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Going Glamping for the first time in my 50s

glamping image 2Article by Susan McNally

Being over 50 is definitely not a time to think you’ve done it all and that there is nothing new to try.

I managed a total of 3 “firsts” last week. My first was eyelash extensions (I love them), my second was to go to the Hay on Wye Literary Festival .  My third experience was Glamping (glamorous camping for those who may have not seen TOWIE).

Now I need to explain, I hate camping with a vengeance but determined not to miss out on Festival camping (I still haven’t managed to get Glasonbury tickets) a literary festival seemed the next best thing.  It turned out to be the best thing ever and will become a regular “to do” experience in my house.   The Hay festival is a true extravaganza of authors and books, champagne, coffee and food and all presented very low key on the edge of Hay.  Tented areas set the scene for the authors to talk about their latest books and of course to sign them, sell them and market themselves.  Past successes along with talk of future book ideas wet the appetite for their audience.

glamping image 1Glamping in the British countryside

But back to the Glamping.  Obviously you don’t need to camp to go to the festival and there are many hotels and B&Bs in the area which I have to add is one of the most beautiful Villages I have seen, surrounded by stretching countryside, hills and the meandering River Wye.  Nestled amongst this film set of British countryside lies a field of cream bell tents or “Boutique Camping” as the sign off the road directed.  I had booked my tent through “Blue Bell ” tents and doesn’t that name in itself evoke a picture of nostalgia set in a buttercup and bluebell field?  The advertising promised a life “lived on the land and kinship with our natural habitat”.  What more could I ask for.  After all, if I didn’t like camping, I was sure to love Boutique camping with 5 metre wide tents made of unbleached french canvas promising bespoke features.  Even more enticing was the large double bed, raised off the ground ready and waiting with fresh bed linen, warm duvets and pillows.  Coconut flooring and battery powered lamps on little side tables completed the scene.

We had arrived at the site with our car laden with possibly more than one would need for a weekend of camping under the stars.  We were met by a tractor who took our luggage including my very apt Lulu Guinness small suitcase to the appointed tent, leaving us to wend our way through the meadow following Blue Bell tent signs until we reached a rather grand Maharaja style tent at the opening to the site. This was the reception area and It was also the site bazaar, quite aptly named selling quaint little items to decorate your tent with such as candles and lamps, bunting and pictures.

The camp host introduced us to the facilities such as luxury toilets and showers, a tent with electricity for charging mobile phones and hairdryers and showed us the  camp fire for night times where we could all gather round with our drinks.  Unfortunately nobody seemed to do that but it would have been fun.

Arriving at the tent itself, a luggage label was tied to the zip inviting us to a Campari and cream cake afternoon tea the next day which was a delightful idea and once we had settled our things into the tent and had walked into the Village to attend our first literary experience, it was time to get some food and drink and hunker down in our very own glamping experience.  I thought I had been well prepared but what we didn’t have was heating!!  It is very damp and cold nestled by the River Wye at the beginning of June.  The weather over the whole weekend was absolutely beautiful and hot but it didn’t manage to dry out the damp tent and its bedding in time for cosying down at night.  Thankfully I had thought to bring a hot water bottle but I left the campsite after 2 nights with mottled legs where I had held the heater between my knees just to stop me shivering.  If you thought there was any chance of romance during such a magical  experienced you’d be mistaken.  Shouldn’t it be the time to cosy up and keep warm?  Oh no, my partner was not prepared to release his grip on the duvet, announcing that it was colder than when he’d skiied at the beginning of the year in minus 29 temperatures.  There was no way he was letting ANY cold air near him.  How selfish.  Maybe being over 50 does stand in the way of irresponsible devil may care crazy behaviour and its all about being comfortable.

glamping image 3An over 50 shivering camper

What I  was yet to discover was the ‘luxury’ toilet block in the middle of the night.  While the site itself was beautiful at night with fairy lights strung between  tents, I wasn’t bargaining for walking in the wet grass to use the toilets but there was no way I could lay shivering in the cold AND needing the bathroom.  However, once found it was very acceptable. The block lived up to its luxury title (well as much as a toilet block can, don’t get too excited).  It was extremely clean, decorated with framed prints on the walls, wild flowers in vases and high-end soap dispensers.   An ‘ugly’ mirror was present though or was it just being truthful for an over 50 shivering camper.

Blue Bell tents advertised breakfast, lunch and supper hampers that could be delivered to your tents but unfortunately I left it too late to book this decadent treat. We did however find a wonderful Brasserie in the Village that covered all dining requirements especially while the Hay Festival was running.  We sat at an outside pavement table, eating one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a long time and the people milling around truly added to the whole atmosphere with women dressed as book characters and jesters on stilts heading for the medieval Hay Castle

Other than the extremely chilly nights from which I suffered aches and pains for a least a week afterwards, the whole experience was very special and I will definitely go next year and stay in the same tents.  I’ll be better prepared with extra covers and pillows and I think I would encourage a group of friends or family to come too for that added element of fun.

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  1. Jo Carroll

    June 29, 2013

    Next stop – Glastonbury? After all, in the Rolling Stones aren’t too old for Glastonbury, there’s hope for all of us.

  2. Grace

    June 29, 2013

    Loved this blog post! Wasn’t so enamoured with the eyelash extensions when I tried them (woke up wonky) but did spend a weekend in Ibiza with a large group of 30 somethings – that definitely was outside my envelope but, once I’d got over being so much older than them, I had a brilliant time. If you want to read my blog post: http://wp.me/p2Bpl6-3WF

  3. jennifer atkinson

    July 9, 2013

    Loved reading this used to go camping with our church to the walsingham youth pilgrimage

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