long during the lockdown, it was a welcome relief to be sat outside in what felt like the middle of nowhere in the beautiful peace and quiet of the British countryside. I could simply crawl into bed once I had my fix.
Food and drinks
There’s a large open barn where you can find numerous fridges and cooking equipment, including a hot urn where you can help yourself to unlimited free tea, coffee and hot chocolate throughout the day and night. There’s ample seating area in the form of cosy sofas, tables and chairs where you can relax with a warm blanket if it’s crisp and look out into the meadow or quietly get lost in a book.
Part of the charm of glamping is cooking and eating alfresco, and to make your stay as seamlessly stress-free, Home Farm offers indulgent BBQ boxes that can be pre-ordered through their on-site catering partners Sainlo that you can cook yourself.
You can also self-cater on-site, for which you’re advised to bring along with you your own firelighters. Crockery, cutlery, glasses and bottle opener are provided as part of the welcome box. You also have the option to do an online shop, have it delivered to Home Farm, and they’ll put it away in the fridge and cool box before you arrive.
There’s a selection of herbs growing on the farm, so if you’re particularly chef-like, you can use these in your cooking to spruce up a meal. My culinary abilities don’t stretch to being a barbecue pro, but I was able to toast some marshmallows, which all added to the excitement of the whole experience, I tell you!
Things to do
Staying outdoors as late as I could and then cosying up inside my tent complete with a hot water bottle and hot chocolate, reading my book was definitely a pleasant experience. As someone who doesn’t do cold well, I was surprised how peacefully I slept without feeling a chill. The raised platform from the ground and the insulated tent kept reasonable warmth inside.
Getting out of the comfy bed from a sleepy slumber wasn’t a hardship either because once I saw the sun beaming through the tent, I just wanted to run outside to make the most of the day.
The heated shower facilities were excellent. Freshening up didn’t feel at all dissimilar to taking a shower at any decent heated bathroom indoors with flushing loos and hairdryer sockets to look, well glam, of course. (Do take your own towel). Sainlo offers cooked and continental breakfasts in the morning, or you can cook your own. Not a big breakfast fan, and wanting to get my exercise fix, I decided to work up an appetite instead by taking a stroll and make a dent in the 100-acres to explore.
Home Farm will soon be offering yoga classes in the future, and I can only imagine how delightful it would be to practice here. The more adventurous who want to explore slightly further afield can head to Aldenham Country Park. Tempting as it was, I preferred to spend whatever time I had within the grounds of Home Farm. Sometimes switching off from the world as well gadgets (there’s no Wi-Fi here) and doing nothing is an underestimated pleasure in itself.
Just weeks after my visit, Home Farm Glamping set up a new Yoga Yurt on-site run by Zoe Walker from SouLand Yoga. With four classes daily on weekdays (two in the morning and two in the evening) and morning classes in the evening, there will be plenty of opportunities to get some mind, body and soul time in nature.
Home Farm Glamping – Where and how?
Home Farm Glamping is located in Aldenham Road, Elstree, Hertfordshire, WD6 3AZ.
During term time, Bell tents start from £125 per night and sleep up to 4 people. Yurts start from £175 and can sleep up to five people. The prices do vary if it’s a weekend or school holidays; more details can be found at https://www.homefarmglamping.com/pricing-and-availability.
For information on the yoga sessions, which cost £17 drop-in or £60 for a 4 class pass (valid for one month), visit https://souland-yoga.com.