I hate camping. I don’t see the point of voluntarily depriving yourself of four walls and a roof, when there are perfectly serviceable buildings nearby. So, when the opportunity arose to take my husband and two small children on our first-ever glamping holiday, I was intrigued to see whether I could be converted. And if anything was going to convince me, a tent with proper beds, a flushing toilet and a kitchen, in the magnificent setting of the Cheddar Gorge, was going to be it.
We chose Cheddar because it has something to keep everyone happy on holiday. There’s an embarassment of wonderful gardens to visit in the area, including Hestercombe, Hauser & Wirth, East Lambrook Manor Gardens and many more. Cheddar Gorge snakes its way through the Mendip Hills and is rightly an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – full of limestone cliffs and rolling hills dotted with sheep – it’s the quintessential English countryside at its most picturesque.
You’re only a half-hour drive from the beach at Weston-super-Mare and the caves at Cheddar and Wookey Hole have lots to entertain kids. My children are too young for the adventure caving at Cheddar, but they were genuinely awe-struck during our tour of the caves at Wookey Hole – they loved the coloured lights, the rope bridges and the cave full of maturing cheese – plus the giant dinosaurs and softplay when you come out!
But tellingly, the absolute highlight of the trip for both my children was the tour of the farm in a tractor’s trailer. The tour was quite long, it was pouring with rain, and there was lots of information for the adults about the landscape, ancient discoveries in the limestone caves and farming practices, but my two and four-year-old loved every minute, waving to the cows and squelching on and off the trailer in their wellies. And a close second, was being pushed around the farm in a wheelbarrow. It was a useful reminder of how valuable it is to give children (and adults) the opportunity to be outdoors just enjoying the landscape. Maybe I can be converted to camping!
- Getting there: Cheddar Gorge is 3 hours from London. Warren Farm has an electric vehicle charging point – useful for some
- Where to stay: We glamped in one of five canvas lodges at Warren Farm, a Feather Down Farm in Somerset
- When to visit: If you’re sleeping under canvas summer is ideal, but the wood-burning stove inside each glamping tent at Warren Farm means it’s still comfortable in spring and autumn
More gardens to visit in Somerset:
East Lambrook Manor Gardens
A must for lovers of cottage gardens, this Grade I listed English cottage garden was created by celebrated plantswoman, Margery Fish. Often cited as the archetypal cottage garden, East Lambrook Manor Gardens are the result of a decades-long labour of love. The garden is particularly noted for snowdrops and hardy geraniums. Margery Fish helped define the cottage garden style, mixing new and old plants in a relaxed style. In doing so, she captured a sentiment familiar to all gardeners, writing: “It is pleasant to know each one of your plants intimately because you have chosen and planted every one of them.”
Spanning three centuries of garden history, this collection of gardens across 50 acres has been expertly restored and continues to be developed today. The Georgian landscape at Hestercombe features lakes, temples and grottoes, and the Edwardian formal garden is one of the finest examples of the collaboration between Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens.
Hauser & Wirth
Behind the Hauser & Wirth Somerset contemporary art gallery is a 1.5acre perennial meadow, designed by acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf. The space echoes the layout of more traditional formal gardens, but employs Piet’s famous meadow-style planting to create an informal feel and a garden with long-lasting interest.