Now, I’ll be honest. Lovely Husband and I do like a spot of camping. Pre-children, we used to have a boat that we’d take down to the Hamble and poodle around on the Solent with, while camping at a lovely, quiet site nearby. I have wonderful memories of rain lashing down on our tent while we snuggled within. Post-children, a tent in the garden is about all we could bring ourselves to do. With four smalls of six and under, and The Miracle only just about to turn one, we just need too much STUFF. The Miracle has had a rough winter with two hospital admissions, so the idea of trying to check his temperature and administer Calpol with the aid of just a wind-up torch left me a bit cold. Yet still we hankered for fresh air and simplicity and the chance for the smalls to run wild.
Being married to Lovely Husband is, at times, a challenge: He’s the man who has everything (including the most fantastic wife in the world. That’s me, by the way) and if he doesn’t have it, he buys it. Birthday and Christmas presents consequently need a bit of blue sky thinking and for his birthday this year, that’s exactly what I decided to buy him: Blue skies (hopefully). We’d rediscover our camping hearts with a spot of glamping. The five star version of camping, if you will. So, armed with my credit card and laptop, I looked for a glamping site and stumbled across Secret Meadows, a site in a 115acre wildlife reserve in Suffolk. Secret Meadows has six Safari tents, one, which we stayed in, has power and Wifi. and another has a hot tub. There’s also a converted horse box, gypsy caravan and a shepherd’s hut.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t cheap. It’s comparable to hiring a cottage for the weekend, but if the price was similar, so were the furnishings and special touches. A four poster bed in the master bedroom, crisp white linen, organic produce on the welcome tray… But it was under canvas, so it’s still camping, right? It was definitely still camping; the first night was chilly, and we were grateful for the log burner in the living area. Hot and cold running water, an electric shower and our own loo made the camping experience with a recently toilet trained Little and her muddy kneed sisters a pleasure.
Fundamentally a wildlife reserve, Secret Meadows offers all sorts of cool extras. We booked a three hour bushcraft session with Ross. Despite the tender age of our littles, he was able to engage Big and Medium in making jewellery out of elder branches and teaching them how to light fires. Even Little had a go with the saw, which was a bit scary; She’s a liability at the best of times. Little enjoyed playing shops in a nearby den, and examining the gazillion tadpoles in the pond nearby.
You can also hire chickens for the duration of your stay. We have chickens at home, so are spoilt with fresh eggs every day anyway, but it’s a charming extra for those that live in cities. Now, though this isn’t a bookable extra (it should be), Ross and Charlotte have a very special and friendly cat. I was woken at dawn on our first morning by Big saying there was a cat on her bed. Random, I thought, assuming she was dreaming. “Mummy,” she persisted. “There’s a big cat on my bed.” When I went in, lo and behold there was indeed a cat on her bed. Probably the most friendly cat we’ve ever met, she came to spend our final night with us too. Big is obsessed with cats; it made her holiday.
You can order breakfast, celebration and barbecue boxes, but these are expensive. We ordered a barbecue box for convenience, but we could’ve chosen exactly what we wanted from the well stocked honesty shop on site.
You know when you watch a film, and it replays a protagonist’s memories in a sepia infused film? I think back to our time at Secret Meadows and my mind does just that. We were blessed with the most incredible weather: blue skies and warm sunshine every day. I loved the freedom the site brought the smalls. Big, in her cycling helmet all day and to-ing and fro-ing between our tent and that of the friends she’d made. Medium searching for perfect smooth stones to give me as gifts. Little becoming ever more feral as the days wore on, and The Miracle exploring the wood and grass around him. A brilliant day crabbing at Walberswick and lunch in a sunny tea room.
I see snap shots of myself, curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine reading an actual book (and not my kindle) while Lovely Husband went out on his bike, then us sitting down to a barbecue in our tent lit with candles and gaslights. No TV, no stereo, just peace and quiet. And the stars; oh boy, the stars. It was, quite simply, perfect.
Find out more about Secret Meadows at http://www.secretmeadows.co.uk/.