Who went Nicky Broadbent, 38, mum to Milo, 7, and Cleo, 5, and her friend, Katie Cooper, mum to Scarlett, 6
Why we went
Both me and my old mate Katie are full-time working mums, who also have in common the fact that our husbands are often away on business, so we decided to treat ourselves to a well-earned break by booking a long weekend on a Feather Down Farm. Originating in the Netherlands over a decade ago, the Feather Down Farm concept has now spread far and wide, with more than 30 locations in the UK alone. It’s camping lite, or glamping as it’s become known, with gorgeous, well-equipped tents (never more than ten per site) situated on proper, working farms, albeit ones that are never lacking in the looks department.
What’s more, our city children would get lots of fresh country air and the freedom to run around, while me and Katie could catch up on all the gossip, with lovely long walks, pub lunches and picnics on the beach thrown in for good measure. With this in mind, Lunsford Farm seemed like the perfect location, situated slap, bang between Hastings and Rye, perched on a hillside, overlooking the beautiful Kent coast.
As Katie couldn’t leave work early, I decided to lead the charge, picking Milo and Cleo up from school and heading directly to Waterloo East station where we jumped on a direct train which deposited us in Hastings in a little under an hour and a half.
From there it was just a short taxi ride to the farm, where Denise, the lovely manager of the Feather Down aspect of Lunsford was waiting to greet us and show us to our tent (the pastoral side is looked after by the rather dashing Andrew whose family have been farming this glorious far-flung corner of the Romney Marsh for more than a hundred years). Katie and Scarlett, made up time in the car, and arrived less than an hour later.
Arranged in a copse, and enjoying uninterrupted views out to sea, the four safari-style tents, or canvas lodges as they are known at Lunsford, manage to feel secluded and private, but with the option for being sociable should you so choose. During our stay a multi generational family of ten were occupying two of the tents, while a couple with young children, who Denise informed us were regulars, were enjoying the other – we were all soon on speaking terms, while the neighbouring children teamed up with ours to formed a ragtag gang that became dirtier and more disheveled as the weekend progressed!
Inside the tent, Katie and I were delighted to see the flushing loo, fully equipped kitchen, complete with sink and running water, cool chest and wood burning stove. Better still were the gloriously comfy beds with proper mattresses (the girls immediately bagsied the cute cupboard bed), overstuffed sofa and dining table and chairs. Despite all the mod cons, however, the tents have a wonderfully old-fashioned charm that immediately bowled us over. With the stove lit and kettle on we settled outside on deck chairs to admire the scenery in the dwindling light, while the children could be heard laughing and whooping in the adjacent woodland – perfect.
What we did
That evening, once the sun had set, and with just candles and oil lamps to guide us, we lit the barbecue and sat around chatting while our sausage supper slowly cooked. The children meanwhile, had discovered the nearby playground, which kept them merrily occupied until dinner was served. After all the activity, Milo and Cleo were soon yawning, while Scarlett had already fallen asleep on Katie’s lap. Deposited in their beds, the children were quickly fast asleep, while us adults stayed up talking and supping, before retiring for a relatively early night ourselves.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early and flung open the canvas flaps to discover a glorious day. Just as well, as we had an action packed agenda, but prior to that there was breakfast to be had. The previous day Denise had acquainted us with the honesty shop (next door to the shower bock), where we duly dispatched Milo to pick up some freshly laid eggs. It became a regular haunt throughout our visit, stocking everything from homemade jams (the Czar plum was our favourite) to fresh stock.
After sublime scrambled eggs on toast, we joined our neighbours to walk up the track to the farmyard where we had arranged to meet Andrew for a tour of the farm. It was wonderful to see the sheep and cows up close and personal, not to mention Thomas, the resident white horse. We also heard a bit about the history of Lunsford, with Andrew revealing his passion for conservation.
Next up was the half hour drive to Camber Sands, stopping off to pick up picnic provisions along the way. What followed was a memorable, if somewhat windswept afternoon, with the children jumping in the dunes and tucking into rather gritty sandwiches! On the way back, we made a detour via Rye, where we wandered along its beautiful cobbled streets admiring the Tudor architecture (the children however were more captivated by the toy shop and successfully pestered us into buying them presents). Back at camp, and after another barbecue feast of beef burgers, we attempted to stay awake playing cards. The sand man soon got the better of the children, however, and to be fair, we weren’t far behind.
For our final day we decided to stick closer to home, having a croissant breakfast (again from the honesty shop), before strolling across the meadows and walking along the shoreline to Winchelsea Beach. Although only a couple of miles at most, the children soon began to complain of aching legs. To spur them on a hearty lunch followed by pudding was promised and a local favourite, The Ship, duly delivered on both counts.
That night, and our appetites reinstated after the walk back, Denise and Andrew lit the open-air ‘Pizza Oven’ in the middle of the copse and proceeded to cook some of the most delicious lamb I’ve ever tasted. Everyone was in agreement, as we all went back for seconds (and in some cases, thirds). Our last night sleeping under the stars passed in blissful slumber, with just the occasional bleat or moo breaking the silence. The next morning, as we left, Denise was waiting by the gate to wave us goodbye, although we promised we would be returning very soon.
Why we’d go back
Camping really doesn’t come much cooler than that experienced at Lunsford Farm, and although everything is laid on for you, it still manages to retain its integrity, feeling both magical and authentic. No wonder it has won so many accolades, despite only being in the Feather Down fold for five years! We especially loved the fact that it’s such a safe haven for young children, and without having to monitor their every movement, we could sit back and genuinely relax, while never tiring of the stunning setting we felt so fortunate to find ourselves in.