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Review of Crafty Camping, Dorset, England

Posted by at 08:10 on Wednesday 23 October 2013

Anita Pati stumbles upon a luxury hand-crafted glampsite in a fairytale woodland with green woodworking ethos, perfect for couples. 

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Crafty Camping

Crafty Camping, Dorset, England photo: Anita PatiCrafty Camping, Dorset, England photo: Anita PatiThe Setting
What a glorious surprise! After some prosaic A-roads, we weren’t expecting the magical wood, shrouded in mist, full of grottoes, exotic trees and glade, and least of all the central lily pond. The whole place has an ephemeral quality. Once you get lower into the woodland bowl, you’ll just glimpse the yurts hidden in their own canopies of birch, alder and willow.

There are also giant mythical gunnera, like magnified rhubarb, blooming from the deeper grounds. Weeping willow fringes the pool whose rainbow trout you can fish with a licence.

Crafty Camping, Dorset, England photo: Anita PatiCrafty Camping, Dorset, England photo: Anita PatiThe Rooms
Guy Mallinson, who runs the site in the West Dorset village of Holditch, moved from London 12 years ago, where he had a successful business as a cabinet-maker. He has directed Crafty Camping for five years. Guy leases the seven-acre woodland from a friendly farmer and has developed it so successfully he once appeared on the BBC TV series Mastercrafts as a green-woodworker.  He shares his traditional woodcrafting skills with novices and enthusiasts keen to learn whittling from the expert. However, the glamping side of things launched only last July 2012 so the accommodation is brand spanking new.

The woodland hosts a range of tents with delightful names drawn from woodworking: two yurts (Poppet and Coracle); a tipi (Hoppus); a shepherd’s hut (Bodger); and three bell tents (Twybill, Bodkin and Fipple).  Our yurt was lovely. Called 'Coracle', because it is built like a coracle boat, it rested in a bed of bracken surrounded by a boardwalk. Structurally, it had sweet chestnut poles curling up the circular tent and meeting at the round skylight. The floor was seagrass with reindeer pelt mats. Dominating the 18ft yurt was a very comfy kingsize bed whose footboard was made from an incredible arrangement of branches to resemble antlers.

Home comforts include wifi, electric sockets (built into the massive headboard), a sofa, a dressing table and a woodburner to keep you toasty. Towels and linen are provided. Oh, did I mention the private flushing toilet with wash basin – and – best of all, a wonderful oak tree shower at the end of our own boardwalk open to the rain and the stars?Rather than London’s police sirens, our new soundtrack was the call and countercall of woodpigeon. Hearing the dawn chorus within an inch of canvas was a very special experience.

Crafty Camping, Dorset, England Shower photo: Anit PatiCrafty Camping, Dorset, England Shower photo: Anit PatiThe Food
The campsite is self-catering but there are complementary Dorset cereals and Clipper teas in the communal open tent kitchen and frozen Bridport Gourmet pies (I had a Dorset Fidget – bacon in cider) for which you plop a few pounds into the honesty box. There is also a pizza oven and other cooking facilities.

The Activities
Guy runs several courses a week including bowl carving, making a chair from a tree and green woodworking. I did a green woodworking day course where Guy proved a supportive, skilled and entertaining teacher, showing us how to make implements from an unseasoned ash trunk. Green woodworking is essentially working with unseasoned wood, still full of sap, which is still very clean and pliable. After a day of cleaving, shaving, whittling and lathe-turning wood, I ended up with an unusually shaped spatula (cutting edge design doncha know) while Guy kindly helped me with a doorstop.

Beyond the workshop activities, there is a sauna, field kitchen and a communal lounge – all outdoor structures – for meeting other intrepid glampers. However, pets and children aren’t allowed.

Crafty Camping, Dorset, England Guy Mallinson photo: Anita PatiCrafty Camping, Dorset, England Guy Mallinson photo: Anita PatiThe Green
All the structures at the site are made from coppiced, sustainable green wood, from the decking to the toilets. Any foundations underground are made from sweet chestnut with the decking made from Larch – both are anti-bacterial and don’t rot. Green wood is much more sustainable than processed wood because not only is it untreated but it is not shipped thousands of miles for processing. Rather, Guy sources trees from a neighbouring estate. He works with a local farmer who grows his hedges for firewood. And energy is not wasted as human power is used to create furniture and objects with traditional handtools and equipment such as a shaving horse or bungee lathe.

There is recycling for paper, glass, card, organic matter etc. Toiletries are in bulk dispensers. Although they are on the electricity grid, the campsite uses LED sensor lamps at just 10 watts each to illuminate the walkways – being rural Dorset, the wood is totally dark at night. Starwatchers come here to gaze at the night skies. They used to have communal sawdust toilets but, says Guy, they were hard to maintain plus people didn’t take to them although he did prefer them (as do I). He’s now installed conventional ceramic flushing toilets with which people are familiar.

“The premise under which everything is built is when we leave, everything will go back to nature without us leaving an imprint,” he says. “So there’s no concrete or preservatives used in any of the construction.” The next phase is installing photovoltaic panels and ground source heat pumps.

How to get there by public transport:
You can get there by train to nearby Axminster – Southwest Trains run hourly services from Waterloo but it is essential to pre-book a taxi from the station.  For detailed directions by car, see here.

Top Tip
If visiting this winter, be “happy when it rains” (as the Jesus and Mary Chain might sing when in Holditch): revel in hearing raindrops, squalls, owls and woodpigeon from the cosy of your luxury tent. It’s rare for home comforts to be just a canvas flap from the elements.

Crafty Camping, Dorset, England Firepit photo: Anita PatiCrafty Camping, Dorset, England Firepit photo: Anita PatiThe Verdict
A wonderful, woodland grotto of luxury outdoor living ideal for semi-urbanite adults who don’t want to get their hands mucky doing real camping. From the visitors book: “The perfect balance of luxury with being in the elements.”

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Crafty Camping


Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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