22nd June 2021
Pop Up Somerset Puts the Glam into Glamping
Glamping, a much misused word, is a combination of glamour and camping. But when does camping become glamping?
Add an en suite bathroom with a proper toilet and a separate shower cubicle and you are well on the way. A comfortable bed with good quality bed linen amid nicely furnished surroundings including a sofa, armchairs and dressing table and we are nearly there. Once zipped inside my large tent, the chandelier lights glowing and my iPhone charging in the electric socket I felt as though I was in an elegant hotel. Genuine glamping on a pop up site in Somerset is organised by a company of the same name.
Pop Up Somerset
Jonny Townsend and Jay Varcoe, two glamping experts, are the creators of Pop Up Somerset Jonny has a background in the hospitality industry and in 2011 he began running pop up hotels. His glamping facilities have been in popular demand at Glastonbury since then. Jay designs and creates exclusive luxury tents, also a feature of Glastonbury. Many of these tents are lined with unique fabrics created by his partner Fay Hutchcroft, a well-known artist, endowing the interiors with an exotic Asian flavour. His tents have been the venue for celebrity weddings and private glamping groups. Pop Up Somerset is part of the Pop Up Campsites Co-operative that offers sites in Sussex and Somerset.
Pop Up Somerset Campsite Near Wincanton
Pop up campsites are temporary sites that operate for a few weeks or months after which they are removed, leaving no trace of their existence. Pop up Somerset uses solar panels for power and eco-friendly appliances. This campsite occupies a large field carpeted with long grass and wildflowers and surrounded by many different species of trees. Accessed from a winding country lane and through a farmyard it is deep in the Somerset countryside. Here birdsong is your alarm and fresh air will revive any flagging spirits. The options for camping here include pitch your own tents, Bell Tents and Safari Tents. There is also a second site for groups that features the Tent House with four separate bedrooms . Full details of all the options are available on their website and direct bookings can be made here.
It was a real treat staying here. Despite the vagrant weather of an English summer which saw heat wave turn into a winter’s evening in just a few hours it was very cosy in the large double bed. I woke, refreshed the next morning, had a lovely hot shower and then set off for a walk around the wildflower meadow that surrounded me. It was a great start to the day before setting off to explore the famous Stourhead House and Gardens just a few miles away.
Facilities at Pop Up Somerset Campsite Near Wincanton
The most luxurious of the tents, the Safari Suite, has en suite facilities. There are separate bathroom tents for the other tents. The larger tents have a small kitchen tent beside them and utensils are provided. But the colourful circus tent is also available for eating and socialising. This is where I had a barbecue dinner during my stay and it was a memorable evening. A reminder of one of the greatest pleasures in life – a group getting together to eat, drink and exchange experiences – surrounded by open countryside. A stay in the country is also a good opportunity to explore some artisan activities associated with the area. I visited a local farm famous for its cheese-making.
Feltham’s Farm Near Wincanton in Somerset
As I discovered, Feltham’s Farm does not only offer a tour of its eco-friendly cheese factory but also a walk around this eco-friendly farm. The farm is owned and run by Marcus and Penny. A lot of thought has gone into the development of this farm to avoid any waste. The process of turning milk into cheese creates a lot of surplus whey. This whey is fed to the Oxford sandy and black pigs that are reared on the farm. My tour started at the pig pens. I watched as the whey was fed to three heavily pregnant sows while some youngsters in the next pen looked on enviously. These pigs produce a sweet Parma-like ham.
We moved on to a small orchard planted with different varieties of apple trees to ensure a supply throughout the season. Asparagus plots are interspersed amongst the trees. Beyond the orchard is a herb garden featuring artichokes and some unusual herbs. All organic. And behind the herb garden is the barn-like cheese factory.
Adorned in a net mob cap, white jacket, chefs’ trousers and white plastic clogs I listened to Marcus explaining the process. We started in the room where the cheese process starts – the modern equipment is sparkling clean. The whole process is time-consuming and very hands-on but Marcus glows with pride and passion when talking about the cheeses he has developed himself. We moved on to the cool store rooms where the cheeses go through various stages of maturity. For the more mature cheeses this included regularly rubbing beer into the rind. I watched Marcus demonstrating this before having a go myself.
Seated on a hay bale in the large barn I was invited to try two of Marcus’ award winning cheeses, Fresca Margarita and the multi-award-winning Renegade Monk. The former is a very young soft cheese with a light, fresh flavour. Marcus developed this during lockdown and it has already won its first award. The latter, the most famous of the three cheeses produced here, is more mature and similar to a good camembert, but better due to the unusual rind. Included in my tasting were two organic wines, a fruity sparkling rosé and an aromatic Chardonnay. Feltham’s Farm is a very special place and well worth a visit.
I am not an experienced camper or glamper, although I did sleep in a tent while walking the Inca Trail and taking part in a conservation project in Kenya but glamping in Somerset was a whole new and exciting experience. Would I do it again? Definitely.
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for ExperiencedTraveller.com and regularly contributes guided city walks to GPSmyCity.com