After what felt like weeks of constant rain, the sun broke through and we made our way across the other side of the Thames Valley to feel the warmth on our faces and to visit Tolhurst Organic Produce’s annual Squash and Pumpkin Festival, set in their farm in the Victorian Walled Gardens of the Hardwick Estate.
We sat in the sun on the valley sides and drank locally brewed beer, ate locally grown foods, admired the most magnificent array of squashes and enjoyed some local bands.
The Tiny Overlord practiced some serious toddling.
And we explored the farm. I often underestimate how much food is frown locally. Maybe I often mistakenly (or lazily) assume that we must rely on big supermarkets for our food. But these fields were bustling with tasty things to eat. I really want us to try to eat more seasonally, at least, and support more local growers like Tolhurst. Fresh, tasty and surely better for all of us? I am inspired.
The festival was a real joy. I’m not too fond of commercial Halloween, but this festival felt like a proper celebration of the seasons – of truly appreciating what comes from the ground and the passing of that growing season to the winter. Do I sound like a hippy? Maybe. But good food, beer and music in a beautiful setting floats my boat far more than ‘trick or treat’.
Those from the Ray Mears school of camping, who might balk at staying on an organic farm with a wood-fired pizza oven, may wish to look away now. But we have just returned from one of the most magical weekends at Eweleaze Farm, near Weymouth in Dorset. Nestled on top of the spectacular cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, we found everything we needed at Eweleaze for our second family camping trip.
I’m won’t lie to you Ray, there is no need for survival suits or bushcraft here. With our 10 month old in tow, we wanted somewhere with access to a beach, animals for the little guy to be amazed by, fantastic walks, plenty of fresh air for our lungs and beautiful sea views for our souls – but also somewhere where we could easily get some hot food on a rainy evening and grab a tasty beer to sip, after the little guy had gone to bed, watching the sunsets and putting the world to rights. Eweleaze has all that.
Granted, the site’s increasing popularity (since our first trip there in 2011) means the illusive sea views are a little harder to find, especially for those of us with camper vans. And yes, at the weekend particularly, it did feel very busy at times. The increasingly popularity of ‘glamping’ means Eweleaze is ticking a lot of nouveaux campers’ boxes. I have never seen so many bell tents and bunting in one place. However, it does still have its many charms – views, the beach, the access to the Jurrassic Coast path… Lovely Weymouth is just a couple of miles walk away and on the site itself, the quality of the food (the bakery, the farm shop, the pizza oven…) and friendliness of the staff are still superb.
And for our fledgling family, it is a really really wonderful and inspiring place. In a world where I worry about too many gadgets and too much CBeebies, it was fantastic to see so many older children (and adult ‘children’!) running free, swimming in the sea, petting animals, laughing on hay bales and flying kites… For the time being you can keep your Extreme Survival, thanks Ray. I just want to paddle in the sea with my baby and have a beer watching the sun go down.
We were lucky enough to spend the weekend celebrating the marriage of some dear friends at a cottage deep in the Brecon Beacons. It is one of those places just steeped in magic, beautiful and inspiring. The cottage itself has a rather rock and roll history and is an amazing place of creativity. So on the morning of the wedding I couldn’t resist getting up before all the other revellers and having a snoop around to capture this amazing place in the beautiful early morning sunshine…